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Kutesa, Ssekikubo divide Sembabule

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th December 2009 03:00 AM

FRIDAY'S meeting between feuding local leaders of Sembabule district and President Yoweri Museveni did not yield any truce. The leaders who are divided into two bitter rival camps, one in favour of foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and the other for Lwe

FRIDAY'S meeting between feuding local leaders of Sembabule district and President Yoweri Museveni did not yield any truce. The leaders who are divided into two bitter rival camps, one in favour of foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and the other for Lwe

By Lydia Namubiru

FRIDAY'S meeting between feuding local leaders of Sembabule district and President Yoweri Museveni did not yield any truce. The leaders who are divided into two bitter rival camps, one in favour of foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and the other for Lwemiyiga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo, did not even sit together for talks, a source who attended the meeting says.

In a written memorandum, the Kutesa camp told the President that it had no interest in reconciling with the Ssekikubo camp. The Sekikubo camp is yet to write its own memorandum.

The meeting was called to resolve a political conflict that has paralysed Sembabule district administration for eight years and climaxed in a name calling exchange between Kutesa and Sekikubo last week.

At a rally called by the President in Lwemiyaga on Tuesday, Sekikubo attacked Kutesa saying he was tainted by the CHOGM probe, had personalised the Government’s NAADS programme activities in the district to gain political capital, was defending a landlord who wants to evict poor families and is hiding behind the President when he gets involved in corrupt dealings. Kutesa who refused to shake Sekikubo’s hand on taking to the platform hit back at the fiery MP calling him a liar. He also reported to the President that Ssekikubo is disloyal to the Movement and often opposes the party’s stand on the floor of Parliament.

The episode angered Museveni who rebuked them saying: “Next time you want to quarrel, call your own meetings.” He then summoned the two MPs and their ‘disciples’ for a reconciliatory meeting in State House.

For the residents in attendance that day, this piece of drama was not entirely unusual. They have for eight years witnessed showdowns between the two NRM bigwigs, voted along pro-Ssekikubo versus pro-Kutesa lines, and are getting little to no services from the district because the district councilors are deeply divided between the two camps and cannot reach any consensus.

For instance, Sembabule district chairman is pro-Ssekikubo but his speaker is pro-Kutesa. Nine of the council members are in the Kutesa camp while the other nine are in the Ssekikubo camp. “As a result, we are no longer doing any work in the council. For the last two years we have not had a single council meeting. We only meet in our separate groups and of course cannot reach any workable decisions that way,” says Isha Ntumwa, one of the councilors. Ntumwa himself is a pro-Ssekikubo councilor. The district does not have a service commission or executive committee because the councilors failed to agree on their membership.

Naturally, both camps blame the henchman of the rival camp for the war. The Kutesa camp sees Ssekikubo as a trouble maker who undermines official NRM candidates by supporting independents. The Ssekikubo camp blames Kutesa, saying he just wants to play kingmaker in the district and won’t accept the popularity of Ssekikubo whom he disapproves of.

Both sides agree that the Sekikubo versus Kutesa war began way back in 2001 when Ssekikubo first ran for parliament against Sam Rwakoojo, a cousin to Kutesa. The circumstances put Ssekikubo and Kutesa on opposite sides of the race. “Kutesa crossed over from his county Mawokota to Lwemiyaga to campaign for Rwakoojo. He was addressing rallies for him and funding his campaign. That was the most heated and expensive parliamentary campaign we have ever seen in this district,” Ntumwa recalls. Ssekikubo eventually won the seat. “Ssekikubo and Kutesa have never talked to each other since,” says Ntumwa.

Not only do they not talk, they also never support the same candidates for leadership in the district. In 2006 Ssekikubo stood for Parliament again. Kutesa is said to have fielded Patrick Nkalubo to run against Ssekikubo in the NRM primaries. Once again Ssekikubo won. “I stepped down for him (Ssekikubo) but instead he decided to go and de-campaign other party flag bearers in the district,” Nkalubo, who is pro-Kutesa, charges.

The Ssekikubo camp, however, alleges that their henchman’s decision to support independents was provoked by Kutesa. “Ssekikubo won the party primaries but they [Kutesa and camp] went ahead and discreetly supported his opponent, Swaibu Bagendana, an independent,” Ntumwa charges. From that time, a precedent was set, when Kutesa supports one candidate, Ssekikubo supports the other and vice versa. Kutesa’s candidates often happen to be the party flag bearers so Ssekikubo supports the independents.

In the hotly contested bi-elections for woman MP this year, the Kutesa camp supported Hanifa Kawooya. She won the primaries but the Ssekikubo camp rallied behind her opponent, Joy Kabatsi, who stood as an independent.

When one candidate wins, members of the rival camp, supposed to work with him, instead work to undermine him. “In the district council, the speaker is from a different camp of Herman Ssentongo, the chairman. So the speaker never calls council meetings because he has been told to make Ssentongo look like a non-performer,” a member of the Ssekikubo camp accuses.

Even before campaigns for the 2011 parliamentary elections have started, both Ssekikubo and Kutesa have identified candidates they will field against each other. “Kutesa is bringing a boy called Innocent Agaba Asiimwe to stand against Ssekikubo in Lwemiyaga,” Ntumwa reveals. Ssekikubo in return intends to field Isha Ntumwa against Kutesa in Mawokota. “You know, Kutesa is usually unopposed in Mawokota so he used the campaign period to go to Ssekikubo’s constituency to de-campaign him. This time we are going to give him some busy work in Mawokota,” Ntumwa the chosen one lays out the strategy.

Will the impasse end anytime soon? It seems unlikely. “Right now both Kutesa and Ssekikubo are not willing to make any sacrifices,” Ntumwa says. He, however, believes President Museveni can deliver the peace if he listens to and decides to be fair to each side. At the Friday meeting, Museveni separately listened to each side for two hours. He then promised to consider the issues and call them for a joint meeting in January. While the people of Sembabule wait for the promised January peace talks, they may not be too hopeful. In the past, Museveni too, failed to broker peace for this district that voted 85% NRM in the last elections.

During the LC5 chairmanship race in 2006, Museveni first stood with the Kutesa camp and anointed Elly Muhumuza who had won the primaries but he later annoited Sentongo too.

Kutesa, Ssekikubo divide Sembabule

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