BULAMBULI – The battle for the critical Bulambuli vote between the incumbent woman Member of Parliament Ms Sarah Nambozo [Independent] and former minister of energy and mineral development Mrs Irene Muloni [NRM] is shaping up.
Although in 2016, it was a battle between minister then Mrs Muloni and Ms Nambozo, the 2016 battle will be between the incumbent and Mrs Muloni who has since then lost the ministerial position.
Political spears have been drawn as former energy minister Mrs Muloni again clashes with the incumbent for the Bulambuli vote, but what is likely to happen? Will the voters choose former minister Mrs Muloni for Ms Nambozo?
According to political pundits the January 14 General Election in Bulambuli is expected to be influenced by five critical issues: Money, Road network, health for mothers, demands for land from Mt Elgon Park and ethnic politics.
Yes, the fight is fully on to take Bulambuli Women seat for 2021 – 2026 amid much jostling among the stubborn but clever voters in the district.
And for the very first time, the ‘Balambulians’, composed of several ethnic tribes like the Badadiri, Sabiny, Babukusu, the Shana, Karimojong, Iteso, Banyole, Babuya etc, the role played by ethnicity and tribalism is likely to be decisive.
The ethnic community’s elites who have dictated the pace and rhythm of the district’s political parlance since 2011 is at a crossroads: as they do not seem to be backing anybody just for the sake of money for the 2021 elections.
Bulambuli district besides the those from the Northern part near Mt Elgon [Bagisu] is composed of people who came to explore or Kulambula [Kulambula, means to explore or visit, in a local language here] but stayed for ever and these are mainly occupying Bulambuli lower; the Babuya [those who hail from Mbale, Manafwa, Bududa, Namisindwa districts], Babukusu [from Kenya], Sabiny [from Sebei sub-region] Karimojong, Banyole [from Butaleja] and many other ethnic tribes.
The Bulambuli North [Mt Elgon] would vote for their person while those living in the lower parts of Bulambuli would also vote their own but this seems to have changed ever since the NRM government curved out other constituencies in the district.
An December mini-poll done by PML Daily has courted unparalleled attention, with the campaigns ceasing to be about the candidates, where the candidate comes from and spiraling into a contest of who-is-who and what have you done for the people in district politics, and to a larger extent, a measure of relevance nationally.
Despite claims to the contrary, the contest is shaping up into a show of might between Mrs Irene Muloni and her political nemesis Ms Nambozo [the Incumbent], a candidate who beat the former minister of energy and mineral development in the 2016 contest.
But as Mrs Muloni traverses the district in a last-ditch attempt to woo voters to elect her for the district women seat, here is why she will take the Bulambuli district seat in 2021.
Her victory at Party primaries
The battle for NRM primaries for Bulambuli Women seat was a dress rehearsal for the 2021 elections; Mrs Muloni took the NRM flag bearer for the third time and wants to use this to take the seat in January 2021.
The general elections campaign phase of the election cycle presents a completely different set of dynamics. While those who faced competitive primaries and those who were subjected to less rigorous selection processes meet as equals on the campaign trail, from a strategic perspective they face vastly different challenges.
Mr Charles Wepekhulu, a seasoned politician and district councilor says that in Uganda holding the party ticket in a dominant party context might be an advantage; it does not guarantee victory, or indeed an easy electoral victory.
“Five significant hurdles remain; How you convince the people, how you relate with them, how much you put in them and the promises you make besides your past record as an MP,” said Mr Wepekhulu.
He added that but once individuals have emerged victorious from competitive dominant party primaries in ethnically homogenous or stronghold constituencies, they enjoy the significant advantage of the party machinery behind them.
Mrs Irene Nambafu, an ardent supporter of NRM says when you get the NRM flag; you have access to a political currency worth its weight in gold in your respective regions.
“You enjoy the support of the party and the party leader, in many cases, is more than just the leader of the political party: he is also the de facto leader of your district and therefore a veritable deity to the party rank and file and this is why Mrs Muloni stands a chance to win,” said Mrs Nambafu of Masira sub-county.
Ms Nambafu explains that besides other promises, Mrs Muloni has pledged to work on the local community roads to ease transport for expectant mothers and to table the demands for land from Mt Elgon national park in parliament.
“And this is what we want as voters in Bulambuli, any MP who does not give us her agenda like Mrs Muloni, she will definitely not go through,” added Ms Nambafu.
She explained that it is true that some media outlets and pundits are awash with excitement contriving to figure out whether Mrs Irene Muloni, the incumbent, Ms Sarah Nambozo and Ms Scovia Muduwa [NUP] will take the seat come January 14, 2021 but Mrs Muloni stands out.
Ms Sarah Nasambu from Bwikonge sub-county says to the contrary, the contest is shaping up into a show of might between former minister Mrs Muloni and her political nemesis Ms Sarah Nambozo, a candidate supported mainly by her father, a local businessman Mr Stephen Wekomba.
What is the chance of the independents?
Ms Christine Chemutai of Masira sub-county, a teacher says that for those who were subjected to less rigorous selection processes and came as independents or as representatives of small parties in the race, it is at this stage of general elections that the rubber meets the road.
“And without the ability to ride on the popularity of a strong party leader, independents are largely having to rely on their own efforts to coordinate and fund campaigns which is every expensive for them,” said Ms Chemutai.
She said that this explains what Ms Sarah Nambozo and Ms Scovia Nagudi are going through, having to fundraise from their friends, parents and selling property at home or getting loans to finance their campaigns.
Mr Paul Kimamati, the NRM chairperson Bulambuli district says that aspiring for a political office as an independent is a very expensive venture where you have to rely on your own investments if not you become a beggar.
“And the political culture plays a significant role in determining the cost of politics; the inflated costs of seeking election in Uganda do not exist in a vacuum rather, they are the product of social and political behaviours developed over time,” said Mr Kimamati.
Ms Irene Nabukwasi, also a voter in Muyembe sub-county, says the onset of the political process for any aspiring political candidate is the question of motivation and that this is what drives people into the races.
He explained that in many parts of Uganda party primaries can be more important, more competitive, and thus more expensive than the election campaign itself.
“But the biggest question is why should one come as an independent? In some cases, it might be a burning desire to be of service while on the opposite side of the spectrum, the egocentric need for recognition and social standing that accompanies political office in Uganda may drive aspirants’ bids,” said Ms Nabukwasi.
Mr Gibuzuyi says that It’s now face time, it is now where politicians have to go to their constituencies to show their faces to the voters, to be evaluated and that voters are not difficult people if you promised something, have you done it.
He explained that it teaches us that MPs should always be with constituents, live in the constituency and be part and parcel of them and that whatever you do matters in elections, when you bring development but if they don’t see you, then electors will not remember.
“You must take the time to speak with them and listen to them, in the market, on the street. That is how you will convince the people to vote for you. Mrs Muloni has been with the people, she has been in the district ever since she lost in 2016, it explains why she stands out to take the 2021 race,” said Mr Gibuzuyi.
It is now crystal clear that Mrs Muloni is currently the red hot favorite to clinch the Bulambuli seat come 14 January 2021, especially because of her experience in leadership, having been a minister for energy and mineral development.
On various platforms across the divide Mrs Muloni 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 Mrs Muloni political tradecraft, demean and destroy other candidates and relegate other them to having no experience to lead Bulambuli.
In her campaigns this time Mrs Muloni has presented a development plan called “Bulambuli vision 2030”. It includes free medical care and medical camps for pregnant women, it also captures Infrastructural development-roads, schools and that he has already built good relationship with government to enable her lobby from government for the people of Bulambuli.
“I have been in NRM, I have served NRM as a minister for close to nine years, I have built friendship with NRM, I have local and international contacts besides central government contacts that are for the good of Bulambuli district’s socio-economic development,” said Mrs Muloni.
Mrs Muloni, is currently the red hot favorite to clinch the Bulambuli district women seat come 14 January, especially because of his experience in leadership, having been a minister who played her part well in the development of Bulambuli.
On various platforms across the divide Mrs Muloni 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 voters across the district well.
“I have full faith in people and voters of Bulambuli, because ever since I went out of Parliament, their conditions have remained the same…people understand everything,” says Mrs Muloni.
She explained that voters in Bulambuli could be simple, naive and poor, but they are very intelligent,” she said, adding that they will take a right decision on 14 January 2021.
Mrs Muloni’s explained that she has a manifesto that captures Infrastructural development-roads, schools, health centres, Electricity, financial support to farmers and that she has already built good relationship with government to enable her lobby from government for the people of Bulambuli.
She adds that she would work with teachers, parents, students to better education standards, use her exposure to improve women and youth livelihoods by turning their associations into Units of production and maintain dignity of vulnerable people like the elderly, PWDs by working with the communities to provide strategic interventions.
MP Nambozo’s chances are lean
The result of the 2020 election remains incredibly uncertain with polling experts suggesting the incumbent Ms Nambozo might lose which could be too close to call.
Politicians across the divide say that if the elections were held today, it would according to the mood of the voters in Bulambuli go to Mrs Muloni for her work done in 2011 to 2016 and for remaining with the people on ground despite the loss.
According to Mr Phillip Manana, a local politician and voter in Bulambuli, it appears that Ms Nambozo is struggling to meet the ever growing expectations of the voters [constituency service] but that data suggests that voters hold her to account principally for the services she promised to deliver while in parliament and not for her law-making role.
“Constituency service” is the general term for what parliamentarians do to serve and represent the interests of their constituents, so instead of thinking about this, Ms Nambozo is busy dishing out money to buy votes which might not work out,” said Mr Manana.
He added that discussions with parliamentarians show the extent to which their capacity to deliver is being stretched to the limit, and might be taking them away from their parliamentary duties.
Ms Nambozo who is also determined to take back her seat says when they make promises in their constituencies, it is difficult to meet the expectations of their voters– because they are ever increasing and that the task becomes more difficult as time goes on.
Although Ms Nambozo backed by his rich father Mr Stephen Wekomba are combing the villages again in bid to get votes from the Balambulians, the voters across the divide say that they were betrayed by the incumbent MP after she failed to deliver anything both at parliament and in the constituency.
Ms Nambozo [Independent] has been in parliament since 2016 after defeating Mrs Muloni [the official NRM flag bearer] and enter the race as the incumbent MP for Bulambuli.
It is now clear that the chances of Ms Nambozo taking the Bulambuli seat have grown slimmer as the voters accuse her of failing to deliver on her promises.
“Ms Nambozo and her father can give out money to buy the vote with a thinking that the voters in Bulambuli are simple, naive and poor, but they must be aware that the voters are very intelligent,” Ms Sarah Nabaya, an ardent NRM in Masira sub-county said, adding that they will take a right decision.
Ms Nambozo said she would also work with his party, the ruling NRM party 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
Scovia Muduwa, NUP;
Although Mr Joshua Magona, a voter in Bulambuli says the district needs a true eligibility test for all Parliamentary candidates, Mudiwa insists that she is the most capable candidate.
“I find her a joker and besides with few exceptions, political power is open to a narrow socioeconomic group of women in Uganda, bounded both by class (education, career) and social expectations (marital status, religious belief) and financial status,” said Mr Magona.
But Ms Muduwa responds that “I have full faith in people and voters of Bulambuli, especially from all the sub-counties. They are aware that the NUP government when it comes to power will do great things in the country especially for the Youth,” says Ms Scovia Muduwa, the National Unity Platform candidate.
She explained that the NRM has not been able to change anything in the lives of the people of Bulambuli saying the farmers’ condition has worsened and unemployment has increased and that the people understand everything well.
I intend to promote Unity of the people of Bulambuli because know that without Unity we are doomed “The people of Bulambuli for long have behaved as like grasshoppers in one basket that eat each other “ And this must stop for us to develop. I want to insist unity is fundamental,” She added.
She explained that she has a manifesto that captures Infrastructural development-roads, schools, health centres and support for farmers to help them come out of poverty.
He revealed that he has joined the race because he does not want to be part of the people lamenting that Bulambuli district is not doing well but that she wants to be part of the solution to the problems of the people of Bulambuli.
For Ms Muduwa [NUP] she is testing waters in Bulambuli district for the first time, with a significant number of votes from the youth across the district linked to NUP, meaning she should not be taken lightly in 2021.
And were lives any better in Bulambuli when Mrs Muloni was MP
Many political pundits insist during Mrs Muloni’s reign as a Woman MP [2011 to 2016] in Bulambuli, she made their lives better.
Mrs Modesta Namukowa, a voter in Muyembe town council and Muyembe sub-county, hints at Mrs Muloni as being an asset to Bulambuli district and adds that “A vote for her is a vote for Bulambuli development,”
A flurry of meetings and intense lobbying by the intending candidates is on and could culminate in the last-minute decisions.
The voters expect ‘something’ in return MPs have the unenviable task of living up to the monumental expectations of the electorate and given the prevailing political culture, there is the expectation that MPs or those vying for the position will be able to resolve a myriad of problems facing their constituents.
As a result of the costs involved, politics tends to primarily attract the well-to-do and those with the capacity to raise the requisite funds.
But what do the voters want? … roads, bridges, schools, health, assistance with education and tuition fees and other social obligations and so what does it take to get elected?.
Can money, feasts, family ties, popularity help someone to be elected? Or does delivery of promised goods and services … tangible projects … some more money and feasts take somebody to Parliament? These are the question as we look towards 14 January 2021.