SHEEMA – The ruling NRM party and opposition FDC have all vowed to clinch the Sheema Municipality MP seat ahead of the Friday election.
The two parties, who have in the last two weeks, stepped up campaigns for their respective candidates, all say they have done enough to win the hotly contested seat.
Although there are seven candidates in the race, the stiff competition is between NRM’s Elioda Tumwesigye and FDC’s Virginia Plan Mugyenyi.
Other five candidates on Independent ticket are Benjamin Ruyombya, Ambrose Mwesigye, Jonas Tumwiine, Meshach Katusiime and Raymond Kamugisha.
Dr Tumwesigye, who is the NRM District chairman, has been at the helm of politics in the area for long. He is currently the Sheema North MP. However, his decision to contest for the municipality seat has attracted condemnation and anger from some party members. Ahead of the NRM party primaries, which he won, Mr David Kamukama, one of the contestants, petitioned the NRM electoral commission, saying that Dr Tumwesigye, who is also the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, does not qualify to contest in the municipality since he is not registered there as a voter and is already serving as the Sheema North MP. Dr Tumwesigye has been the MP for Sheema North since 2001.
Although the national Electoral Commission later cleared him of wrongdoing, those he contested against for the party flag later refused to support him and some have returned to contest against him.
Dr Tumwesigye polled 9,371 votes in the primaries, representing 36%, and his closest challenger, Mr Raymond Kamugisha, who polled 4,596 votes (17.7%), is contesting as an Independent. The other, Kamukama, who got 1,581 (6.1%), is currently backing the FDC candidate, Ms Mugyenyi.
This has raised concern among NRM party members in the district that this could split the party vote in favour of the FDC candidate.
In May, a group of youth made a procession through Sheema Town, protesting the nomination of Dr Tumwesigye. “I think it is necessary for the President of Uganda to advise his minister to give up on Sheema municipality seat because Dr Tumwesigye is the current Sheema district NRM Chairman. In case he uses his magic and wins the election, the people might vote Opposition candidates because they are already fade up with his politics,’’ said Mr
Mr Geoffrey Mucunguzi, one of the contestants in the NRM primaries.
Two years ago, sections of ruling party leaders in the district accused Dr Tumwesigye of dividing party supporters on religious lines.
Catholic and Anglican Christian clerics in the district blamed the minister for taking sides in the 2016 general elections and dividing the people along religious lines.
The Minister is said to have campaigned against the then incumbent Woman MP Rosemary Nyakikongoro and district chairperson Mugisha Pastori in the elections, who were carrying the NRM party flag.
It is said that the Minister backed Anglican Independent candidates Jacklet Atuhaire and David Kabigumira who won as district woman MP and LC5 chairman seats respectively, defeating Nyakikongoro and Mugisha who are Catholics.
However, Dr Elioda said allegations were false and said the minds behind them aimed at promoting more hatred and polarization in society.
The district party vice chairman, Eng Yorokam Katwiremu, says they have resolved the internal party wrangles.
“NRM fronting a seating MP for the same position is a bit of a challenge to us but there is no law that stops him from contesting…. It is true some people may be disappointed by the minister standing but we want to appeal to the people of Sheema to put that aside and we support our party,’’ Eng Katwiremu says. He adds they expect to win the seat because Sheema has been NRM stronghold.
Although the district is a traditional NRM supporting district, the crowds being pulled by the FDC candidate have raised eyebrows among NRM supporters.
FDC top shots such as Secretary for Mobilization Ingrid Turinawe, Buhweju MP Francis Mwijuke, former MPs Oddo Tayebwa (Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality) and Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi (Rwampara) have all camped in the area, drumming up support for the party candidate.
Former Presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Ms Winfred Kiiza, the party president Eng. Patrick Amuriat, Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu and MPs Mubaraka Munyagwa (Kawempe), Betty Muzanira (Rukungiri Woman), Rolland Kaginda (Rukungiri Municipality), Nandala Mafabi, FDC president Eastern region Salaam Musumba and Maj Gen Amanya Mushega have all campaigned for the party candidate.
On Monday, the party pulled off a massive crowd as tens of thousands of people gathered at Kabwohe playgrounds to listen to Dr Besigye and a cohort of other opposition leaders as they campaigned for Ms Mugyenyi.
The opposition messages have been consistent; the NRM government is worse than the previous regimes and residents of Sheema municipality should demonstrate this by voting out the NRM candidate, Dr Tumwesigye.
While campaigning for FDC candidate Virginia Plan Mugyenyi at Mutojo Trading Center late last month, Dr Besigye said voters should demonstrate that they need to change the bad leadership in the country.
“This election is not an election between FDC or NRM but it is election against the bad leadership of the NRM government because they have deviated from the issues that took us to the Bush in 1980,’’ said.
“The election of 1980 was very bad like what is happening in the country now when people are being arrested. They arrested me for campaigning for Museveni in 1980 with other people from Mbarara like Mbiringi and they have never been seen again and by then I had just left the university started my work as a doctor but I abandoned the work I was doing in Kenya to come and help Ugandans stop dying the way they were dying,’’ said Dr Besigye.
“When you vote the person that Museveni wants you will have dug your own grave and buried yourselves because Mr Museveni will not give you anything like he has always done in the last 32 years… The whole country is waiting for the message from Sheema because we are fighting greed that has cropped up in Sheema and this is the same greed that has been in NRM for the last 32 years where people are not given a chance to express themselves and make their own choices just because of one man,” he said.
“I knew Elioda in Parliament as a quiet man but what I did not know about him is that he is a greedy man and I came to see it from here when he contested for the seat he is holding in another constituency. So I want you to vote him out so that you do not waste government’s money that you pay from your taxes to go in another election for Sheema north if Elioda wins and that will be more than Shs15 billion,” Eng Amuriat said at Kabwohe playgrounds.
Ms Mugyenyi has promised to improve conditions of roads, upgrade Kabwohe Health Centre IV to a hospital, extend power to reach all households, making Women Entrepreneurship Funds easy to access and to all; skill youth and helping them access funds for livelihood projects without paying bribes.
“We have had bad seed planted in our district of failing young people from leading our district so I want to request all of you whether catholic, Anglican and Muslims to vote for me so that we can make Sheema great again,” says Ms Mugyenyi.
She adds: “Sheema has been divided along religious lines and I want to make sure that I bring back all the people together after all I will not only lead one religion but rather the people of Sheema.”
In the NRM camp, the Minister for Tourism, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, is spearheading Dr Tumwesigye’s campaign. He is assisted by Minister for Veterans Bright Rwamirama, Eng Katwiremu and Senior Presidential Advisor on Security Chris Rwakasisi.
Prof. Kamuntu insists that Sheema people have never supported opposition and therefore FDC will not win.
“FDC will not win this election because they do not have support that is why they have been telling you that this election is not about parties but rather a cause. Which cause are they talking about? This election is about the parties, nobody should lie to you; NRM members follow the party constitution and we are the majority which means that we shall win. Even if FDC does what, they will not win this election because Sheema has never supported opposition and we still have support and if you need services, you must stick to NRM,’’ he said at Kibutamo trading center Kashozi Division.
The ruling party has almost the same promises: power to reach every home, upgrading Kabwohe Health Centre IV, creating industrial park, building stadium for recreation and talent development and tarmacking roads.
Dr Tumwesigye, says: “President Museveni would blame me for allowing opposition take the municipality and become like Ntungamo which is led by Gerald Karuhanga.There was a possibility of a person from opposition to contest for Sheema Municipality and Museveni would ask me and Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu how we let opposition take Sheema when we are there.”