BULAMBULI – The people of Bulambuli district will again go to the polls on January 14 in a heated contest that will revive old rivalries between incumbent Ms Sarah Nambozo and her predecessor Mrs Irene Muloni.
Although there is another candidate Ms Scovia Muduwa, this time vying for the same seat, the vote is a two-horse race between the two foes who will be slugging it out for the second time.
More than sixty thousand (60,000) voters are registered to vote in the 23 sub-counties of Bulambuli i, half between the ages of 18 and 35 since becoming a district in 2009.
The election is coming at a time of the Coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted but hasn’t stopped campaigning by candidates, who have chosen to take it door to door.
The 2011 parliamentary elections in Bulambuli district brought to the political limelight a Ugandan electrical engineer and businesswoman Mrs Irene Muloni.
Mrs Muloni served as the elected Member of Parliament for Bulambuli District as Women’s Representative, from 2011 until 2016.
Although she later lost the seat controversially in 2016 elections to Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba, an Independent candidate by about 586 votes, Mrs Muloni maintained her presence in the district something that today attracts a lot of people to her.
Yes, Mrs Muloni who rose to become a minister of energy and mineral development until December 2019 when she dropped and appointed as the presidential adviser has a lot to her advantage as compared to other candidates in the race for the same seat for 2021.
The voters in Bulambuli say that the former minister’s continued involvement in the various projects benefitting the district even after she lost the seat in 2016 have endeared her to the voters.
Mr Paul Kimamati, the NRM chairperson for Bulambuli says the the minister has supported the district in terms of health, supported women Saccos to end household poverty, created unity among the people, brought electricity to rural households and development.
Like other people within Bulambuli district, Mr Kimamati, a resident of Buyaga, says the minister is tried and tested and Ms Wekomba should give her a chance.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) in Uganda are amongst the highest paid relative to the size of the economy and therefore Parliamentary seats are among the most sought-after positions in society, bringing the holder wealth and social standing.
In such an environment, where securing a parliamentary seat is the ultimate aspiration and privilege, and where, for that reason, there are individuals who are prepared to go to great lengths to secure the seat through all means, the cost of politics is unsurprisingly significant.
The two-week or so- campaign trail across the Bulambuli district afforded me some time to travel around the district and – a segment of the people of Bulambuli who have strong views on the representation of Mrs Muloni of 2011 to 2016 seem to be rethinking.
For the very first time, the ‘Balambulians’, the ethnic community’s elites who have dictated the pace and rhythm of the district’s political parlance since 2011 is at a crossroads: they do not seem to be backing Ms Nambozo as their horse to back in the 2021 elections.
Conditioned and socialised to believe they cannot back someone who has let them down for the last five years, they are at a loss, mainly because what Mrs Irene Muloni advocated for and left on the ground is the only thing they see and her political nemesis Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba has done very little.
Across the political divide, many political pundits believe Mrs Muloni did a lot for her local people in Bulambuli and that this is the time to rethink, “We need to vote Mrs Muloni back to represent us and we should not allow to let ourselves down by voting back Ms Nambozo who has let us down in the last five years” says Mr Andrew Wozanywe, a local voter in Buginyanya sub-county.
The local leaders are now up drumming up support for Mrs Muloni as their candidate and have already announced that the 2021 election would be the beginning of a the new political movement that would drum up support for the development of the district.
Mr Wozanywe says the fact that Ms Sarah Nambozo is viewed as the most underperforming MP for Bulambuli district; she is now loathed and lampooned in equal measure by her core supporters – the people from Bulambuli upper.
Why? “Because after voting for her – in 2016 – it is very painful to see that we the people of Bulambuli have suffered unmitigated poverty, disaster, courtesy of her gross incompetence and cluelessness,” said Ms Robinah Nabukwasi, an NRM a voter in Masira sub-county.
“We have now come to the realization that our woman MP Ms Sarah Wekomba was all form and no substance. She made a number of promises and here we are nothing has been done,” she added.
Ms Monica Wasagali, an ardent NRM voter in Masila sub-county says if anybody wanted to negotiate with the people of Bulambuli for a vote, he had to talk to Mr Stephen Wekomba, the father to Ms Sarah Wekomba, we stuck with a man in 2016 because he has pedigree.
“And I want to tell you that the votes MP Nambozo got in 2016 were the father’s votes and we realised shortly this was the greatest mistake the people of Bulambuli have ever made,” added Ms Wasagali.
Mrs Muloni’s past generosity will count
There are three women running in the hope that they can become the new Bulambuli Woman Member of Parliament including Mrs Irene Muloni [NRM flag bearer], Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba [Independent] and Ms Scovia Muduwa, 42, an agricultural engineer [the National Unity Platform (NUP) party flag bearer.
And currently, the seat is occupied by Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba [Independent] who has only occupied the seat for one term since 2016.
Many voters, now in nostalgia, say that while in Umeme as a managing director, Mrs Muloni had helped many youth not only in Bulambuli but in the entire Bugisu sub-region to secure jobs and also lobbied to make the extension of power to even little known villages in Buginyanya, Masira, Muyembe, Buluganya, Sisiyi, Bunambutye and Bwikonge sub-counties a reality.
And today many of the beneficiaries of her generosity can now be seen canvassing votes for her in return for what she did for them.
For a while, the ruling party has enjoyed significant public sympathy in this constituency, making the district NRM flag bearer Mrs Muloni’s prospects rather bright.
In the Bugisu rank and file, suffering from the vicissitudes of Ms Nambozo’s failure to deliver on her promises and callousness, the voters in Bulambuli have in recent years been showing her the middle finger and seem to be revolting against her.
Like they say where I come from, “Biibindu bye chengile Uwase,” Things on the ground are different. In Bulambuli, the name Ms Nambozo is slowly becoming anathema. And they add “Kindly avoid mentioning that name [Ms Nambozo] here, we don’t want our mood spoilt,”
But Mrs Muloni’s determination faces an incumbent who is not leaving anything to chance; her huge victory in the NRM primaries speaks volumes about what will happen in the January elections.
Bulambuli was carved out of Sironko District under an Act of Parliament in 2009 but became operational on July 1, 2010. The people would later participate in an election to choose their first district Woman MP, a race that saw Ms Muloni register an overwhelming victory.
Mrs Muloni says he will use her position as an MP to help youth reach their full potential through the government skilling programme with quality vocational training programmes that can help them to successfully enter the labour market.
She has also promised to empower local women who have limited employment opportunities to generate income through artisanal food production in their villagesi in Bulambuli district.
“For me, my manifesto for 2016 to 2021 will be empowerment of young people and women as the key to the development of my constituency,” said Mrs Muloni.
She explained that she would use the historical analysis of Uganda to enable citizens to understand, where Uganda is now in terms of the relentless efforts of the NRM for the Social-Economic transformation of the Ugandan society.
She said the NRM manifesto “Securing your future” is grounded on five pillars; 1. Wealth creation and creating jobs and ensuring household income for all, 2. Delivering education and health, 3. Ensuring justice and equity, 4. Protecting life and property and finally 5. Ensuring economic and political integration.
“The manifesto explains in detail, what the NRM government under President Museveni’s stewardship will do in these five sub-sectors to ensure every Ugandan has a secure future. I want to promise that I will implement this to its last dot,” said Mrs Muloni
In 2011, Ms Muloni swept 35,077 votes against her only rival Ms Nambozo Grace Massa (FDC) who only managed 5,736 of the ballots cast.
PML Daily discovered that Ms Nambozo’s bid is an almost hopeless case, according to people who have been following the trends in Bulambuli. But Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba, the incumbent has vowed to press on.
“Despite being in the [group] that chose to go independent, I love the NRM party and I am determined to deliver victory for it,” Ms Nambozo said.
Ms Wekomba, who is the daughter of a popular businessman Mr Stephen Wekomba, was first elected in 2016, after defeating Ms Muloni with a difference of 568 votes.
Ms Nambozo contested as an Independent while the former minister Mrs Muloni was the flag bearer for the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party again.
According to sources privy to PML Daily, Ms Nambozo wanted to contest in the recently concluded NRM primaries for the flag but pulled out at the last minute, giving Mrs Muloni a leeway.
Although Ms Muloni’s supporters say Ms Wekomba pulled out of NRM primaries because she was afraid of defeat since her candidature is no longer appealing to electorates as it was in 2016, the latter’s supporters dispute the claims.
“We stopped her from participating in the NRM primaries after we found out that sub-county registrars had been bribed in favour of one person,” Mr Joseph Wamimbi, a resident of Muyembe.
According to the opinion leaders across the divide Mrs Muloni is well placed to reclaim the seat come 2021 elections.
Even when a section of residents accuse her of failing to address the issues affecting them such as landslides, floods, boundary conflicts with Sebei Sub-region, among others, on the floor of Parliament, Ms Nambozo says she is determined to end the suffering of her people.
She revealed that she is determined to provide youth in Bulambuli community with training and economic opportunities for a better district.
“ I will besides this ensure women’s empowerment and creating social impact and here I am going to look at what we have in our area – human resources, craft, raw materials – and set out to help the most marginalized in the community,” said Mr Nambozo.
Ms Telezia Nabuzale says Ms Wekomba supported farmers with seedlings to fight poverty and funded construction of bridges easing accessibility besides the father has supported my husband in Coffee business for long.
“For me it is Ms Nambozo, I will vote for, i have seen a lot of things given to us and I know that when she promises, she will give us,” said Ms Nabuzale, a close relative of Ms Nambozo and voter in Simu-Pondo.
Ms Scovia Muduwa of National Unity Platform [NUP], another aspirant for the seat, said the incumbent and Mrs Muloni have failed the people of Bulambuli and that this if elected, she will lobby for the tarmacking of the Simu- Buginyanya-Buluganya Road besides other feeder roads.
Ms Muduwa explains that advocacy is important for farmers markets, and breaks down the steps towards building strong, lasting relationships with elected officials adding that this is going to be her main the thing to help farmers.
“I want to organise and strengthen marketing groups to advocate for better markets and prices for locally grown commodities such as bananas, tomatoes, Cabbage, Coffee and Avocado,” she explains.
Although in 2016 – 2021, a lot of money was used to bribe voters, reports across the the district today indicate that ‘Balambulians’ have gradually learnt that voting someone because of simply buying their vote is wrong.
Good vehicles have featured heavily in campaigns for the 2021, 14 January election as politicians comb for votes in remote villages, where voters have often turned up for rallies wearing party colours distributed beforehand.
Although the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda [CCEDU] says Uganda has a history of high profile corruption in which ill-gotten proceeds are used to sway voters in general elections, voters say they won’t be manipulated by bribes.
“We understand that a good leader is not somebody who normally gives us cash, soap, salt, sugar but he is somebody who can advise us on how fish ourselves to get something, how to work hard to get something, lobbies for us, who articulates our issues in parliament etc,” Mr Henry Manana, an opinion leader and ardent NRM supporter Bulambuli.
He added that an MP who is coming with priorities of helping her people/ young people/women to start small businesses and get skills training to help them secure jobs is the one people are of Bulambuli are yearning for.
Ms Scovia Muduwa is the first woman on the NUP ticket to go against the popular NRM party in Bulambuli district and even when she a native of the rather young district, she might not make it.
The volatility on the ground, with the incumbent MP legally seeking another term, succession politics have started playing out, with numerous figures around Mrs Muloni jostling for the chance to help her re-occupy the seat come 2021.
And with less than barely two months to the next election, there is a growing fear that ‘Balambulians’ will be sucked into another cycle of violence—a cycle in which the perpetrators will again face no punishment like in 2016.
Mrs Irene Nafuna Muloni
Born in 1960, Mrs Irene Muloni Nafuna is a Ugandan electrical engineer and businesswoman who 2011 – 2016 served as the elected Member of Parliament for Bulambuli District.
She later served as minister of energy and mineral development until 2019, when she was dropped and appointed as a presidential adviser and apparently she is the official NRM flag bearer for 2021 to 2026.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering degree from Makerere University and degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA), from Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, The United States.
Ms Scovia Muduwa
Born in 1978, Ms Scovia Muduwa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering from Makerere University. She is contesting on the NUP ticket.
Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba
Born in 1978, Ms Sarah Nambozo Wekomba holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies from Makerere University. She is contesting as an Independent.