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Dr Kizza Besigye, a former presidential candidate has combed Kyadondo East constituency to mobilise support for Mr Apollo Kantinti.
Mr Kantinti is the Forum for Democratic Change candidate in the constituency parliamentary by-election scheduled for Thursday.
Dr Besigye asked voters in the area not to “make a mistake” of voting the National Resistance Movement candidate, Mr Sitenda Sebalu because he’s representing a party that is “not fit to lead the country.”
Addressing a rally at Wampewo Grounds in Wakiso District on Tuesday, Dr Besigye said it is strange that the government is now giving more care to refugees at the expense of Ugandans.
He said refugees have access to clean water, good medical care and food yet Ugandans are dying of hunger while others are not able to access good health care.
The four-time presidential candidate said unless Ugandans vote NRM out power, they should count their country doomed.
I have built my focus on the fact that I want to represent a common citizen. What I believe in is no secret. I am not new before you. I have been someone who speaks my pain and that of my fellows as you’ve heard through my songs and I am very hopeful for change. What is discussed in parliament is a lot more different than the issues that press the people.
If we cooperate, I will deliver your issues directly from Kiteezi to parliament. I am not someone to be corrupted or intimidated. I will speak what some politicians never want to hear.
The campaigns have been going on well. I have reached people’s homes, workplaces, worship places, schools and hospitals. I know what the people want because I have seen the challenges they face; bad roads, bad weather, police [and] people who weren’t compensated.
So, I don’t want people to send someone who is just going to occupy the seat in parliament. They should send someone who is going to talk for them and that is me. You clearly saw during my campaigns I have not brought any political bigwig to talk on my behalf, I have talked for myself.
Since an MP sits at the district council and town council, the current problems faced by people in this constituency like illegal taxation show poor representation by the former MPs at those levels.
I am the only one fit for the purpose among my colleagues because I am a lawyer by profession. The electorate has understood my message and I expect to win this election by 90 per cent.
People are excited and I can see it.
We are very optimistic we will have the win because people in the opposition have come many and they are dividing the whole block of opposition votes while I enjoy the votes of the ruling party and other sympathizers. So, come election day, I will emerge victor, God willing.
The electorate should stay calm, give me the votes and I will serve them because the big man is NRM and I am NRM; it means service delivery will be smooth.
I was elected as Member of Parliament for a term of five years. But my term was cut short just after nine months because of the incompetence of the Electoral Commission.
I call upon all our people to come out in big numbers like they did in 2016 and vote for me to reinstate their power that the NRM is trying to snatch. There is no doubt victory is within our reach.
Reporting by Edris Kiggundu, Jonathan Kamoga, Rebecca Mutonyi & Baker Batte Lule.
When he skipped a scheduled meeting with the Public Accounts committee of Parliament and then named parliament among the country’s corrupt institutions, Finance minister Matia Kasaija angered both the committee members and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
So, during a plenary session on June 22, Kadaga ordered the minister to appear before the Rules, Privileges and Discipline committee to explain his actions.
But in a June 24 interview with The Observer, Kasaija signaled that he will only attend the committee if the appointed date doesn’t clash with his official work schedule.
“Who appointed me? Is it the president or parliament?” he asked. “Much as parliamentary work is important, I have to attend to the president’s assignments before anything else.”
Minister Kasaija said he would clarify at an appropriate time on his statement that listed parliament among the country’s corrupt institutions.
“If the time I am asked to appear before the committee does not coincide with my state duties, I will [appear],” he said. “I have never refused to appear before any committee. Ask the committee of finance. That chairperson of PAC told parliament a lie.”
The Rules committee will inquire into any complaint of contempt or breach of privilege or any matter referred to it and recommends to the main House appropriate action.
The vice chairman of the Rules, Privileges and Discipline committee, Abbas Agaba Mugisha, said if Kasaija snubs his committee’s summons, he will be considered to be in contempt of Parliament.
“I think he should first humble himself before parliament. Parliament is not his farm, it is not his home, and this is a national institution. He is just an individual and a small man. He can’t think he is above an institution of government,” he told The Observer by telephone on June 24.
Agaba said once the committee finishes its inquiry, it would recommend to the House the appropriate action against Kasaija. If he shows up, Kasaija will become the first cabinet minister to appear before the Rules committee.
Earlier this year, ICT and National Guidance minister Frank Tumwebaze was saved by President Museveni, who reversed the minister’s order for the switching off of unregistered mobile phones, despite parliament recommending an extension.
An already highly contested by-election campaign for the Kyadondo East parliamentary seat ended on a high-octane note, with the arrests of independent candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine and the ruling NRM’s Sitenda Ssebalu.
Kyagulanyi’s arrest due to a disagreement over venues for his and the NRM’s rally had two dramatic effects. First, it sparked off running battles between his supporters and police at Kasangati trading centre. Then, it forced Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party candidate Apollo Kantinti to briefly suspend his campaign to go and “rescue” his rival from custody at Kira division police headquarters.
There was also an altercation involving Kantinti supporters commanded by former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, who forced Ssebalu and his supporters out of Wampewo playgrounds. It took police intervention to push the NRM candidate out of the grounds he claims he owns.
Bobi being taken away by Police
In a statement later, NRM spokesperson Rogers Mulindwa said Ssebalu was arrested together with the district NRM chairperson Hajji Abdu Kiyimba from Wampewo playground.
“Police could not tell the motive behind this act but the party continues to seek a clear explanation. The venue was also later invaded by the FDC supporters, rendering it impossible for our rally to take place,” he wrote.
The dramatic last-day events in a constituency where Besigye resides further raised the stakes of what is arguably the closest by-election contest, ahead of voting tomorrow.
With the exception of 2011 when Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda defeated Ssebalu by 15,000 votes, elections in the constituency have always been won by hair-thin margins.
In 2006, Sam Njuba, the former FDC national chairman, defeated Ssebalu by 23 votes while, in 2016, the margin between Kantinti and the NRM candidate was 326 votes. Kantinti’s election was, however, cancelled after court faulted the Electoral Commission for flouting electoral rules.
Consequently, tomorrow’s election, analysts and political watchers say, is likely to be too close to call. Ssemujju, the FDC spokesperson and a former MP for the constituency, told The Observer on Monday that any of the three candidates (Kyagulanyi, Kantinti and Ssebalu) could take it.
“Election dynamics are not easy to interpret. Sometimes you could think that someone with big crowds will win and it turns out to be the opposite,” he said.
Kyagulanyi has drawn the biggest crowds at his rallies so far. Some say that judging on the enthusiasm his candidature has generated, he has an edge over Kantinti and Ssebalu.
However, an FDC official who preferred to speak without being named told us at the sidelines of a Kantinti rally at Wampewo yesterday, that he believes the opposition let Kyagulanyi off lightly.
“FDC has surrendered this constituency to Bobi Wine. There are a lot of things that can be used against him [Bobi Wine], like his history of weed smoking and his disrespect for the Kabaka, but the party stopped us from attacking him as if they want him to win,” the official said.
Kyagulanyi is largely favoured by the youths, many of whom say he identifies with their causes such as poverty and unemployment. His campaign events have had a festival-like ring and have been graced by other prominent local politicians. Yet, even if he loses, Kyagulanyi could use the campaigns as learning experience ahead of the 2021 elections.
As for Kantinti, this by-election is the biggest test of his political career. The entry of Kyagulanyi in the race complicated matters for the FDC candidate.
Kantinti has devoted a lot of time to squabbling with the musician and trying to convince voters that he has been an effective MP, even without having to speak many times in parliament.
Kantinti enjoys the backing of senior FDC bigwigs, including the party president, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu; Nathan Nandala- Mafabi, the secretary general, and Dr Kizza Besigye, the former party president. That, however, might not be enough to guarantee him victory.
A defeat for Kantinti will mark one of the briefest parliamentary careers in recent memory, if you exclude members who have died. It will also be a big blow to FDC whose candidates have lost in all other by- elections (Toroma, Kamuli municipality, Upper Madi, Kagoma) conducted so far.
Intriguingly, NRM’s Ssebalu, who represented the constituency between 2001 and 2006, has a chance of making it back after three failed attempts (2006, 2011 and 2016).
This time though, analysts reckon that he has a good chance of making it if the differences within the opposition camp work in his favour. President Museveni spent part of yesterday campaigning for Ssebalu. At Wattuba, Nangabo sub- county, Museveni told the people that if they vote for an opposition candidate, they will not benefit from some of government’s programmes.
He said: “We have an NRM caucus where we first meet and discuss programmes. If you bring me someone who is not NRM, how will he access the caucus and tell me your needs?”
NRM supporters marching towards the venue where Bobi Wine was holding his rally
Rogers Mulindwa, the spokesperson of the NRM secretariat, predicated that their candidate will win with about 55 per cent of the total votes cast.
“The NRM support and that of the opposition are almost equal. But since the opposition has fielded three candidates, Ssebalu has a very good chance,” Mulindwa said.
Ssebalu has differences with some local NRM leaders, including Stella Njuba, who stood against him in 2016. In 2016, Stella, a daughter of Sam Njuba, garnered a respectable 4,122 votes and has not yet reconciled with Ssebalu. Some of her voters have already said they will not vote Ssebalu.
Of all the candidates, Muwada Nkunyingi, who some say has an outside chance, is the most eloquent. A lawyer by profession, his militant and straightforward approach to issues has enchanted many. In 2016, he garnered a respectable 7,560 votes to emerge third.
He told The Observer on Monday that he expects to win the election with 90 per cent. While this is highly unlikely, Nkunyingi is certainly a politician to watch out for in Kyadondo East in the near future.
According to figures from the national Electoral Commission, Kyadondo East has 72,818 registered voters and 93 polling stations. With the exception of Toroma in Katakwi, voter turnout in other by-elections, has not hit 50 per cent.
Analysts believe that a high turnout will most likely favour an opposition-leaning candidate because like some polls have shown, voter apathy tends to be higher in areas where the ruling government has little support. The spokesperson of the EC, Jotham Taremwa, told The Observer on Tuesday that they are more than prepared to deliver a free and fair election
“All is ready as far as Thursday’s election is concerned, right from the ballot papers to the relevant forms and the training of our staff that will be conducting elections,” he said.
Taremwa added that the campaigns had largely been peaceful and EC hopes that the people of Kyadondo East and all the stakeholders will ensure a peaceful polling process. Taremwa urged the people to turn out in large numbers to vote for a candidate of their choice.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu), said despite a few hiccups, they were satisfied with the conduct of the campaigns. They, however, noted that there was still potential for violence on election day.
“Ccedu implores stakeholders in Kyadondo East constituency, particularly political parties and candidates to exercise utmost restraint to ensure that the prevailing peaceful environment that has characterized much of the campaign period is maintained in the lead up to and after the June 29 2017 by-election. Ccedu calls upon political parties and candidates to urge their supporters to exercise maximum restraint in order to maintain a peaceful environment,” Kaheru noted.
Reporting by Edris Kiggundu, Jonathan Kamoga, Rebecca Mutonyi & Baker Batte Lule.