The whiz of water as mild waves hit the shore, rings out far and wide as the ferry docks on the islands. A few tourists, black and white swim, as the evening sun settles behind the forest on Lutoboka bay. But there is another whoosh and swimming in one part of this island, a political one.
Residents of Bujumba county, one of the two counties in Kalangala, will today decide who becomes their next Member of Parliament in a race that has seen three heavy weights flexing their political muscles.
They are former MP Fred Badda (NRM) whose election was nullified by court over election fraud, Prof. Muyanda Mutebi (Independent) who challenged Baddaâ€™s election in court and Herman Kakooza (DP).
Though fishing is the main source of income for the population, the people of this island also practice crop farming. However, at the moment, the hottest issue is about the new taxes and restrictions that are being imposed on fishermen.
â€œThey are pushing us out of fishing. This has been my job for 40 years ,â€ says Erias Kibuuka, as he clutches his nets just near Lutoboka landing site.
Recently, the State Minister for fisheries Fred Mukisa removed the powers of licensing fishermen from the districts to the central government. Fishermen will be required to pay a licence fee of sh75,000 per year and a registration for new boats of sh150,000.
And now, every candidate in the Bujumba race claims to have a solution to the new regulations. â€œI will stop all bad fishing regulations,â€ independent candidate Professor Muyanda Mutebi said at a rally. â€œI have been fighting for your causes and I will continue doing the same. We shall not allow such rules to be implemented without making sure the fishermen have understood them,â€ Badda said at another rally.
DP`s Herman Kakooza has also promised to â€˜fixâ€™ the fish problems if he is elected. â€œI have been a leader on this island for sometime now and i know what the people want,â€ he said.
But other than fishing, there are other issues. Buganda issues are also appearing on the campaign trail. Kalangala or Ssese as it is called in Buganda is one of the historical areas of Buganda. The Kabaka`s visits there are met with merry making.
About this, Muyanda Mutebi, the nearest to the Buganda establishment is having a field day. â€œWho can better promote Buganda issues in parliament than me, who is already in the lukiiko?â€ he asked voters on one of the islands. It is not clear however if people will vote for him along these lines, or if they are just excited by the campaigns.
All previous elections, especially in 2006 point at a very close race, whichever way it goes. Bujumba has got a voting population of around 12,000 people, scattered in 28 polling stations. In the 2006 elections, Badda won the seat with 3,316 votes while Muyanda Mutebi had 3,292. There was a difference of only 24 votes. The other constituency in Kalangala, Kyamuswa was won by an opposition leaning independent Moses Kabuusu, after he humiliated the then powerful minister Tim Lwanga.
Even with the presidential elections, Kalangala was one of the districts that President Yoweri Museveni tussled to win. He got over 7,000 votes compared to Colonel Kizza Besigye`s 5,500 votes.
One of the reasons for the close races lies in the fact that most of the people live in clustered landing sites, unlike other rural areas. And urban areas are always anti-government. This means that the only difference between them and the opposition leaning urban areas is that they have no huge buildings. however politically, they are able to interact as much as people in Kampala or Jinja municipality.
Like most bye-elections in Buganda, Bujumba is a tussle, largely between the NRM and DP. NRM once again put up Fred Badda, 44, a born of Bumanji in Bujumba. Badda first took over the seat in 2001, after defeating Herman Kakooza, at the time, also an NRM supporter.
Badda had various advantages then. A product of Bukalasa agriculture college, he has been working and living on the islands as an agriculture extension officer. He was also a district farmers coordinator, and this gave him the chance to mix with the people.
â€œI understand the people`s problems because I worked with them,â€ he says. Badda easily won in 2001. Every body in Bujumba had their hopes in him, they said he was a beckon of hope. However he found it hard winning convincingly in 2006.
Badda talks said he did not prepare well for the 2006 race because of some problems, but is optimistic this time.
â€œWe had a few hindrances in the previous race, but now we are more than ready,â€ he said.
Another advantage he has is being the only NRM candidate in the race. He has already got high profile visits from the NRM. The President Visited on Sunday 4 January, while the Secretary General Amama Mbabazi visited earlier. Former MP Mulindwa Birimumaso, who has a hotel on the islands has also turned out to campaign for Badda.
While NRM has got only one candidate, DP find themselves in a dilemma. In fact, they have been fighting to tell everybody that Professor Muyanda Mutebi, the independent, but who claims to be DP is not their supporter.
According to DP Secretary General Mathias Nsubuga, the Professor had requested that he stands on the DP ticket. â€œHe even wrote a letter requesting that he be named the DP candidate,â€ Nsubuga explains. But before the DP NEC sat, the Professor wrote another letter revoking the first one. â€œHe told us that he had realised that if he is named a DP candidate, he would annoy some people in NRM.
So as a responsible party, how could we put up a candidate who is ashamed of us?â€ Nsubuga said. This is when DP endorsed Herman Kakooza, a former MP of the area, who was defeated by Badda in 2001.
Comparatively though, Mutebi is more â€˜popularâ€™ than Kakooza in this race. Mutebi is an influential member of the Buganda lukiiko. He is known for his â€˜hard talkâ€™ whenever it comes to Buganda issues. In fact, â€˜fighting for Bugandaâ€™s causes is his main catch word. â€œWe had agreed to support Mutebi as a party, although he is an independent,â€ says Fefeka Sserubogo.
Fill in your Name and Email Address to receive a Free Newsletter
Who will take Bujumba today?