May 22, 2008
DP doesn't need 'mabugo' votes to win
The Buikwe South constituency in Mukono district and Lubaga South in Kampala are very far apart. Last week, however, one would have easily mistaken parts of Lubaga to be part of Buikwe.

Ululations and celebrations rocked the area around midnight, moments after news filtered through that the Democratic Party candidate, Dr. Lulume Bayiga, had won the Buikwe South by-elections.

Some DP die-hards in Lubaga celebrated the win by spending more hours in pubs, drinking to the doctor’s victory. Chants of “egumire, egumire” could be heard throughout the night.

An old friend stormed my place with a huge smile that matched her fat cheeks, which one would think had been transplanted from those of well fed “past leaders” (pigs). She warned that come the year 2011, DP would be a force to reckon with. According to her, the party had finally discovered how it had all along been cheated.

Well, this Bayiga victory has somehow brought new life to DP supporters here following a string of disappointments that included the defeat of Mukasa Mbidde and others in by-elections held earlier. There is now hope that the party will win more forthcoming by-elections.

For starters, Lubaga Division has in the past (read the eighties) been a bad hunting ground for non-DP candidates. This is where DP has always enjoyed maximum support. In most polling centres here, the difference in votes between DP candidates and their rivals was so alarming that wherever election time came the outcome would be very predictable.

Things started changing with the coming of the NRM and later FDC parties in Ugandan politics. The two have over they last couple of years fought and managed to win the love of some wananchi residing here. This has been helped by squabbles in the party that saw the departure of heavy weights such as ministers Kagimu Kiwanuka and Maria Mutagamba.

As a result, today the situation is somehow different. You can find a family where the husband is a DP supporter, the wife an FDC die-hard, and the children NRM. In the past every member of the family would sing “egumire” in unison! 

The 2006 presidential elections show how much things have changed; in most polling centres here, DP’s Ssebaana Kizito came third, after Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye.

Despite this, many still hold the view that with order in their house, DP is still the party to beat here.
Dr. Bayiga’s victory is thus timely and has once again helped to prove that DP can still triumph over other parties without necessarily resorting to cowardly tactics.

In some areas the party has caught a hereditary disease, turning party affairs into a family issue. They have resorted to “mwana wani” (whose son) or “mwami wani” politics. That means when the father dies, the son is nominated to contest his former political office; or the husband is lined up to occupy his deceased wife’s seat!
This makes it appear like the party is so desperate that it can only depend on ‘mabugo’ [sympathy] vote to win.
But candidates should be nominated on the basis of nothing else, but merit. I still remember the hullabaloo that sometime back met President Museveni’s son joining the army and the First Lady contesting a parliamentary seat. 
DP and other opposition parties led criticism that saw this as another way Museveni was trying to create a political monarchy.

So does it become okay when it’s the opposition applying it, but not the President or ruling party? So why not nominate candidates on pure merit and leave hereditary systems to dictatorial regimes in countries such as Syria, Cuba  and North Korea!

The party, as we are often reminded, is still “egumire” (strong) and thus able to win genuinely without depending on favours.

Robert Mugagga, rmugagga@yahoo.co.uk