BY JOHN SEMAKULA AND CHARLES ETUKURI
Key political payers in Kampala have started preparing for the mother of all battles pitting the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago. The battle kicked off on Tuesday, when the Government tabled a Bill to amend Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Act.
The Bill suggests that the Minister for Kampala will become the political head, instead of the Lord Mayor. It also proposes that the Lord Mayor should be appointed from among the city councillors. The Bill has changed the dynamics of politics in Kampala, sending Lukwago’s camp to look for plan B.
During a press conference recently, Lukwago said the f ght to stop NRM from denying the people of Kampala a chance to elect a Lord Mayor is a matter of life and death. Little wonder that Lukwago, who accompanied Forum for Democratic Change party flag-bearer, Dr. Kizza Besigye to Rukungiri district on his maiden rally this week has not joined him on other public rallies.
Saturday Vision has learnt that the plan B, which Lukwago has unveiled, is to shift to another constituency within Kampala. The two constituencies Lukwago is reportedly eyeing either Nakawa division or Makindye west.Lukwago’s supporters on social media have been urging him to run for the Nakawa parliamentary seat and unseat the incumbent, Fredrick Ruhindi (Attorney General), one of the people behind the Bill.
Nakawa is an NRM stronghold and Ruhindi is still a hard nut to crack. But the Nakawa NRM camp is divided between Ruhindi and the mayor, Benjamin Kalumba, so Lukwago could exploit this to win, his supporters believe.
In the 2011 mayoral elections, Lukwago defeated the NRM flag-bearer, Pr. Peter Sematimba, in Nakawa division with 34,762 votes against 21,737. Lukwago won the overall mayoral race with a margin of 110,310 votes against Sematimba. Pundits say Lukwago could give Ruhindi a bloody nose in Nakawa. Other sources in Lukwago camp say he might choose to go to Makindye West, currently represented by MP Hussein Kyanjo.
The frail Kyanjo has declared that he will not return to Parliament. Lukwago’s ally, Allan Ssewanyana, has been eyeing the seat. But reliable sources say Sewanyana may return to City Hall and leave Lukwago to contest for the seat. During the 2011 Mayoral race, Lukwago got 58,766 votes against Ssematimba’s 28,906 in Makindye division.
The law allows Lukwago to contest in any constituency in the country as long as he is a registered voter, whose name appears in the national voters’ register. When contacted for a comment on their known public contacts both Lukwago and Ssewanyana’s phones were picked by a woman, who said Saturday Vision had called a wrong number.
But the FDC aspirant for the Nakawa seat, Michael Kabaziguruka, said he had been approached by some party members, asking him to relinquish his seat for Lukwago.
“It is true, some party members approached me to step down for Lukwago on Wednesday,” Kabaziguruka said, although he remained non-committal on whether he had accepted to step down. Saturday Vision has learnt that Kabaziguruka, who has aspired twice for the same seat, was not willing to step down, even though his party is willing to compensate him for the bills he had incurred in printing posters and T-shirts for the race.
Should Lukwago run, he will benefit from his closeness to Besigye. He recently appointed him his special mobiliser for the 2016 presidential elections and the move to grant him Nakawa may be aimed at appeasing him. Salim Uhuru, the NRM chairperson for Kampala Central, says whereas his camp is ready to take on Lukwago in any constituency, including Nakawa, he does not support the Bill coming at this time.
“Tabling the Bill now makes us (NRM) appear as if we are desperate to diffuse Lukwago at the time when we have a candidate in the race. President Yoweri Museveni brought democracy; we should be seen to defend it at all costs, even when it is not in our favour. Since power belongs to the people, let us take on Lukwago in the polls and if he defeats us, we concede,” Uhuru said. Efforts to speak to Ruhindi yesterday about the development were futile as he was not picking his calls.
Lukwago’s woes started when he was thrown out of office in 2014 over abuse of office. He went silent, leaving everyone guessing his next move in the 2016 general elections. Politicians in different political camps wanted to know the political office he was eyeing in 2016.
Lukwago preferred to concentrate on his battles in courts of law. But last week, he declared that he would contest for the office of the Lord Mayor. The public declaration Lukwago made at Besigye’s rally at Nakivubo Stadium, threw hundreds of his supporters into wild jubilation.
The Lord Mayor commands a lot of support in Kampala, especially among the lower cadres, who work in markets. Lukwago’s supporters left Nakivubo ready to hit the city divisions to canvass for votes. Opposition legislators, led by FDC’s former leader of Opposition, Nandala Mafabi, on Thursday called for the delay to amend the Bill until after the 2016 general elections.
If the Bill is endorsed, Lukwago’s chances of becoming the Lord Mayor will become slim because KCCA is dominated by NRM councillors. If NRM retains the number of councillors in the council after the 2016 general elections, the next Lord Mayor can only be from the party.
At the time the Bill was tabled, NRM had endorsed dancehall musician, Daniel Kyeyune Kazibwe alias Ragga Dee as the party’s flag-bearer. Kazibwe is a newcomer in the city politics and pundits had ruled him out of the race, arguing that he is not Lukwago’s match.
It is not clear where the proposed Bill leaves Kazibwe, who injected millions of cash in the party primaries. Lukwago had started collecting signatures required by the Electoral Commission (EC) for the nominations.
The EC had also set the nomination date for people contesting for the lord mayorship, but the EC has put the process to a halt until the Minister for Kampala pronounces himself on the matter. Lukwago’s popularity in Kampala dates back to the time when he was Kampala Central MP, between 2001 and 2011.
As the area MP, Lukwago defended market vendors from being evicted by businessmen who had tendered the markets from the defunct Kampala City Council. Due to those ties, time came when vendors in Kisekka Market would dare anyone who touched Lukwago.