What distinguishes Charles Bakkabulindi from other Members of Parliament is he is one of the few who have been legislating since 1994. Besides, he has a lone distinction in that all this period of close to a decade, he has been representing a special interest group in Parliament, the workers.
Such is the man that the Movement caucus MPs elected last Wednesday to chair their lobby in this period of transition to pluralism and to steer the ship towards the much anticipated 2006 presidential elections.
â€œI have a mission. My formula will be, plus and multiply without subtraction,â€ Bakkabulindi said of the task ahead of him.
The new boss concedes that he has taken on leadership of the caucus during a challenging period. Divided opinion looms and gloom may descend when the mobilisation and recruitment drive is not rejuvenated. Deserters and independent-minded members will certainly be a force to win over.
â€œWe have many grievances in the family to the extent that some have decided to go reform.
â€œBut if we sit on the round table, these (issues that divide us) can be resolved. My major objective is to recruit and not to chase,â€ Bakkabulindi said.
He said no organisation can be perfect because members are human beings who are prone to error. He said the basis upon which people hinge their decision to join an association determines their performance and contribution to the groupâ€™s cohesiveness.
â€œSome join to benefit, some because of good governance while others to serve. I have come to serve,â€ Bakkabulindi said.
He said that he would take it as a priority to woo back Movement supporters who joined the Reform Agenda, forge unity among Movement MPs ahead of the transition and fight intrigue.
â€œThe task at hand is what the Movement is faced with. We are undergoing a transition and Constitutional revision. So we need to mobilise and market what comes out of the Constitutional review so that itâ€™s acceptable internally first and then sell it to the population,â€ Bakkabulindi said of his new assignment.
Workers are a usually a discontented group. And their unions are usually a thorn in the employersâ€™ neck. Politicians too fear them because they begin as pressure groups and in some countries break lose to transform themselves into political parties.
Needless to say their leaders ideally have a big following.
However, leading a government lobby in Parliament, does not worry Bakkabulindi that he will be compromised and he abandons the assignment to demand for the workersâ€™ endless needs and protect their interests.
â€œTo the contrary this should be to the advantage of workers. My appointment will bring me close to decision-makers and will address their problems better. The issue of being compromised... I donâ€™t see it,â€ he says. Bakkabulindi began his political life as a Local Council official in Nakawa division when the LC system had just been introduced in the country in the post 1986 period. He then represented workers in the Constituent Assembly in 1994 that made the 1995 Constitution.
He was re-elected in 1996 to represent the same constituency in Parliament as was in 2001.
Well, he lists a catalogue of legislation he has initiated or helped Parliament to pass with workersâ€™ interests entrenched into law.
They include, The Communications Act, The Electricity Act and The Nurses and Midwives Bill. The MP played a key role to mediate in the demands of the medical workersâ€™ union, and the protection of workers so that their retirement package is not taxed. The most recent, that will be a milestone when implemented, is the amendment he moved and passed that the threshold of Pay As You Earn be increased from sh135,000 to sh235,000.
He speaks highly of the workersâ€™ rights, a good working environment and points out worker-employer wrangles he has mediated. His next stop is at the Tri-star Garments Factory in Bugolobi of the AGOA girls fame.
â€œI want to see that the AGOA girls are saved from harassment, mistreatment and should enjoy their social life,â€ he said. Bakkabulindi makes several statements that paint him a workaholic if not a jack of all trades.
He is former team manager of the defunct Bell Football Club and current national chairman of the Uganda Beverage, Tobacco and Allied workers union.
He is currently chairman of the Workers MPs caucus and chairman Parliamentary sports club and the newly elected chairman of the Movement Parliamentary caucus.
â€œI may look burdened to be chair-chair of many things but it helps me perform. It has kept me busy. Iâ€™m never idle,â€ he asserts.
However, in the sixth Parliament, he moved a successful motion that increased the number of workersâ€™ MPs from three to now five. The original three then were Dr Sam Lyamwoki, Bruno Pajobo and himself.
Bakkabulindiâ€™s predecessor, Lt. James Kinobe opted out of the race though MPs were willing to give him a â€œthird term.â€ Kinobe separately told the New Vision that caucus work was as demanding as that of the committee on the Local government accounts committee that he chairs.
â€œTo satisfy one, I had to leave one and since I have worked for the caucus since 1997, I opted out,â€ Kinobe said.
He said that the work of the committee is also vital to the Movement politics. â€œSince our support is in the rural areas, ensuring accountability and service delivery is vital,â€ Kinobe reasons. He said his successorâ€™s biggest task is to fight intrigue.
â€œThe biggest challenge is the increased levels of intrigue.
Cohesion is needed but we shall work together,â€ he said.
Youth minister Okot Ogong who also once chaired the caucus described Bakkabulindi as an intelligent and steadfast man with the ability to steer the caucus.
â€œAs head of the caucus, you need to be mature, tolerant, fatherly and exercise a lot of restraint on your emotions. I think he has all those qualities and will manage,â€ Okot said.
Nakifuma MP Joseph Mugambe described Bakkabulindi as a great mobiliser. â€œI hope he will exploit that quality because the times ahead of us are full of challenges,â€ Mugambe said.
Bakkabulindi is a student of Electrical Engineering and holds a diploma from Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo. He is currently at Makerere University pursuing a degree in Adult Education with a bias in Human Resource and counselling.
Movementâ€™s new Caucus chief