BUGWERI – The race for Bugweri county Member of Parliament (MP) seat has gained momentum after incumbent MP Abdul Katuntu pronouncing that he will contest the seat. Mr Katuntu had previously announced that he was not going to seek re-election but a fortunate ago, the fiery legislator who has been in Parliament for close to two decades threw his hat in the ring once again to contest for the coveted seat.
Katuntu defeated Daniel Ibaale (NRM) in the previous election by a paltry margin of 401 votes after garnering 23,596 votes against Ibaale’s 23,195 votes to reclaim the seat that he has perennially occupied since 1996 with a slight interruption in 2006 when he was defeated by 2nd Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja but bounced back to reclaim the seat after court ruled that the election was marred by intimation and violence. But as the clock ticks to the 2021 election, all indicators show that Katuntu will have to fight like the Spartans if he is to reclaim the Bugweri county MP seat.
Eight people have so far shown interest in the Bugweri county MP seat and they include the incumbent Abdul Katuntu who has since confessed that he will seek re-election on the Independent ticket, Julius Galisonga who is vying for the seat on the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party ticket, Daniel Ibaale who is representing the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Mubarak Muwabe (NRM) and Abubaker Kedi who is running for the seat as a people power candidate.
Others include former Iganga district chairperson Shaban Sadiq Nkutu (NRM), Ibulanku sub-county chief Halid Nyende (NRM) and Hakim Menya (NRM). However, the tight race is expected among the incumbent Katuntu, new kid on the block Galisonga and NRM hopeful Ibaale.
“It is hard to tell who of the trio will emerge victorious because they all command significant appeal on the ground,” says Ayub Kakaire, a voter in the area.
Haunted by own promise
Mr Kakaire, however, says the incumbent has an uphill task of explaining to the masses why he did not stand by his earlier promise of not seeking another term as Bugweri county MP.
“He said he was not coming back and we bid farewell to him. What did he forget that he is coming back to fetch?” Kakaire says.
The youthful Galisonga also seems to be capitalizing on Katuntu’s botched promise to woo the masses. While appearing on a local radio station on Thursday night, Galisonga accused Katuntu ‘swallowing his own vomit’.
“Hon Katuntu said two years ago that he was not seeking re-election. I trusted him and started mobilizing the constituents so that we do not lose the seat to the ruling NRM,” Galisonga said.
Galisonga said he has mobilized his team and he is ready to defeat anybody, including incumbent Katuntu, in next year’s polls. His sentiment is echoed by Godfrey Mutekanga, a resident of Igombe.
“We want to show Katuntu the exit. We are ready to show him that he does not own this constituency by voting for Galisonga,” Mutekanga said.
Mutekanga also accused the fiery legislator of hobnobbing with the ruling NRM and only using the Opposition to fulfill his own agenda.
“Katuntu is not a good team player. He is detouched from the FDC structure in the district and even failed to campaign for the FDC presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye in the previous election,” he said.
Katuntu has been at loggerheads with the FDC top leadership for a long time and this could have been the reason he was dropped as chairperson of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) last year and replaced with Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa, according to Shabir Isabirye, an FDC official in Bugweri district.
“We were not ready to give him the FDC party ticket. He must have read the signs and decided not to embarrass himself,” Mr Isabirye said.
But Katuntu will not go down without a fight and one of his campaign agents and confidant, Imuran Ndhoga, a resident of Ibulanku said those intending to dethrone him (Katuntu) should brace themselves for a bruising fight.
“Hon. Katuntu has done everything that an MP should do. He has represented us well in Parliament and has always stood with the people on ground,” Ndhoga said.
“He has been commiserating with families during loss of dear ones. He put aside Shs100,000 as condolence for every family that loses a dear one and has also been giving people hoes and other items,” Ndhoga added.
The NRM factor
The ruling party has always performed decimally in Bugweri county but Eng. Ibaale came close to dethroning the FDC of its citadel in Busoga sub-region. With the Engineer turned politician coming back in the race and with a visibly divided Opposition, the ruling party stands a high chance of capturing the hitherto traditional opposition stronghold.
The Iganga district NRM chairperson, Abubaker Walubi, said Bugweri county is a historical constituency that the ruling party is working hard to reclaim.
“This is the time to reclaim Bugweri constituency from the Opposition. Remember this is a constituency where the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister Kivejinja comes from and has also produced other notable personalities like Shaban Nkuutu, Wanume Kebedi, Luwuliza Kirunda all of whom have been powerful ministers in this country,” he said.
Kakaire, however, said that for NRM to increase its chance of winning what is billed to be a highly contested election, the party will have to reconcile Kivejinja with Eng Ibaale. It is reported that the relationship between the duo soured when Ibaale defeated Kivejinja in the NRM primaries of 2015 with unconfirmed reports indicating that Kivejinja secretly supported Katuntu against Ibaale in the 2016 polls.
Bugweri county is a vast constituency comprising eight sub-counties. They include Namalemba, Buyanga, Ibulanku, Igombe and Makutu sub-counties. Others are Busembantya town council and two new town councils of Busesa and Idudi.
Galisonga was born to Mr Gideon Kibandame and Mrs. Nakaziba Elizabeth of Busembantya. He attended Mwiri Primary School before joining Kiira College Butiki where he excelled at A’level with 24 points. There after, he joined Makerere University to study law. He thereafter proceeded to study a masters in law from the British University in Dubai. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at the Singapore Polytechnic University.
Abdul Katuntu was born on March 12, 1965. He is a practicing lawyer, having received an LLB from Makerere University and a diploma in legal practice from the Law Development centre. He is a former member of the Pan-African Parliament and the Rapporteur of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He was elected to Parliament in 1996 but lost his parliamentary seat in the 2006 general election to Kirunda Kivejinja. He later challenged the result in court, citing widespread malpractices and court ruled in his favour and he won the resultant by-election. Katuntu served as the shadow attorney general in Parliament till2018 and was replaced by Wilfred Nuwagaba.