With 5.65 million voters which is approximately 31.18 percent of the total registered voters and the NRM advantage on a downward spiral, Buganda is seen as a critical voting block which any candidate who wishes to win must bag.
Although the Buganda voting block is widely considered a
prize of the ruling National Resistance Movement if available data and official
results from recent election cycles are anything to go by, the opposition is
making steady inroads and some observers think it might finally slip away from the NRM.
Previous election data shows that voters in
districts that make up Buganda or the Central region (Kampala inclusive) have
constantly been voting more for NRM’s Yoweri Kaguta
Museveni than any other candidate.
This is interesting as well as it is telling
because almost all the five presidential elections the feeling and temperature
normally reads like the region is about to break with the incumbent who on
January 26, will have made 35 years solid years as the president of Uganda.
To illustrate this, in the 2001, 2006 and 2011
elections, the opposition whose candidate was Dr Kiiza Besigye, was only able
to win one district; Kampala, in each of those elections.
In 2016, with the opposition performance
against Museveni improving, Besigye was only able to win three districts;
Wakiso, Masaka and of course Kampala with 59.97 percent, 50.69 percent and
65.93 percent respectively, of the votes cast.
However, looking at the data keenly, there is
one thing that might put a smile on the faces of the opposition; that is, even
when Museveni was winning in Buganda, the margins have kept falling at every
With 5.65 million voters which is
approximately 31.18 percent of the total registered voters and the NRM
advantage on a downward spiral, Buganda is seen as a critical voting block
which any candidate who wishes to win must bag.
In this year’s election, the battle for the
heart and soul of Buganda seems to be between National Unity Platform
candidate, Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu and Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni. A
number of political pundits we spoke to for this story think that Bobi Wine
will most likely take over Besigye's support base in Buganda or even eat into pockets of Museveni’s strongholds.
These pundits point at districts such as
Mukono, Buikwe, Buvuma, Kayunga, Luwero, Butambala, Kalungu, Kalangala,
Bukomansimbi among others where Besigye’s vote grew from an average of 33
percent in 2000 to nearly 47 percent in 2016 as districts that will most
probably swing to Kyagulanyi’s side.
However, there are some districts where NRM
appears to have had a consolidated presidential vote win since 2000. These are
areas where Museveni has always won by above 70 percent of the cast votes.
These include cattle corridor districts such as; Lyantonde, Mubende, Kiboga, Kassanda,
Kyankwazi, Gomba, Nakasongola, and Nakaseke.
Dr Ben Mukwaya, a former minister of Health in
Buganda Kingdom says if there is any possibility of people in these areas to vote
against the NRM, it will be because of problems such as the increasing
land grabbing and the unjustified cattle quarantine. Mukwaya says the two
factors have heavily affected the locals in these areas.
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No wonder, even prior to the official
campaigns President Museveni made a number of visits to these areas to try and
solve the rampant land grabbing cases. The same issue has been haunting NRM
parliamentary candidates who have been tasked to explain what government is
doing to solve the sticky issue.
But as the debate
on who will win Buganda rages, the other political commentators say, the test
of Kyagulanyi’s capacity will be seen in his ability to protect his vote.
Besigye before him, Mwambutsya Ndebeesa, a lecturer of political science at
Makerere University argues that Bobi Wine’s party lacks organizational capacity
to protect their votes and thwart rigging. If he can have this capacity in
Buganda, he says, Bobi Wine will likely perform better than Besigye in the
“It’s not going
to be business as usual as it has been in the last 35 years. The political
support base in Buganda has shifted towards the opposition…but this doesn’t
mean that NRM doesn’t still have support in Buganda, especially in the rural
areas,” Ndebesa says.
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commentator, Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo says in an environment that doesn’t allow
a free and fair election to take place, it’s hard to rely on statistics to
predict electoral outcomes.
“Maybe we should
say that with all the rigging, the opposition was able to score this or that.
So, most likely the votes that Besigye got would most probably go to Kyagulanyi
because people who are tired of Museveni are looking for alternatives with
capacity and possibility to remove him,” Ssentongo said.
He adds that unless Kyagulanyi placates the
loopholes that have dogged candidates before him, its not hard to predict the
outcome of the Thursday election.
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Kibirige Mayanja, a former presidential candidate in the 1996 race, too notes
that the election has always been characterized by vote rigging and violence; two
factors that according to him, will again determine who becomes the next
president. He also takes a swipe at the statistics arguing that themselves alone,
they cannot clearly paint a picture of what happens during elections.
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A retired Prof of
Uganda’s contemporary history who asked not to be named to speak freely, said
that President Museveni has been a darling for Buganda because of violence that
was committed by previous regimes.
according to this professor who has written extensively about Uganda’s
politics, this mantra of a savior seems to be eroding every passing day.
this to the increase in the number of young voters who neither know nor are
interested in knowing about Uganda’s troubled past.
witnessed in this election campaign will likely cost him some votes. It has
tarnished the reputation of the NRM. Even old people like me are starting to
think otherwise,” the old professor said.
Asked about whether Kyagulanyi can ride on these
grievances of the young people to scoop the prize, the Professor answers in the
affirmative. “Yes, if young people vote, and there is no
election rigging, you never know, he might get more votes,” he answered.
Is Bobi Wine’s Tribe
Apart from the
1996 election which had Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, Buganda has never had a
leading candidate, hailing from the region. Those interviewed for this storysayalthough tribal
aspects are an important factor in Buganda’s vote, its influence is not as
“I think the
number of Baganda who will vote Bobi Wine because he is a Muganda is not as
frightening as those who will vote for him because of his age. Teenagers
throughout Uganda will vote for him because of his age,” the Professor said.
Dr Mukwaya also notes that voters
these day, more so in Buganda are not much focused on tribal issues but anybody
who stands a realistic chance of defeating President Yoweri Museveni.
Mukwaya says Kyagulanyi
will certainly perform better than Besigye in Buganda.
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Yusuf Serunkuma, a researcher based at Makerere University says
many things are in Kyagulanyi’s favor that would make him the favorite to win
the Buganda vote.
Serunkuma however says the Baganda will not vote for Kyagulanyi
because of his tribe but rather because he is the main challenger to Museveni.
But like Mayanja and Ndebesa, Serunkuma says all these
advantages Kyagulanyi possesses, pale in the face of the nature of the elections
“His tribe matter to a certain degree because the incumbent
president is shamelessly pornographically tribal," Serunkuma said. "But however he cannot win
because he is not the one counting the vote neither is he the one organizing
moving and sending voting materials. If he is given a Buganda victory, Museveni
would have invited onto himself a hostile Kampala.”
When you put the question of whether Kyagulanyi can win in
Buganda, those who speak for the NRM look at you in disbelief; wondering how
you can even ask such an obvious question.
Justine Kasule Lumumba, the Secretary General of the NRM when she
was asked by URN recently during a news conference she exuded confidence.
Lumumba said that even in districts where the NRM was defeated like Kampala and
Wakiso, President Museveni got more votes there than he got in other districts
which he actually won.
“I’m confident that even this time, my candidate will win,”
This Thursday, Ugandans will cast the ballots to choose who will
be their next president and Members of Parliament. Other than Museveni and
Kyagulanyi, the race also has nine other candidates namely; Patrick
Amuriat Oboi [FDC], Norbert Mao[DP], Mugisha Muntu[ANT], John Katumba, Willy
Mayambala, Nancy Kalembe, Joseph Kabuleta, Henry Tumukunde and Fred Mwesigye [all