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NRM, FDC in fresh battle for Kasese votes

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th November 2006 03:00 AM

THE ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), will soon battle again in a bye-election for Bukonzo East parliamentary seat in Kasese district.

THE ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), will soon battle again in a bye-election for Bukonzo East parliamentary seat in Kasese district.

By Asuman Bisiika

THE ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), will soon battle again in a bye-election for Bukonzo East parliamentary seat in Kasese district.

The seat fell vacant when the High Court in Fort Portal allowed a petition filed by Fred Businge Police challenging the election of Aprunalis Kalibogha Kithende.

Kithende stood as an independent in the February 23 elections to defeat Businge, who was the NRM candidate. But before the High Court overturned his victory, Kithende had aligned himself with NRM.

Kasese politics
Political life in Kasese revolves around the formal recognition of Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu (Rwenzururu Kingdom). The government’s failure to recognise the kingdom has caused problems to the NRM in Kasese. Which is why Kasese was the only district in western Uganda where Dr. Kizza Besigye defeated President Museveni in the February 23, 2006 presidential election. Again, Kasese was the only district in western Uganda where FDC won parliamentary seats – including the Woman MP slot.

Although a Cabinet resolution in May formally recognised the kingdom, it did not go as far as recognising Charles Wesley Mumbere as the rightful king. Opposition FDC members use this to portray the government’s resolution as hot air.

The by-election will be a battle of three: Fred Businge Police (NRM), Yokas Bihande Bwambale (FDC) and Apprunalis Kithende (Independent).

Kithende
An ex-seminarian, Kithende has a reserved personality that borders on timidity. He represented Bukonzo East from 1996 to September 15, 2006, when his February 2006 victory was annulled by the High Court. His biggest asset is his support for the formal recognition of the kingdom.

However, even as a staunch supporter of the Obusinga, Kithende is accused of not doing much in Parliament. He is one of the MPs who made little or almost no contribution in the 7th Parliament.

“I may vote for Kithende because he is the best candidate to hold the seat on temporary basis as we re-organise ourselves. The other two candidates may be tempted to stay longer than is necessary,” said an NRM cadre who expressed a feeling that the next MP should come from the elitist Kisiinga sub-county.

Businge
Businge is the youngest of the three candidates. He is popular with the youth who easily identify with him. He is sometimes referred to as ‘The NRM Prince’ because he is the nephew of Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, the Minister of Defence and MP for Bukonzo West. Businge’s late father, Isaac Police, was one of the first people in Kasese who had attained formal education. He rose to become the District Education Officer (DEO). He died in the 1970s. Businge’s mother, Dorothy Police, is a retired primary school teacher.

Kiyonga’s appointment to the key Ministry of Defence raised the NRM’s stock in the district, giving Businge higher chances to win. Businge is also helped by the fact that the district chairman is also an NRM supporter. This helps his campaign team to portray him as a bridge to connect Kasese to the central government.

Swizin Asiimwe, one of Businge’s advisors, says the by-election gives the people of Kasese another opportunity to re-think their relationship with President Museveni.

“It is in the interest of the people of Kasese to elect a candidate from the ruling party. The challenge for the voters, and not the candidates, is to choose between being portrayed as obstinately opposed to President Museveni or not. That is the significance of Businge’s candidature. We either vote for him or be viewed as people bracing for a square fight with President Museveni,” Asiimwe says.

Businge’s candidature is further boosted by the fact that NRM has not lost any by-election since the February 23 parliamentary elections.

Bihande
Bihande was the district chairman from 1996 to February 2006. Riding on the popular discontent over Dr. Kiyonga’s opposition to the recognition of the kingdom, Bihande defeated respected NRM cadre Barnabas Bamusede Bwambale in 1996. A wounded NRM was shy to bring forward a serious candidate in 2001 and Bihande retained his seat rather easily.

When political parties were allowed, Bihande joined the NRM but was not successful in the party’s primaries. Vying to retain his district chair, he stood as an independent candidate and lost to Rev. Kithaghenda, the NRM candidate. His wife, Winnie Kiiza, joined the FDC and was successfully elected as the district Woman MP.

One of Bihande’s problems is that he bought land from Saad Secondary School under questionable circumstances, upsetting Kisinga residents. When he lost the district chair, some people even called for a probe into the questionable land purchase. This, and the fact that he is still new in the constituency, may work against his candidature.

Perhaps the biggest snag in his candidature is that the FDC leadership in the district is opposed to his candidature, citing the questionable acquisition of FDC membership. The FDC leadership in Kasese has petitioned FDC president Dr. Besigye over his candidature. If he wins, Bihande will join his wife in Parliament, creating a precedent in Kasese politics. Residents allege that his wife, an FDC MP, helped him acquire a fast-tracked membership to the party.

The writer is a journalist

NRM, FDC in fresh battle for Kasese votes

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