To reclaim the Masaka municipality parliamentary seat in 2016, the ruling NRM has turned to Herman Ssentongo, the former Sembabule LC-V chairman and now Kamuli resident district commissioner.
The NRM initially courted Kalungu East MP Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja to challenge incumbent MP Mathias Mpuuga, but their talks broke down. Ssentongo was swayed by officials from both the NRM and the opposition Democratic Party (DP). NRM last held this seat in the sixth Parliament.
The Observer has learnt that DP leaders, notably Railus Mayanja, the party’s chairman in the municipality, Dick Lukyamuzi, a political assistant to Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja, Dick Jakira, the speaker Nyendo Ssenyange division, and Paul Lusiba an activist, are key players in the scheme to oust Mpuuga.
Ssentongo publicly announced his bid for the seat on Sunday, at the launch of a football tournament meant to help Buddu county football team to identify talent ahead of next year’s Buganda counties (Masaza) cup. This year, Buddu exited at the quarter final stage.
No football match was played at the Sunday event held at Ssentongo’s Pine Ridge park at Bwala hill on the outskirts of Masaka town. Instead, there was a mini-political rally attended by more than 100 people. The event was a culmination of meetings between NRM and DP leaders convened by the senior presidential aisor on Local Governments in Buganda, Vincent Ssemakula Ssettuba and Brig Joseph Ssemwanga, the commanding officer of the Masaka-based Armoured brigade.
DP joined NRM after its preferred candidates, John Kasumba (son to Railus Mayanja) and Samuel Walter Lubega, opted out. Brig Ssemwanga and Ssemakula met about 200 DP youths at Kugumikiriza guest house in Nyendo.
The youths, led by Victor Mukasa, an assistant to the municipality’s former deputy Mayor Charles Kasibante, signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to work for the NRM candidate. Ssemakula and Ssemwanga reportedly assured the youths that President Museveni would fund their activities.
When Mpuuga defeated DP Vice President John Baptist Kawanga in the 2011 polls, a group of DP supporters, calling themselves ‘DP original’, began plotting for Mpuuga’s ouster. Unfortunately, they failed to get credible challengers to Mpuuga – forcing them into an alliance with NRM.
“DP agreed to work with us because they felt that it is only NRM that will present a candidate who will uproot Mpuuga,” Moses Nkulumbi, an NRM leader in the municipality, told The Observer.
Some DP supporters shied away from the Sunday event, save for Margaret Nanyonjo, the vice chairperson for Katwe-Butego division.
“I belong to the original branch of DP, not the DP of jerrycans or table [the symbol Mpuuga used in the elections], I am here to tell you that we are with you in this struggle,” Nanyonjo said.
The deputy Pokino (Buddu county chief) John Robert Musule has joined the fight. He accuses Mpuuga of being against Kabaka’s programmes.
“This election is not about political parties, we want people who are supportive and steadfast on the kingdom’s issues,” Musuule said to applause from attendees.
Ironically, Mpuuga joined Parliament after serving as a youth minister at Mengo. He also briefly held the portfolio of Information, Cabinet and Lukiiko Affairs minister following the 2008 arrest of current Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona and Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze Bakireke.
Ssentongo is counting on his legacy as Sembabule district chairman to cause change in service delivery in the municipality.
“Despite the fights we had in Sembabule, I was able to pave all the roads in the district, at times using personal resources yet I was not rich or too powerful to work for the people of Sembabule,” Ssentongo said.
Ssentongo has reportedly written to Museveni for permission to start early campaigns. A security operative attached to the Armoured brigade said Museveni had agreed to bankroll Ssentongo.
Ssentongo’s entry has become a topical issue in Masaka, a known opposition ghold. Whereas some political activists are quick to dismiss his candidature, others believe he stands a chance.
“He can win if he stands not on the NRM card,” a woman who operates a beauty salon on Elgin Street said.
But Hajjat Madinah Matovu, the district NRM vice chairperson, argues that if the party plays its cards well, Ssentongo will win the seat back. NRM is looking at a divided opposition, but considering the 2011 election results, Mpuuga would still defeat a single challenge.
The race had DP’s Kawanga (3,382), NRM’s Francis Xavier Kizza (5,537), Susan Nakawuki (2,698) Godfrey Kawooya Ssenyondo (322) and Peter Mutesasira (80). When tallied, the five candidates polled 12,019 votes against Mpuuga’s 15,103 votes.
Source : The Observer