THE Kampala mayoral race has turned the pot-hole filled city once again into a hot political battle ground for a chain of contenders.
The race for the city leadership has attracted the cream of the old guards who have fought several election battles in the city before.
They include Michael Mabikke the Makindye East MP, Elias Lukwago the Kampala Central MP, Francis Babu the NRM party vice-chairman for Kampala, Peter Sematimba the Rubaga Division chairman and one Medie Kasule.
This time around the race appears like a life or death affair and none of the contenders is willing to let the other take advantage over him.
What is not clear is whether the
aspirants are scrambling to transform the city into a modern business hub or it is a gamble for its huge wealthy base.
Most of the candidates have been leaders in city before, holding various positions of leadership in Parliament or at the lower local governments.
However, the contenders have opponents in their parties. Mabikke and Lukwago will tussle it out in IPC, while Ssematimba and Babu will face off in NRM.
A war has already erupted on the two sides. The Mabikke, Lukwago war was flagged off first. The war began when Mabikke declared his intention to contest for mayorship. Lukwago who had earlier hinted on plans to stand for the same seat immediately declared his intentions too.
Lukwago supports IPC through Ssuubi, a pressure group based in Buganda and Mabikke the President of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is also behind the coalition.
Mabikke, who is also the chairman of IPC, insists he was the one supposed to stand from the coalition.
Mabikke argued that the presidents of the parties in IPC signed an agreement that prohibits members of the coalition from standing against each other.
Lukwago could only contest as an independent candidate or be endorsed by DP. He also says he is DP and can therefore contest as a DP candidate.
The DP policy requires a contender to apply for the seat through the constituency and district leaders.
But Lukwago said he had failed to submit his application for mayorship because there was a lot of confusion in the party. He said that he would therefore compete in the race as a DP supporter.
Kenneth Paul Kakande, the partyâ€™s deputy publist, advised Lukwago to use the channels he used in 2006 when he was contesting for the Kampala Central MP to apply for the mayorship.
The race that pits Lukwago and Mabikke on different sides is likely to be hot and none of the two is appearing to have taken it for granted.
Mabikke revealed that he has founded a youth brigade called Red Wire, which he said would deal with the violence in the campaign and on the voting day.
â€œI have been in the Kampala mayoral campaigns since 1998 and I know what it takes to fight violence. But what I can tell you is that I am ready for it,â€ Mabikke said as he launched his campaigns at Old Kampala on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Lukwago is not new in Kampalaâ€™s political violence and is likely to fight back with the same gun in case he is shot at by any of his opponents
Both Lukwago and Mabikke were formerly in good books in DP and once worked for the same candidate and cause in the party. Before Mabikke joined SDP, he was a staunch supporter of DP. He left DP after the party had endorsed someone else to challenge him in the 2006 general elections.
Lukwago has fought several successful legal battles for the party and has also fought for the common man in the city as MP.
Mabikke was also fundamental in building DP especially when he was involved in the formation of the Uganda Young Democrats (UYD), a youth wing of the party. He also boasts of having promoted education in Makindye.
Mabikke and Lukwago have the backing of Buganda. But Lukwago has Betty Nambooze, a popular mobiliser, on his side.
Mabikke has the full backing of the IPC, which is popular among the city supporters and has got established structures on the ground.
On the NRM side, Babu and Ssematimba are facing off. Whereas Ssematimba is new in NRM compared, Babu has been in the party and has served as minister for a long time.
Ssematimba who lost to Nasser Sebaggala in 2006, is a good mobiliser and appeals to different age groups and sexes.
Babu is also the NRM vice-chairman for Kampala, which position he can use to command support during the campaign and to attract resources from the Government to transform the city.
Both Babu and Ssematimba own radio stations, which they can use to mobilise supporter.
Recently, NRM declared Sematimba as their flag-bearer. But the partyâ€™s vice-president for Kampala, Francis Babu also declared his interest in the seat, challenging the NRMâ€™s decision.
A couple of days later, Kasule secured a court injunction against the declaration of Sematimba as a flag-bearer. Kasule insists that he is the rightful flag-bearer.
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Fight for Kampala gets hotter