MBALE – This week, David Mafabi looks at Mbale City’s Northern division, where incumbent Mbale municipality MP Mr Jack Wamanga Wamai has bowed out and the race has attracted; Mr Paul Wanyoto, Amb. Charles Wagidoso Madibo, Mr Paul Gidudu, Mr Umar Nangoli, Mr Ahmed Wafuba, Mr Gershom Wambedde Zizomu [incumbent MP Bungokho North], Mr Ssezi Wambedde and Mr Mafabi Swalleh
The race to succeed Mr Jack Wamai Wamanga in Mbale City is shaping up and, as expected, it is getting crowded already, just a few months to the ballot.
The lack of incumbency after Mr Wamanga Wamai bowed out, somehow levels the ground, yet at the same time raises the stakes, hence the early strategising and jostling.
Mr Wamanga had fallen out with his Forum for Democratic Change [FDC] party and his bowing out of elective politics leaves FDC with no heir apparent as the clock ticks towards the 2021 General Election.
Although the MP seems to have either gracefully bowed out and extended an olive branch to his rivals to contest and win the voters’ favour, he remains the best legislator Mbale and Bugisu sub-region has had.
Mr Wamai Wamanga sounds like a man on a mission. Of all the politicians Mbale has had, Mr Wamanga has maintained his mien, and adds he will not contest for anything in politics but will get back to his work as a diplomat.
At best, he is still Uganda’s long-serving diplomat within the UN system, a lofty role that allowed him to hobnob with heads of states and governments and at worst, he is removed from Mbale municipality seat which has turned into turmoil after it was elevated to a City status with two constituencies.
Mr Wamai Wamanga, standing on the higher pedestal said “Even the best dancer must leave the floor; any good leader must retire when still popular,” were his words while welcoming the new Mbale City July 2, 2020.
With the crack now a reality following what insiders say is “irreversible”, FDC operatives are now; busy analysing various viable succession scenarios and people for 2021.
A team of bureaucrats consisting of a few FDC Party members as well as senior opposition advisers have been burning the midnight oil in search of a viable and acceptable candidate who will then be gradually propped up, PML Daily has learnt.
Mr Wamai Wamanga’s pronouncement has indeed since then generated mixed reaction from Mbale City region.
And many political analysts in Mbale city only a municipality a month ago say many people have decided to put their foot in the “historically murky waters of Mbale’s elective politics.
The truth must be told, his pronouncement has raised uncertainty and fears of a power struggle in Uganda’s biggest opposition party FDC whose history has been marked by violent political upheaval, a refugee exodus and uncertainty of who now takes over to retain the seat.
The FDC has had no meeting to discuss “the management of the situation following the unexpected withdrawal of Mr Wamai Wamanga from the race and now finds itself in an unusual situation, as many candidates loyal to the party have picked nomination forms expressing interest in vying for the seat that has now fallen vacant.
Unfortunately to FDC pundits most of the people running around to step in Mr Wamai Wamanga’s shoes are not only masters of conspiratorial politics, but live in cocoons of distrust and suspiciousness with their own networks of dystopian characters in politics.
This vacuum has drawn in Mr Paul Wanyoto, a lawyer based in Kampala, Mr Peter Gidudu, formerly a dean of students at Uganda Christian University and Bungokho North MP Mr Wambedde Sizomu [FDC]
While NRM is very keen on taking the seat that has eluded them for long, it has four people tussling it out to win the ruling party flag; Mr Amb. Charles Wagidoso Madibo, Mr Magomu Mashatte, a lawyer based in London, Mr Umar Nangoli, former RDC Mbale, Mr Ssezi Wambedde and Mr Ahmed Wofuba former police chief.
A flurry of meetings and intense lobbying by the intending candidates has started and could culminate in the last-minute decisions either to withdraw or stand.
Politics in Uganda, especially at the parliamentary end of the political system, has in recent years become increasingly the preserve of the small self-selecting elite or semi-literate, those who can raise the vast amounts of money needed to conduct successful campaigns for election to public office.
And as usual, the contest in Mbale City will come down to two factors: numbers and money — lots of it.
The Mbale pundits are already saying besides money, a candidate’s backyard will play a key role in determining who will win the Mbale seat in the parliamentary polls in the 2021 general election.
“And not only is the candidates’ backyard going to play a big role but also the community one comes from. There are candidates who come from communities with the biggest population in Mbale city, this will work as an advantage,” said Mr Amnon Wamai, an opinion leader in Mbale city’s Northern division.
He added that the people from Budadiri [Sironko]have over 300,000 voters in the Northern division and that by these numbers, a person from Budadiri is likely to take the seat in the next general election.
An analysis of the 2014 population census shows, youth voters aged between 18 and 35, whose population will number 10 million in the next generation election, will also significantly tilt the scales in the presidential and parliamentary races.
According to the 2014 census, the population pyramid shows that a majority of the population are in the youth bracket.
The population pyramid for urban areas indicates that the majority of the population is concentrated between ages 20 and 34 among both sexes.
“The statistics mean that the youth will play a big role in the election and there is a need to have more young people in decision-making positions,” says Mr Paul Wanyoto, who is standing on FDC ticket.
Mr Paul Wanyoto
The entry of Wanyoto into Mbale City Northern Division politics as a possible kingpin to replace Mr Wamai Wamanga who exited elective politics indicates that the race will, as usual, be a head-scratcher.
That Mr Wanyoto is eyeing a Mbale City Northern division race has not been lost to observers and in the coming days, he intends to launch officially his campaign slogan and team ‘TEAM VOTE WANYOTO’ to coordinate his political activities as he readies himself for the battle ahead.
But his critics say he will have to sweat it out as he wriggles through the murky waters to win the FDC ticket that also has Mr Sizomu Wambedde and Mr Paul Gidudu and the battle could also attract other pretenders.
“My aspirations for the Mbale City division MP seat are now firm, I have prepared hard for the party primaries and my focus is going to be on representing my people, the people of Mbale. I know that many MPs when they reach parliament, they forget the issues of the people they have gone to represent, I want to promise, I won’t forget my people especially the Youth, women, elderly and the disabled,” said Mr Wanyoto
Although those fronting Mr Wanyoto have packaged him as one with blessings from the FDC party President, others say he will be “a hard sell since he is associated with the ruling NRM party; a serious political miscalculation.
But Mr Wanyoto insists that he is charting a new way that many didn’t.” I’m starting a revolution, they may have just stood assuming people would like them for the sake of it but mine is a targeted campaign, it’s not just about putting my name on the ballot but about delivering for my people,”
He said he intends to uphold the core roles of an MP that include legislation to debate and pass laws and that his background as a lawyer gives him a clearer understanding of this and I will certainly not disappoint.
He explained that as an MP he will scrutinize and approve the national Budget every financial year and that he will find time and scrutinize as to whether his constituency concerns have been budgeted for like Health, Education, Health, Water and Sanitation and Infrastructure development…etc
“An MP monitors and should bring to the attention of the public and government, the excesses in running Public Affairs; misuse of funds, violation of rule of law. As an opposition leading MP, I will constitute oversight committees whose stewardship is to preserve the constitution, to provide checks and balances and be a bold individual that speaks truth to power; I will say it as it is” says Mr Wanyoto.
He said he would pay attention to the sticky issue of the Kakungulu Land that affects a sizable population in my constituency as a lawyer and their representative to find a final and lasting solution.
Mr Wanyoto promised to seek to improve access to better Education in the constituency and access to Higher Education Financing for his constituents and that this shall benefit each sub-county in the constituency.
“I am not saying the current leaders have not tried, yes they have but the question is, is this where we’re supposed to be, the answer is no. We must get creative ways of growing our economy,” said Mr Wanyoto.
“I will be a good listener, to pick more urgent sticky issues from my constituents so that I can together with them, find lasting solutions,” Mr Wanyoto added.
Meanwhile, Mr Nangoli, who lost the municipality seat to FDC’s Mr Wamai Wamanga has also declared interest in the seat and promised this time “to show the other men dust”.
Mr Nangoli has said he has been on a short “political leave” since 2016 and that as he discharges his political duties, with an eye on the seat come 2021, his supporters have been on the ground consolidating his political base in preparation for this race.
The former RDC Mbale Mr Nangoli announced that he will be on the ballot, saying the move was informed by the voice of the people.
“I have listened to the voice of my people in Mbale asking me to run for the constituency seat in the coming election on the NRM ticket. I am available, ready and willing to be my people’s representative,” said Mr Nangoli.
The former municipality constituency contender has been slowly earning the support of many NRM supporters in Mbale City to take up Northern division constituency seat.
According to Mr Asuman Nabende, an ardent supporter of NRM and a voter in the Northern division of Mbale City, it is not Mr Nangoli who is begging to be in parliament.
Rather, he explains, it is the people from the Northern division who have identified him as the most qualified person for parliament and that he would represent the interests of the people of Mbale at the NRM negotiating table.
Although Mbale politics is often depicted as a battle between different “Big men” who can mobilise their supporters with a click of their fingers, this time it has fresh faces, a number of them are young people, the youngest among them being FDC’s Paul Wanyoto.
While Mr Umar Nangoli has chosen to go for it again after he lost it in 2016 to FDC’s, this time he says he has corrected the mistakes and comes to take it.
PML Daily visited some sub-urbans in the newly created Mbale City in the homes of many contestants in the Mbale’s Northern division and found some aspiring candidates trying to unpack the “our man” syndrome.
Mr Peter Gidudu
Mr Gidudu Paul who comes in the race the second time to contest for the FDC after agreeing mutually in 2016 to let the seat go to Mr Wamai Wamanga says he is back to start where he stopped in 2016.
“I welcome those coming for this seat but they should know that I am here and ready to represent my people. This is what I promised and I continue to promise the same for 2021,” said Mr Gidudu.
He explained that an MP represents the views of his constituents and he intends to hold regular consultative meetings so as to be in position to effectively represent his people of Mbale City Northern division.
He revealed that other than the core roles, I realise that two key areas have been neglected in the Constituency I intend to represent and that is Access to Land Justice, Health and Education.
Mr Jackson Nambadi, an opinion leader in Mbale questions what it means to have an MP? What stake does the ordinary Wananchi have in this zero-sum game that often drives voters into frenzy at every election or charged political environment such as now?
“I think having an MP just means having good representation, having someone who can legislate and debate and pass laws and a man who has a clearer understanding of the laws but unfortunately many people vote for money, we need to graduate from this to help our constituencies grow,” Mr Nambadi advised.
But, perhaps aware that the city expects much more, and in what appears to be a race against time to turn the rising tide against their side, Mr Gidudu has dispatched his supporters in a whistle-stop launch of projects in the past few weeks to the Northern Division City that will vote for him.
Amb to China Mr Charles Wagidoso Madibo enters the race
As the political race in Mbale city gathers pace, the former Ambassador to China has also entered the race for the seat seeking the NRM ticket.
This complicates the race as NRM has about five people in the race but having represented Bulambuli County in Parliament, he stands an advantage.
“Within NRM there is discomfort because Mr Wagidoso rivals have issues. Many have unsettled businesses in Mbale municipality; And Mr Wagidoso stands out for me and if NRM wants to take back this seat from the opposition, the best person here is Mr Wagidoso,” Ms Oliver Nambozo, a voter in Northern division says.
And just a few months after declaring his intentions in politics, Mr Wagidoso is emerging as a front runner already, although the field could be turned upside down by entry of Mr Magomu Mashatte, Mr Ssezi Wambedde and Mr Ahmed Wofuba, all struggling to take the NRM party ticket.
The former ambassador to China and Bulambuli MP, in his address to the media after he was shown the door as an ambassador, said that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, borrowing from the legendary scientist Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion.
“Many interpreted this to mean sacking, but they were wrong and I want to say that I am more energised now because I played my role and others can also make a contribution,” said Mr Wagidoso.
He revealed that he is going to target the biggest group people in Mbale City Northern division; the poor and the suffering, who deserve better. Poverty does not know a party and a tribe. I will also go for women, youth and men,” said Mr Wagidoso.
In the meantime, “I want to run a campaign to make people shun the slavery that is tribalism. It is a shame that people are invited to a table to discuss sharing of the country’s resources and people end up in tribal talks, this is Myopic! And must end,” he added.
Mr Magomu Mashatte
A former contestant for Bungokho North is now placed in Mbale City Northern division and comes with a vision to serve the people of Mbale City seeking the NRM ticket.
“The People of Mbale deserve better than what they have received so far, and unless they change how they choose their parliamentary leaders, they will always get a raw deal,” says Mr Mashatte, a London based Lawyer [Barrister].
He explains that he would besides the known official roles of an MP, help in ensuring the maintenance of weathered roads i.e. feeder roads to ease quick movement of all products from rural to urban centres, whereby culvert bridges shall be fixed to overcome the impacts of flooding.
“The NRM government has a manifesto that has the improvement of health facilities in the constituency through the subjection of both health centre 11s to health centre 111s, improving supplies such as drugs, beds, oxygen jars, incubators for early-born babies etc I will press for this to ensure that my people benefit and improved livelihood among residents,” said Mr Mashatte.
“We want Mashatte endorsed and packaged as the one who will go to the negotiation table carrying our combined NRM votes and pawn us to the highest bidder, this will enable us get whatever we want from President Museveni,” said Ms Anna Namuloki, a voter from Namanyonyi sub-county.
Mr Gershom Zizomu Embedded [FDC]
Mr Gershom Wambedde who also enters the race after his constituency [Bungokho North] was joined to Mbale City says he is in the race because he believes he is better placed to run this constituency for the sake of the people.
“I’ll go the whole way and the reality though is that I am going to win because I have like-minded leaders on board, with whom we’re quietly working on this project,” said Mr Zizomu.
He revealed that he is charting a new way that nobody has done and that he is starting a revolution for the people of Mbale, a revolution that will change the Mbale City Northern division in terms of political, social and economic spheres.
He explained that he would support the Primary, Secondary and University education with scholarships in order to fight ignorance and illiteracy in the area and that this shall also help the less privileged people to attain education.
He said his programme is to support the Youth and women empowerment in order to accumulate the capital used in order for them to operate small scale businesses where skills can be obtained by both youth and women.
Meanwhile, Mr Ahmed Wofuba has also promised not to be detached from the community that has a major influence in the election process.
He said when politicians splash money during campaigns; they are sweeping the real problems of their communities under the carpet for their own selfish benefit rather than confronting them head on.
Mr Ssezi Wambedde a former, a former MP for Bungokho north says he would ensure that the Youth are equipped with hands on skills in ICT and engineering in order to design and produce traffic control systems, intruder detection systems, industrial automation, automated electric kettles, water heaters, incubators and remote control systems among others.
“And I believe with additional skills in computer vision, image processing, pattern recognition and embedded systems, the youth can go ahead and produce intelligent systems that emulate the human brain, this will be good for Mbale municipality,” said Mr Wambedde.
Local political pundits say that there are many others who are likely to contest on the independent ticket who have not yet shown up.
Mr Safiyi Wakayeti, a local opinion leader says many potential voters also remain stuck in the individual merit mode, expecting candidates to give them
“something” in return for their votes because they do not expect to eat their programmes. Although expectations of being paid for votes is more or a rural phenomenon than an urban one, it pervades politics in the more deprived parts of cities and towns.
He adds that electoral campaigns are very expensive ventures, especially in Uganda’s highly monetised politics.
“Our people are still very desperate and poor, and as long as the situation remains like that, people will continue to be manipulated by petty cash,” he said.
Many pundits urge that the tendency that emerged under the no-party, individual merit system of candidates who did not have the backing of political organisations to use cash and gifts to boost their chances of winning elections has had a durable impact on the way large numbers of ordinary Ugandans conceive of politics and politicians and the latter’s motivations for seeking election to public office.
According to Dr Aaron Mulyanyuma, a Don at UCU, many voters across Uganda view politics as a sure avenue to riches, that people who seek to join politics are in pursuit of wealth and that indeed once they are in office they make lots of money.
“Voters still see the act of voting for someone as opening the way for him or her to go and make money, or “eat”, there is a need to change this thinking and allow people to vote a candidate by his works and ability to represent them,” said Dr Mulyanyuma.
However, Mr Wanyoto like other FDC supporters are still grappling with an internal conflict within the party originating from the movement of people out of the party besides the whether to go to Ant, People Power or remain in FDC.
The 2021contest promises to be a bruising one and it may well be decided, ultimately after the primaries of all the parties but cash will play a big role.