BUSHENYI – The NRM parliamentary primaries are upon us. On Friday, September 4, 2020, about 12 million party faithful will queue up to choose who holds the women MP and direct constituency flag come 2021.
NRM flag bearers will be for 151 district women Members of Parliament slots and 353 direct constituencies. They will be held in the 69,075 villages, which are also polling stations.
It’s been an exciting campaign; from candidates digging graves to others promising bridges where rivers do not exist.
By the end of Friday, some will have known whether their efforts to convince voters will have paid off or whether their efforts were simply a waste.
In Bushenyi district, western Uganda, the race for the woman MP seat has been one of the most intriguing. The contenders for the NRM flag are the incumbent, Ms Mary Karooro Okurut and Ms Annet Katusiime Mugisha, wife of Eng Dr Silver Mugisha, the managing director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
Ms Karooro has been running a project of skilling young girls in the district. Recently, she also donated hand hoes, solar and food in the area and is currently building a sanitary pad factory at Kutungu.
Meanwhile, Ms Katusiime through Bamugisha Community Welfare initiative donated food, soap and money to village saving groups in the district in addition to supporting church projects.
For many residents, time for the incumbent, Ms Karooro, who has represented the district a number of time is up and it is time for Ms Mugisha to take over.
While this is a general belief among the electorate, the campaign has taken a sectarian angle, with some leaders opening urging the people to vote for the two candidates basing on their religion.
Mr Wilson Karuhanaga, a voter in Nyakabirizi Division, says: “Some people are bringing religion in women MP campaigns; this could affect us as NRM, leaders should condemn it.”
Ms Mugisha is a catholic while Ms Karooro is Anglican.
As a result, the campaigns recently degenerated into violence.
On August 25, four supporters of Ms Mugisha were injured when they clashed with those of Ms Karooro in Cell C ward 4 in Ishaka division in Bushenyi Ishaka Municipality.
Also in the same line is the smear campaign against Ms Mugisha that has allegedly been promoted by businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba, who supports Ms Karooro.
Several residents have accused Mr Basajjabalaba of openly dishing out money to voters and urging them not to vote for Ms Mugisha. He has also been alleging that Ms Mugisha is not qualified for the position due to lack of requisite academic papers.
Phillip Mugume Murwana and Zeddy Byakyaro took Ms Annet Katusiime Mugisha to NRM EC tribunal on grounds that she does not have required academic qualifications to run for Bushenyi district woman Member of Parliament on NRM ticket. The party has not ruled on the matter.
Last week, a cross-section of National Resistance Movement (NRM) stakeholders in Bushenyi district petitioned the party’s national chairperson Yoweri Museveni to weigh in on activities of Basajjabala, who is the district party chairperson, whom they say is destroying the party.
“The chairman has recruited a group of hooligans he has sponsored to engage in violent activities that has left four people badly injured and currently hospitalized at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital in critical conditions,” says Yassin Kyota, the NRM chairperson Ishaka Division.
Apollo Kakonge, the executive director of Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), says that by the end of NRM primaries, most candidates will have thought of standing on independent tickets because of the actions of the chairman.
However, Basajjabalaba rubbished all the allegations, saying he’s never supported violence.
“That’s not true, I condemn violence and I will never support that violence. My interest is to have a fair election and for the people to vote for capable leaders,” he said, adding that some party candidates are trying to tarnish his name after failing to fulfill all the credentials to represent the district.
However, for many voters, the false allegations against Ms Mugisha have only served to endear her more to voters.