By Ronald Kabanza
Despite Rukungiri district being the well-known stronghold for opposition parties, the trend significantly changed in the recent concluded 2021 general elections.
President Museveni and his NRM party scooped majority votes in the district in the just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections unlike in 2016 general elections were NRM only won one parliamentary seat and opposition that is FDC won three seats.
In the 2016 general elections President Museveni got 47%, Dr. Kizza Besigye, the then FDC party flag bearer got 60% while the rest shared the remaining in Rukungiri district. In the Rukungiri district’s outgoing council, FDC has 12 members and NRM had 26.
The NRM party in the just concluded elections won 3 parliamentary seats, FDC won 1, in the district NRM won 24 councillorship seats, FDC won only 1 seat. In the lower local government election, NRM won 7 seats, FDC took 2 while independent won 1 seat and in the town councils NRM won 3, FDC took 1 seat.
In the lower local governments FDC took only 3 LCIII seats, independent took 1 seat while NRM took 10 LCIII seats.
Some of the key areas in the district that rendered the president and the party sleepless nights in the previous elections included Rujumbura and Rukungiri municipality but this time round the president Museveni and his party NRM won in all these areas with a margin of over 40% despite the low voter turn up and a lot of voter bribery in many parts of the district as said by voters.
What helped president Museveni, NRM Party?
The major factors that helped president Museveni and his Party to win Rukungiri massively are the change of mindset by voters, Dr. Besigye’s failure to run for presidency, strong mobilization, divisionism among opposition members, security stability, water and electricity extension, improved road network within the district among others.
For over years, Dr. Besigye was only issue as to why people of Rukungiri would vote for FDC but his decision of not contesting again as the president of Uganda played a vital role towards the collapse and down fall of opposition in Rukungiri , people could vote him because he was their son and they expected a lot from him.
Rtd. Maj. Gen, Jim Muhwezi , the MP elect for Rujumbura constituency at the same time the NRM district chairperson said that the progressiveness of NRM in Rukungiri is not surprise given the visible achievements attained by NRM.
“Before NRM came to power, there was poor education and health systems, poor road network, poverty was at its apex, insecurity among others but nowadays, people access free education and health services because the NRM government has at least constructed schools and health centers at almost every sub- county level,” Muhwezi said.
Rtd. Maj. Gen Muhwezi added that “there is peace and stability in the country that allows every Ugandan to settle down and work for development thus chasing poverty saying that in previous regimes, people could spend much of their time in wars meaning that was no time for development. Where peace is people gets time to work hence improved standards of living” Gen Muhwezi said.
Dr. Elisa Rutahigwa said that NRM’s Overwhelming win the district is because of peace and stability the country has experienced since 1986 when we assumed the presidential office this greatly made Ugandans to love NRM government.
He added they have developed because of the conducive environment the NRM government has put in place under the leadership of president Museveni.
“President Museveni has made peace with armed groups and defeated militia groups and this is what is keeping us around and alive. Therefore he deserves our votes. I think the increase in percentage of votes partly contributed to the massive win of NRM in Rukungiri.” Dr. Rutahigwa said.
The influence of Emyooga program.
The recently introduced emyooga program that is meant to eradicate poverty and create wealth for different groups has also brought smile and hope to desperate groups like the youth.
Although the money is still in the hands of government officials and groups have not yet got money but the program greatly contributed a lot towards the progressiveness of NRM party in Rukungiri because it bought a sense of hope to group members who will benefit from this program.
John Nathen Mugisha, a retired religious leader in the church of Uganda attributed the victory of NRM to numerous development projects that president Museveni has initiated in the district saying that water projects, electricity extension, Rukungiri – Kanungu Road projects among others bought smile on the faces of Rukungiri people thus massively supporting NRM governments
He said that the NRM structures Museveni built from the national to village level in the last 20 years also helped the party to ensure victory.
Disunity of opposition.
Disunity among the opposition members (FDC) greatly contributed to the victory of NRM and the president .For example in Rukungiri municipality, FDC fielded 4 candidates to run for parliamentary seat and NRM only fielded one candidate, meaning that the three candidates shared the votes thus giving an opportunity to NRM candidate to win the seat for the first time because since the creation of Rukungiri municipality in 2010, it has been in the hands of opposition that is FDC.
In August last year, fdc organized party primary elections of which the winner was Dr. WallenTumwine who was opposed by his fellow members in the party. This made some member who were battling for the party flag to run as independent candidate citing votary bribery that marred the party primary elections.
The members who came as independents against the FDC’s party flag bearer are Kamateneti Ingrid Turinawe, George Owakukiroru who defected the party 5 years ago.
Women influence during the voting also played a big towards the overwhelming win of NRM party in the district. Their influence handed a landslide victory for the president because despite the low voter turn up during the voting but majority of the voters that turned up for voting were women who were seen in lines casting their votes at different polling stations in the district.
Mary Rwabugira working as a director pearl link international a non- governmental organization that advocates for women rights in South western Uganda said that she voted president Museveni and the NRM candidates in the district simply because of the freedom the NRM government gave to women.
She attributed NRM’s victory to grass root structure and work done by the ruling government in the last 20 years in the district.
Dr. Besigye’s decision of not running for presidency.
Viliginia Kyarugahi, the Rukungiri district FDC chairperson said the decision that was taken by Dr. Kizza Besigye of not running for presidency greatly helped NRM to win Rukungiri without scratching heads because most people in Rukungiri could vote him as their son and with hope that in case he won, they would benefit from the state house, factories, good roads good hotels thus development.
90% of the respondents that talked with our reporter said that putting other factors aside but the failure of Dr. Besigye to run for presidency this time round greatly contributed to defeat of FDC in Rukungiri district.