There are celebrations after celebrations in Rushenyi county, Ntungamo district as agents of Hon Naome Kabasharira have emerged winners of the Friday local council elections.
In what appears to be a wind of change across Rushenyi County in Ntungamo District has awakened a generational call from people of all ages. This is evident in the ruling National Resistance Movement – NRM party primaries in Ntungamo district.
The voters’ county that has seen most of its light under the leadership of Mwesigwa Rukutana, the State Minister of Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations since 1993 cut ties with the longest serving legislator when they overwhelmingly voted former Ntungamo District Woman MP Hon. Naome Kabasharira.
Like many other constituencies in the western region, being an NRM flag bearer is a major determinant for joining Parliament. Rukutana however is still clinging on.
Singahakye defeat in Rushenyi related to his close ties with Rukutana
In what appeared as a protest, the voters turned to polling stations on Friday September 11, 2020 and uprooted all LCV candidates suspected to have links with Mr. Rukutana.
A highly placed source and an elder in Ntungamo told this news site that prior to the elections, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana convened a meeting with the Woman MP Hon. Beatrice Rwakimari and the District Chairperson Mr. Simpson Singahakye Denis who had announced he was retiring from elective politics.
The meeting reportedly agreed that all of them must retain their seats and rode on the airwaves of Radio Ankole, a Ntungamo based radio station owned by Mwesigwa Rukutana. Indeed, as most of our interviewees disclose, other opponents were either denied or had limited access to Radio platform.
The voters say they know this plan earlier and set out to break the Rukutana chain. Starting with LCV chairperson, the incumbent Mr. Singahakye Denis lost miserably to Radio West journalist Samuel Mucunguzi Rwakigoba.
According to the official results announced by the District NRM registrar, Mr. Mucunguzi obtained a majority vote of 68,251 while Singahakye Denis managed 33,151 votes. Others in the race, Tom Muhoozi, the former Ntungamo District Service Commission boss and Ruhaama leader’s forum boss managed only 21,964 while Mpumwire Magambo trailed the race with 19,728.
How Pro-Kabasharira Councillors performed
In Ngoma Sub-county, Mrs Phoebe Bagaya, a Rukutana diehard was humiliated by Monica Kutamba who was for Naome Kabasharira in the preliminary results for party flag bearer for Woman LCV Councillor
Meanwhile, Mr Bataringaya Justus a reknown vocal agent and supporter of Hon Kabasharira defeated Wilberforce Mugyenyi and Dan Buteera in Ngoma Sub-county for flag bearer for Direct LCV councillor. Sources say Buteera was a Rukutana die-hard who was behind the demonstration against his arrest at Ntungamo District Headquarters.
In Rugarama Sub-county, Allan Nkabahita, a strong supporter of Rukutana was humiliated by Muhwezi Edson Muraza on LCV ticket Party Primaries.
Muhwezi Edson Muraaza obtained a total of 3,623 votes against Allan Nkabahita’s 3,316 leaving Muhwezi ahead of him with 307 votes. Sources say Allan Nkabahita refused to vote for Hon. Naome Kabasharira and instead voted for Nahabwe Bob Karabaya in disguise.
However, his family (wife plus his mother) all voted for Rukutana. On the hand, Muhwezi was told by voters at his cell during the MP flagbearer race for the constituency to seal his fate by either voting for Naome or Rukutana. He directed all his family members to rally behind Naome, a move that has won him votes across Rugarama sub-county, which is also home to Naome Kabasharira.
Peace Kaconco Woman LCV councillor for Rubaare Subcounty and Rukutana die-hard political assistant was humiliated by Shallon Tweheyo on the woman LCV seat for Rubaare Subcounty and Rubaare Town Council.
Meanwhile, Priscah Tumusiime, the flamboyant Political Assistant for Mwesigwa Rukutana was floored in the Rubaare Town Council LCV flag bearer race by Chrispus Mwesigwa, a staunch supporter and mobiliser for Naome Kabasharira. Priscah Tumusiime only managed 611 votes while Chrispus Mwesigwa obtained an overwhelming majority of 3,098 voters winning with a difference of 2,487 votes.
Also, Mr. Ambrose Kyenjoga, a Rukutana die-hard and mobiliser was brought down by Kabasharira fronted candidate John Kabeho in the Rubaare Sub-county LCV flagbearer race. Kyenjoga managed only 1,849 in the entire Rubaare Subcounty while John Kabeho garnered an overwhelming majority of 4,654 votes.
In Kayonza sub-county, Mr. Vincent Tugume a strong supporter and mobiliser for Naome Kabasharira on Friday utterly defeated rivals Mr. Vincent Rutagonya and Bob Muramu the duo was fronted by Mr. Rukutana. This massive defeat has left the incarcerated minister and area MP Mr. Mwesigwa Rukutana only struggling to clatch a straw. Meanwhile Abia Ssebutinde won Rwahi-Rwentobo Town Council female LCV flagbearer for NRM.
According to Moses Karuhanga, one of the contestants for LC II Male Councillor representing Persons with Disabilities in Rubaare Town Council, the people of Rushenyi voted Hon. Naome Kabasharira overwhelmingly as witnessed by declaration forms and how people voted other LCV seats.
“People of Rushenyi are tired and people of the electoral commission should help us in this,” Karuhanga discloses.
Mr. Rukutana was arrested and charged with seven counts, which included attempted murder, aggravated robbery, threatening violence, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and malicious damage. He was arrested on Saturday last week alongside his three bodyguards, who include PC Pual Agec, PC Faizo Kazoola, John-Bosco Okello and his driver Napoleon Nuwamanya.
Their arrest followed the Saturday morning clashes reportedly involving Rukutana and Dan Kiriyo Rweiburingi, the former Rushenyi County aspirant on the Forum for Democratic Change -FDC who had since declared to back Hon. Naome Kabasharira, who was Rukutana’s main opponent in the NRM primaries.
Rweiburingi was hurt in the clashes and hospitalised since the incident and was according to a September 11, 2020 statement by Ms. Kabasharira he had undergone a successful brain surgery in the country.
Rukutana according to the government newspaper; The New Vision, is likely to lose his ministerial job following the incident.
The Naome-Rukutana election
In a two-day election running from Friday 4th September to Saturday 5th, Ms. Kabasharira was declared a winner with 24,006 votes while Mr. Rukutana garnered 23,966 votes leaving a difference of only 40 votes. Mr. Rukutana however reportedly rejected the out-come of an election citing that about eight (8) polling stations were not included, maintaining that he had won the election. In retaliation, Ms. Kabasharira has equally tendered in a petition seeking clarification of results and an audit of declaration forms village per village.
This reporter has seen a copy of a petition delivered to Dr. Tanga Odoi’s office signed by Ms. Kabasharira citing inflated figures read the district NRM registrar Ms. Maria Mirembe in favor of Mwesigwa Rukutana.
“There was massive rigging in villages of Ruyonza 1, Kashanda, Rugongi, Nyakasa, Kanyanzira and Rwakibira 1 in Nyanga and Kagugu parishes. There was ferrying of people from different areas to the above villages to vote in favour of Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana. These results from these villages were declared by Ms. Maria Mirembe also inflated compared to what was on declaration form copies which were given to our agents,” says Naome Kabasharira, in a petition obtained from NRM electoral commission secretariat.
In this petition seen by this reporter, Ms. Kabasharira says voting took place peacefully in six sub counties of Rugarama, Ngoma, Kayonza, Rugarama North, Rwahi-Rwentobo Town Council and Rubaare Town Council.
“Rubaare Sub-county did not vote on 4th September 2020 because registers were not produced in all 41 villages. Reasons for not producing registers were not explained to us but elections were postponed to Saturday 05, September 2020,” reads the petition in part.
On the second day of voting for Rubaare Subcounty, sources say the election was marred with violence, including the acts of violence led by Hon. Rukutana himself grabbed a gun from his bodyguard as seen in a video that has widely circulated on social media.
Elisamu Tumwesigye, a voter from Nyakasa Cell in Nyanga parish, Rubaare Sub county told us that declaration forms were not delivered until around 4:30 pm.
“We waited for the registers on the second day Saturday and they were not available until it was 5:00pm. At this point, we saw Levi Tagaywa (Minister Rukutana’s brother) came with trucks and cars full of people and they started lining up for Rukutana. We were shocked as voters about this incident at Nyakasa,” says Tumwesigye.
Despite the massive rigging involved in Rubaare Sub-county, the results came as an unsettling shock to Rukutana and his supporters who have since vowed to challenge the election before the National NRM Electoral Commission boss Dr. Tanga Odoi. Dr. Odoi, according to reliable information, is set to sit with the two parties on Tuesday.
The announcement of cancellation of results have caused anger, fury and anxiety among the voters in Rushenyi, majority of whom say they are tired of being rigged and tampering with their will.