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At last FDC picks Consolation Prize in Jinja East

By Ofwono Opondo

Mar.15, 18

The just concluded Jinja East parliamentary by-election won by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Paul Mwiru against Nathan Igeme Nabeta of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) was a highly billed contest. FDC that boasts being the ‘main’ opposition party had suffered the indignity of not winning a single by-election since 2016 and in fact, in some three constituencies couldn’t even field candidates. Therefore, FDC leaders should be at liberty to hold the bragging right for some time to come because, they were very thirsty for a win in addition to having recovered a seat lost to NRM in 2016 elections.
This was the first election since the controversial constitutional amendment last year that scrapped the seventy-five year presidential age limit, and extended the tenure of elective offices including the current parliament from the original five to seven years. While both provisions were passed overwhelmingly, 317-62 votes by an NRM dominated house, opposition politicians and a section of religious groups, civil society organisations, academia and social critics were left gnashing teeth and vowing to ‘punish’ MPs who voted in favour of the amendments claiming they were motivated by self-fish and pecuniary interests to disregard the popular will. We expect FDC to drum noisily how the amendment caused Nabeta’s demise, although I personally don’t believe it was that relevant, because after all, Nabeta lost a similar by-election that brought in Mwiru in 2013.
And although NRM lost this election, it is necessary to clarify that Busoga with a total of thirty eight elected MPs remains a bastion of support for President Museveni and NRM with only Abdu Katuntu (FDC) hitherto as the black sheep. In addition all the ten district local government chairpersons, and majority sub country leaders are NRM. In a sense, Mwiru is one additional  pinch of salt to NRM’s flesh.  
So, in these respects, Jinja East was an all-high stakes election in which the correctness, validity and legitimacy of the NRM leadership was being put to vigorous test and challenge, and therefore, whoever won it, would be right to brag, as indeed FDC surely will. So, the results of this election should partly be seen in that light as Nabeta became the first MP to defend his seat after the amendment in spite of well-oiled political machinery led by President Yoweri Museveni, and NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba who camped there for weeks.
Igeme Nabeta is from the well-grounded, large, wealthy and socially polished Nabeta family in Busoga, and cuts a demeanor of an accomplished elite and business executive. But when he joined parliamentary politics he got mired in controversies where his academic credentials have been severely queried including being ousted from parliament. That controversy has been the main fork on his political road where his opponents use every available opportunity to ridicule him into humiliation.
Mwriru on the other side appears to have grown from the sidelines of the sub-urban society in Jinja town where he survived the rough and tumble of life that shaped him into a firebrand and thus when an opportunity occurred he joined FDC party where he is part of the intransigent fringe. However, during last years’ internal FDC campaigns to elect a new president, Mwiru decamped from the Kizza Besigye abrasive camp and joined what many people in the public falsely perceive to be the more tolerant and accommodative side of Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu and they lost.
With hindsight, I now believe that in supporting Muntu, Mwiru was opportunistic and joined the elite bandwagon of FDC MPs majority of whom, 27 out of 35, campaigned for Muntu. This group has been part of derailing wagon searching for an alternative path they so half cleverly named a ‘third force.’ And although the campaigns started on a smooth note, as it progressed, FDC began to orchestrate rowdy, disruptive and violent behaviour including vandilising NRM yellow buses with the hope of spreading fear among voters to stay away from NRM campaign meetings and rallies. In addition, FDC led by Mwiru orchestrated false alarmist propaganda alleging that soldiers, policemen and unknown people were being ferried into Jinja to intimidate FDC supporters and even be infiltrated as ghost voters on polling day. It’s the reason why very early morning on polling day, they falsely claimed in the media to have ‘discovered’ pre-ticked ballots in Nabeta’s favour, but whose serial numbers were found not matching with those issued by the Electoral Commission. It thus seems that these false alarms were meant to prepare their supporters to believe that Mwiru could only lose due to cheating well-knowing how tight the race was.
The political mudslinging narrative heightened as polling day drew closer as opposition leaders that included Besigye, who was a late show up in the campaign descended on Jinja to support their candidate but also sow confusion. It is understood that Besigye initially  hesitated to campaign for Mwiru because the later had insulted him during the Muntu-Amuriat Oboi contest. However, for the sake of defeating NRM, Besigye had to bury is political daggers.