By Vision Reporter
When in 2011, President Yoweri Museveni said he would provide free toilet facilities to the people in the city; some people heckled his statement, calling it ‘cheap’ politics. Although Museveni’s statement was dismissed by the elite, it appealed to the average voters in the city who work in the markets, the shopping malls, the taxi parks and the bodaboda operators. Kampala has many challenges.
The city has bad sub-urban roads, poor drainage systems, traff c jam, many/high taxes for small traders, and lack of toilets, poverty and hunger. Nearly all the candidates in this year’s presidential poll are aware of these issues and have given their ideas on how they will address them.
The voting demographics.
The voting population of Kampala largely comprises people working in markets and shopping malls, plus others who work in government offices, private companies and security forces.
The markets employ over 200,000 people, while the shopping malls may employ even larger numbers. Some of these people rent houses in the suburbs, while others have saved and constructed their own houses.
At least 100,000 of them drive a car, while the majority use public means, ranging from taxis to bodaboda. These are the major targets of the candidates. Many are hungry and angry. They blame their woes on the current government. The case for KampalaIn Kampala, everything costs money.
“I need a minimum of sh30,000 for my family every day. This is minus the rent and school fees,” says Musa Kizito, a bodaboda cyclist. Like many urban dwellers, every government policy affects them ‘hard’ or ‘softly,’ depending on which side of the coin one is. Kampala doubles as a city and district.
It has a population of over three million people during day time and a night population of 1.7 million people. According to statistics, about 200,000 are from the middle class and they live in the upscale areas, such as Kololo, Muyenga, Nakasero, Naguru, Rubaga, Ntinda, Buziga and Bukoto.
Others are daily survivors who live in Kawempe, Bwaise, Kisaasi and Kisenyi. Kampala, the only city in Uganda, originally had seven famous hills of Nakasero, Mulago, Rubaga, Namirembe, Old Kampala, Makerere and Kololo. However, in the last 20 years, the city has rapidly expanded to more than 20 hills — spanning from Gayaza through Kira, Mbuya, Muyenga, Natete, Kawempe, Mpererwe and others. Because of this expansion, the population, too, has grown from 0.5 million to 3 million.
Issues at hand
According to an opinion poll done by Vision Group in June last year, the most pertinent issues affecting residents of Kampala city included poverty, employment, roads, shelter, healthcare, education and security.
In 2011, once he jumped onto the podium, President Yoweri Museveni’s first message to city residents was that they will have enough toilets soon. This message was taken lightly, but city dwellers only realise its importance when they need to answer nature’s call and they do not have any money.
Subsequent surveys found out that by addressing toilets and market dues, Museveni took a local approach to the problems of the city. “I spend at least sh1,000 every day on toilets,” Sarah Nabweteme, who vends vegetables in St. Balikudembe market, says.
President Museveni also promised to remove daily levies from market vendors. This means that from this speech, Nabweteme is able to save sh1,000 from the toilet and sh500 as daily levy and by the end of the month, Nabweteme will have saved an extra sh45,000.
Urban areas have got more issues that determine the way they vote, compared to rural areas. Most of the issues, as expected, are social and economic. “I have to pay rent for where I sleep, I have to buy food, sugar, charcoal, pay for transport to work every day and pay for power,” says Patrick Lutwama.
It is a life of scratching. Rent is twice as high in Kampala, compared to other parts of the country. For example, a house that goes for sh300,000 in Mbarara is at sh600,000 in Kampala. The same applies to food, health and education.
The Lukwago factor
You cannot say that Lukwago has reached 70% of the popularity level that former mayor Nasser Sebaggala had. Sebaggala, at his peak in 2000 carried cultic power over city voters. Whenever he ordered, the voters simply sang hajji alagidde and they implemented whatever he said.
Sebaggala had ironically ‘inherited’ these mainly Democratic Party (DP) supporters from Ssebaana Kizito, also a former Kampala mayor. Lukwago also inherited the same voters from a ‘failing’ Ssebagala.
But even then, of all opposition leaders, Lukwago is the most popular in Kampala. It means that he has a say in whoever takes the opposition vote in Kampala. During the 2011 mayoral elections, Lukwago got over 300,000 votes. This was massive. Kampala is traditionally DP.
But then, like the case normally is with DP, there are always two factions fighting over Kampala. This is why the NRM always gets a good share of the local leadership positions.
This time round, Lukwago is fronting his Truth and Justice pressure group. He has under him three current city MPs, including Latif Sebaggala (Kawempe North) Ssebuliba Mutumba (Kawempe South) and Moses Kasibante (Rubaga north).
He has also got several strong MP candidates, such as Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye), Shifrah Lukwago (Kampala Woman MP) and Aidah Nakuya for the same seat. There are also several councillors allied to him.
Amama Mbabazi tried to capture a bit of the DP influence by uniting with the main DP faction led by Nobert Mao. The team has got a couple of visible candidates, including perennial loser Kenneth Kakande (Nakawa), Michael Mabikke (Makindye) and Sulaiman Kidandala in Kawempe. However, their overall influence cannot beat that of Lukwago.
“The Lord Mayor is the king-maker in the city at the moment. Anybody, who allies with him, wins over a big chunk of voters,” observes Kezekiah Damba, a councillor in Kawempe. Because Lukwago decided to support Col. Kizza Besigye, this gives the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate an edge over his other rivals in Kampala.
Lukwago says he has suffered with Besigye, who, he thinks, is the face of Ugandan opposition. Since he allied with him and FDC as expected, the battle for Kampala will be between Besigye and Museveni, again. For the NRM, the party’s it has candidates at every level. The party also boasts of structures that run from the grassroot.
“This means that we can mobilise our supporters at all levels,” says Salim Uhuru, the NRM chairman for Kampala Central. Uhuru is right. The NRM has got a group of supporters, who are the party’s die-hards.
Many of these are women, who have benef tted from the many SACCOS and initiatives, the Government employs and security personnel. The NRM network cuts across taxi drivers and bodaboda cyclists, too.
Roads In the run up to the 2011 elections, nearly 90% of the roads in the city and greater Kampala were impassable. Today, it is a different story. There are better roads in Kampala. Roads within a radius of between 0.5km and 4.5km have been tarmacked in different parts of the city.
Several big roads in the suburbs have also been either tarmacked or repaired. In areas, such as Kisaasi/Kikaaya, Kawempe, Makindye, Ntinda and Kyebando, roads are now tarmacked and have paved walkways.“We have, not only tarmacked the roads, but we have improved the drainage systems and installed road lights as well,” Musisi says.
Health centresCompared to other parts of the country, the distance a city dweller moves to the nearest health centre averages just 2km — the lowest in the country. There are thousands of private clinics around Kampala, which charge money for their services. The average cost of treating malaria for a city resident is between sh10,000 and sh50,000.
The Government has constructed four new hospitals in the city in the last five years. The new hospitals include Kiruddu in Makindye and another one in Kawempe. Kiruddu, which has 11 floors, will have a 400-bed capacity. At the beginning of this term; the new Naguru Hospital constructed by the Chinese was also launched. Mulago, the national referral hospital in Uganda, is also under renovation.
“The biggest challenge is that, there is still overcrowding in most of these health centres,” says Sarah Namulindwa, who had visited Kiruddu Health Centre.
According to various surveys, an average city resident with three school-going children spends at least 40% of his earnings on education. “The good schools are expensive for the poor,” says Mariam Nakibuuka, a vendor in Nakawa market. Her child goes to a school in Kisaasi, under the universal education programme.
She pays sh78,000 per term, even when UPE is supposed to be free. Private schools charge between sh500,000 and sh1.5m. Nakibuuka, like many city dwellers, wants a candidate who will make education cheaper.
Urban poverty According to a 2014 Uganda poverty report, the number of the poor in Kampala stands at about 18%, slightly lower than the national average of 19.4%. The Government has also pioneered a bodaboda loan scheme for bodaboda cyclists in the city in addition to other interventions in markets, taxi businesses and small traders.
The challenge is that as elections draw nearer, the fate of bodaboda is not clear. Early this year, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) declared several areas of the city out of bounds for bodaboda cyclists. This left many of them angry. The city is also much cleaner.
In fact, you can hardly see heaps of garbage, compared to the situation in 2011. KCCA set up an elaborate system of using both city trucks and private people to collect garbage. Enlightened population? “I just want change, no matter who comes,” says Brian Mukasa, a bodaboda cyclist in Kisaasi.
His colleague, Henry Jjingo, wants a candidate who speaks about issues that directly affect his trade. “I think about life after the voting and which candidate will give me a better life,” he says. Both of them, like the rest of the city dwellers, listen to radios and watch television.
The city population vote the way they do because they are more enlightened and not largely because of the ‘issues’ that affect them. This is why irrespective of the fact that Kampala is many times much better than it was in 2011, the voting pattern may not change. “The city dwellers have access to all sorts of information. Many radio stations and newspapers are found in the city,” says Kampala councillor Bernard Luyiga.
And because the city dwellers are crammed together, they are also able to meet more regularly and discuss issues. However, Uhuru’s view is different. “This time, NRM is winning the presidency in Kampala. We have made a lot of achievements, and I assure you, the voters will pay us back with votes,” he says.
Edward Ssekabanja, a former resident district commissioner and NRM mobiliser, says NRM will take many by surprise. “We have got a big group of quiet voters around the city, especially the women,” he says.
He notes that such people could easily vote for NRM. Furthermore, although the now cleaner city impresses the middle class, the developments in the city have come at a cost. This is because many city dwellers that used to work as hawkers for example, who used to operate kiosks, were displaced.
It is unlikely that they will vote for the NRM candidate. Who will take the votes? The number of voters has been growing every election year. In 2006, the city had 764,233 registered voters. Kampala has been one of the worst hunting grounds for NRM and this is not about to change. Out of these, about 423,000 voted.
In 2011, the total number that actually voted rose to 501,820. The provisional voters register for Kampala for the 2016 elections has about 900,000 voters. The Opposition’s dominance is seen in the fact that Kampala is the only region in the country where the Opposition fronts candidates for every elective position, right from LC1 to Parliament.
However, even with such dominance, NRM squeezes in too. For example, from the 2011 results, of the nine MPs in Kampala, NRM got three seats. This is in Nakawa (Fred Ruhindi), Kampala Central (Muhammad Nsereko) and Makindye East (Sam Simbwa).
Of the five municipalities, NRM took two in Nakawa and Kampala Central, while Makindye went to an independent candidate. As far as the councillors are concerned, NRM and the opposition have a share of about 50% across all councils of the city.
In 2006, Col. Kizza Besigye won Kampala with about 56% of the votes cast. If this is broken down in the f ve divisions, Besigye won in Kawempe with 56%, In Makindye with 56%, in Rubaga with 58% and in Nakawa with 57%.
He, however, lost in Kampala Central Division. Likewise, Museveni got 40% in Rubaga, 35% in Makindye, 41% in Kawempe and 39% in Nakawa. Museveni only won in Kampala Central division with 51% of the votes cast.
It is worth noting that while political commentators claim that it is Nakawa Division that is the NRM domain; facts indicate that NRM is more dominant in Kampala Central Division-hence the President’s win there.
In 2011, however, Besigye’s overall win dropped to about 46.9% of the votes cast, against Museveni’s 46.1%. This was by far the closest margin in the history of voting in Kampala. The other candidates shared 7%.
The prediction is that 2016 will be equally close in the city. Overall prediction is Besigye taking at least 50% of the votes in Kampala, which is an increase of about 5% from 2011. Museveni is likely take at least 42%, with Amama Mbabazi in a distant third position.