The nation’s influential leaders will lock horns in Bugiri municipality on Wednesday as the campaigns close ahead of the Friday polls
President Yoweri Museveni whose earlier rally planned for Monday was pushed forward will lead the yellow brigade to rally support for former NGO worker and businessman John Francis Oketcho who is flying the NRM flag in this election.
President Museveni will share the limelight with two other leaders; Dr Kiiza Besigye will be leading the Forum for Democratic Change troops to drum support for Eunice Namatende the party’s choice.
Kyadondo East law maker Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and his allies will be walking the final stretch with lawyer Asuman Basalirwa. Basalirwa’s victory will possibly seal the impression that MP Ssentamu is now a kingmaker and viable candidate for the nation’s top job.
With stakes high for each of the three in the polls , the crowds will be spoilt for choice on who to support.
The Wednesday clash of the titans however comes amidst rising political tension with concerns that tribal sentiments and ethnicity are taking centre stage in the campaigns
With the municipality being multicultural and home to many religious groupings, stake holders fear it could degenerate into full scale chaos
Speaking to the Nile Post on the sidelines of a meeting with the Inter Religious Council of Bugiri, NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba admitted the rhetoric used in the campaigns is worrying.
Kasule says, “We people in Bugiri are the united states of East Africa. We have all the tribes and religions in East Africa here. People have been contesting but it is unprecedented that tribal and religious sentiments have been emerged prominently in these campaigns and it is my duty as a leader and daughter of the soil to make sure this does not deteriorate into chaos because none of us can handle the chaos if it happens.”
In a bid to calm the tensions the inter religious council has adopted a stand to promote unity in diversity a stand now being preached in worship places
But what is the origin of the tribal and religious sentiments in a community that has co existed for years?
FDC’s candidate Eunice Namatende put the blame on Jeema’s Asuman Basalirwa whom she accuses of being provocative and using his Muslim identity and his tribe as a Musoga to push his candidature.
Basalirwa however dismisses the allegations. When we spoke to him about the claims, he says he is a politician with a track record of fighting for justice, equality and cannot indulge in cheap tribal and religious politics.
He rather says his concern in this election has been what he calls the partisan conduct of the police that he says has unleashed terror on his supporters
Scores of his supporters have been rounded and jailed with charges slapped on them as police accuses them of being rowdy and resisting arrest
One of Basalirwa’s supporters was shot dead in the fracas
He blames the mayhem during the campaigns on what he calls bribery and intimidation orchestrated by the state machinery and big shots in the ruling party
Namatende however appears to take a different stand giving the police a clean bill of health so far
The Bugiri polls have seen intense rivalry between the Basalirwa and Namatende camps than between the opposition and the NRM.
The newly created municipality curved out of Bukholi North goes to the polls on Friday to pick a member of parliament