Published by Patra K on

How People Power defeated Money Power in Central region

A NUP Campaign in Nakaseke district late last year. (Photo courtesy of NUP-Twitter handle)

Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya was last week arraigned before the Buganda Road Magistrate Court with fresh charges of inciting violence slapped against him. Hon. Ssegirinya during the hearing told court that he had been tortured and showed the bruises inflicted on his feet while in detention.

This follows a spate of previous charges where him and fellow legislator Allan Ssewanyana, Makindye West MP are facing charges of terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorism, murder, and attempted murder from their alleged involvement in the machete killings in Greater Masaka. The duo has since been remanded at Kigo prison from early September this year. On two occasions, Ssegirinya together with Allan Ssewanyana upon their bail grant were immediately re-arrested with their hearings adjourned to October 29th, 2021.

Both legislators are among the triumphant candidates that held the National Unity Platform party (NUP) flag in the central region for the 2021 general elections. They demonstrated that alongside a system of commercialized political elites who use money to access political office, there can be a parallel system propagated by another kind of politicians voted to office on the basis of how their campaign message resonates with the electorate.

The SecretKnown is that central region recorded the highest figures in campaign spending and the observed big spenders were either flagbearers of NRM, DP, or independent candidates.  ACFIM monitors reported that the candidates holding the NUP party flag, many of them being youth, were observed to have rarely engaged in campaign spending on the ground. Some of them were observed using motorcycles (often hired bodaboda cyclists) to canvass for votes because they could not afford motor vehicles. Yet, they polled more votes than the big spenders among them were 13 cabinet ministers from Buganda who with all the state machinery behind them, lost their seats to less known NUP candidates. 

The most outstanding NRM political heavyweights big spending power who were politically out-muscled by NUP included the then Minister of Trade, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde who lost to Kiyaga Hillary alias Hilderman (Mawokota North), Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, who at the time was Government Chief Whip lost to less known Kaaya Christine Nakimwero (Kiboga Woman MP) among others.

At Presidential level in central region, the NUP candidate, Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert alias Bobi Wine polled 62% of the total votes cast, while NRM presidential candidate polled 35.9% making this the worst performance of the party in Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Overall, out of the 135 electoral positions, NUP won more seats than the rest of the political parties that fielded candidates in central region. Where the money factor for long dictated voting patterns and decided electoral outcomes in the previous elections including in the opposition strongholds, this time money was of no consequence.

The Power of the NUP Symbol

The triumph of NUP in the central region further demonstrated that political parties have a future in Uganda’s democratization process. This is because the NUP supporters were only after the political party symbol and not the individual.

There was a case in Bukoto West, Lwengo District for the position of district councilor where one of the voters upon realizing that the ballot paper didn’t have a NUP candidate, decided to draw the NUP symbol (umbrella) and voted for it. Of course, this became a spoiled ballot paper. This electoral position was won by the NRM candidate, but the message on the ballot papers was clear – it is either NUP or nothing.


Photo of one of the ballot papers where one voter decided to draw his own NUP symbol and vote against rather than voting for another candidate. This happened in Lwengo District, Central Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Kiwanuka Ahmed Ali Facebook Page)

The resolve from the voters to throw their weight behind NUP was also seen during campaigns as majority of the NRM candidates to counter NUP dominance and loyalty, opted to use money. During campaigns, NUP candidates relied on the power of the umbrella wave as they couldn’t outmuscle NRM financially. Candidates like Shamim Malende (Kampala Central), Kazibwe Bashir Mbaziira (MP Kawempe South) among others relied on the NUP wave to win their constituency seats.

Whether it was a political wave as some political analysts have described it, or the nature of the campaign message that resonated with the people, the success of NUP in the central region is a demonstration of how “people power” defeated “money power” in 2021 general elections. It also rekindles hope that the practice of commercialized politics can actually be curbed and defeated if the electorate so decided.

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