BUDUDA – In 2016, the women of Bududa had every reason to smile following the going through of their Member of Parliament Ms Justine Khainza unopposed.
Ms Khainza had set ambitious targets to transform the lives of women in Bududa and so they never examined her, they just let her go through as the woman MP for Bududa district.
The year 2021, will mark exactly five years of that political milestone but like other women elsewhere in Uganda, Bududa voters are taking stock of progress and asking to what extent promised reforms have been implemented.
They are also examining why progress has been limited in Bududa and are seeking ways to overcome the obstacles.
Rather than front Ms Khainza unopposed this time, they are seeking other ways of transforming their lives by voting a new person to represent them in Parliament for a change.
It is true that when voters realize elected leaders aren’t addressing their concerns about social and economic inequality, it leads them to distrust institutions and this produces a “sense of disempowerment and disillusionment,” a local UPC politician Mr Abas Wetaka says
As ease among NRM leaders supporting the incumbent Ms Khainza continues to bubble under the surface with accusations of backstabbing the fellow aspirants in the race for Bududa district Woman MP by plotting to remain alone in the race, other people have joined the race for the NRM ticket in Bududa district ready to take her on.
Political pundits in Bududa say the 2021 Bududa district Woman MP Race is headed for a tighter contest with four women including a journalist entering the ring to outfox the incumbent, Ms Khainza.
Ms Jane Namunane Wakikona, [A social worker with a masters in project planning and management], Ms Nandutu Agnes [journalist with a diploma from Uganda institute of and Media studies, a senior political reporter at NTV Uganda, a moderator and a speaker for NTV citizen debate show] and Ms Agnes Shiwuma [teacher] have joined the race for the district NRM ticket and are all up in arms against the incumbent whom they accuse of failing to deliver for the people of Bududa.
How the battle for the district Woman Seat shapes up in 2021 with such a pack of strong personalities eager to outmuscling each other, will be determined on 4 September.
An NRM ardent supporter and opinion leader in Bududa Mr Gibson Khaffu says Ms Khainza remains a strong force as she continues to ride on her voice against women rights abuses, human rights abuses.
“Ms Khainza has paraded herself as a pro-people leader who fights for us during the times of landslides and human rights abuses. She has a better advantage,” Mr Khaffu says.
But Ms Sylivia Namalwa a voter at Bukimuma says that over the last ten years women in Bududa have remained where they were, “men have grown in business and back, yet women are still at the same place they were in 2011 when they first voted Ms Khainza,”
She revealed that there has been unwarranted and unacceptable marginalization of women in Bududa district, which has deprived them of their human rights.
Mr James Namukhono, 32 a voter in Bushinyekwa village in Bududa district says that they never examined the incumbent MP in 2011 and 2016 but that they just voted because she had been brought by her father, a judge in the high court of Uganda Mr Masalu Musene.
“So this vote was to the father but this time I want to educate the people of Bududa that unexamined life is not worth living and never let hate consume you if you want to learn in Life, we have learnt something and we shall not be swayed by anybody to vote for her,”
He reveals that as voters, they have come to learn that their MP deceived them about transforming Bududa and ‘We have remained at the same point or even gone down worse than we were in the last five years’
And as the political race gathers pace, Ms Namunane, a Program Manager at Action 4 Health Uganda has already declared her intentions to unseat Ms Khainza with a promise to salvage Bududa women, youth and girl-child.
Ms Namunane who is now a darling of Bududa voters standing on the higher pedestal says “any good leader must retire, Ms Khainza has played her part in Bududa politics and she should not backtrack on earlier promises to constituents, she should retire,”
Ms Namunane’s entry pits her against the incumbent MP Ms Khainza, who has already declared her bid and if Ms Namunane gets the nod, this would be the first time bid for her in Bududa.
Mr Yeko Natolo, an opinion leader says that the former considerations of religion, party and other dynamics that used to give Ms Khainza advantage no longer matter because the same are shared by Ms Namunane who has expressed interest in the Seat.
Ms Namunane is born in Bunyanga in Bukigai and married in Bunapolo, a distance of about two kilometres in Bukigai while Ms Khainza is born in Bufuma in Bulucheke and is also married in Bunapolo in Bukigai sub-county.
“This speaks volumes about who is likely to be voted in this area and who is likely to get a block vote in Bukigai sub-county,” Mr Natolo added.
Ms Khainza who also went against the NRM party position on the presidential age limit says that they never did anything wrong to take the positions of voting against the age limit because that was the stand of our electorates.
During her peak time between 2011 and 2016, Ms Khainza persuaded many people in Bududa to vote for her and on these occasions she defeated her opponents but today her popularity has nose-dived since she openly went against the party position to vote against the presidential age limit.
Last week, she held a campaign rally in Bududa and said she will build on her past achievements such as empowering local people to own businesses and strive to save mothers from all types of abuses from their husbands but this is yet to have any effect on her chances of taking the seat again.
Ms Namunane says women in Bududa district and especially from the rural areas, have come a long way and are now champions in political, social and economic things they must allow them to enjoy.
The hunt for votes
Ms Khainza throughout her campaigns has promised to revamp the constituency road network especially in areas where the terrain is very poor, improve health, education in the district hit by Landslides almost every year.
She has pledged to continue sensitizing the people of Bududa to value education and lobby government to reconstruct the roads and help people know how to value government programmes and above all legislate for the district.
But just five years along the road with many people disappointed that the promises made are yet to be fulfilled and that their MP has been quiet in Parliament, Ms Khainza has come back for the same seat.
Across Bududa most of the people who voted Ms Khainza are disappointed that the services promised have not been delivered and that the people are ready to go with another person who will not make promises but deliver irrespective of whether she is voted or not.
According to political analysts, this they believe is one of the odds stacked against Ms Khainza because she made promises, was voted and has failed to deliver.
But Mr Abneli Nakasala from Bumwalye is different; he says people expect a lot from MPs and that MPs also make mistakes in promising many things they can’t do and that is what leaves many voters disappointed.
“I know Ms Khainza, she is a good leader but what changed her was making promises she can’t deliver,” Mr Nakasala.
The hunt for votes
Mr Namunane has been crisis-crossing the district seeking votes from the people with the hope of joining parliamentary politics.
She hopes to unseat incumbent Ms Khainza, who is defending her seat on the NRM ticket she won as an unopposed candidate in 2016.
The two will also be battling it out with Ms Nandutu [NRM], the NTN senior reporter and anchor and Ms Shiwuma from Bushiika sub-county.
Ms Namunane, who is confident of winning the seat, says women from the region have come a long way and like their male counterparts, they can campaign freely and address residents, both men and women, freely.
Ms Namunane is currently the red hot favorite to clinch the NRM slot for flag bearer in Bududa district, especially because of her manifesto.
A visit of various platforms across the divide reveals that Ms Namunane stands out; although most rallies have been halted by Covid 19-induced ban on meetings and social distancing decree, she has been able to meet the constituents well.
The constituents now sell and celebrate Ms Namunane political tradecraft, demean and destroy other candidates and relegate other senior politicians in Bududa.
She pledges to promote Unity of the people of Bududa district “because I know that without Unity we are doomed, we must stop behaving like grasshoppers in one basket that eat each other and know that unity is fundamental,”
She brags that she has a manifesto that captures Infrastructural development-roads, schools, health centres, Electricity and that she has already built good relationships with the government to enable her lobby from the government for the people of Bududa.
She revealed that she has left her job to join politics because she does not want to be part of the people lamenting that Bududa is not doing well but that she wants to be part of the solution to the problems of Bududa.
She explained that she will make things happen once given the mandate and that she would work with teachers, parents, students to better education standards, use her exposure to improve women and youth livelihoods and maintain dignity of vulnerable people like the elderly, PWDs by working with the communities to provide strategic interventions.
“For the mothers, I promise to work with the ruling NRM government to reduce on the maternal and child mortality rates by providing timely transport for expectant mothers and the sick to access medical facilities and providing mama kits to all expectant mothers,” said Ms Namunane.
She adds that she will do anything to help Bududa district as an MP besides the known official roles of an MP.
“One of the biggest issues in the district is girl-education, I have packaged this to benefit every girl in Bududa irrespective of the type of family they come from,” said Ms Namunane.
Mr Emmanuel Nakhosi, a voter and opinion leader in Bushiika hints at Ms Namunane as being an asset to Bududa and adds that “A vote for her is a vote for Bududa district’s development,”
Who is likely to win and why
Ms Namunane stands a higher chance of taking the seat although she has a big hurdle to overcome his critics.
Riding on the theme “Service for my voters”, Ms Namunane says she hopes to promote reconciliation, unity and provide effective leadership again for the people of Bududa.
Mr Namunane has promised to create employment opportunities for the youth and women in the district by teaching them value addition, ensuring the people have access to market for their agricultural products across the Bududa.
For Ms Khainza, however, for now, her political brand among the Bududa electorate appears to have been seriously dented.
It is hard to speculate whether they will listen to her candidature in 2021and it is also hard to know whether she will endear her former appeal to the electorate in Bududa.
Ms Agnes Nandutu, the senior NTV reporter, has been an inspiration to girls in Bududa district, the position she has enjoyed for long.
She is also seeking a first term in the 4 September elections on the NRM ticket with a promise of championing women’s empowerment as a catalyst for development.
Ms Nandutu insists that she 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 of Bududa,”
She said he intends to uphold the core roles of an MP that include legislation. to debate and pass laws and that she will also scrutinize and approve the national Budget every financial year
“And I will find time to find out whether my constituency concerns have been budgeted for like Health, Education, Health, Water and Sanitation and Infrastructure development…etc
A flurry of meetings, speeches and intense lobbying by the intending candidates is at its peak and could culminate in the last-minute decisions.
However, all these candidates must first overcome the tough hurdle of the ruling NRM party primaries that are expected to be hotly contested in the district on 4 September.
But words, like strings to a basket, are the stuff that weaves together great messages. Their choice is important, their arrangement significant, just as the choice of strings is central to the determination of the quality of a basket.
So, how the aspiring MPs will fare come 4 September will be based on whether their speeches met the threshold of quality in convincing people to vote for them.