On Tuesday afternoon, Kawempe North MP Abdul-Latif Ssebaggala Ssengendo announced his withdrawal from the Kampala Lord Mayoral race, three days after he was picked as the National Unity Platform (NUP) flag bearer.
While some were surprised by the announcement, insiders within the Robert Kyagulanyi-led NUP say, the only surprise is with the timing because they had wanted him to pull out of the race, preferably on October 2, after the closure of the nomination exercise for contestants on the local government level.
These are some of the emerging details from a series of meetings that have been convened at separate venues most notably at former Buganda Katikkiro, Joseph Mulwanyammuli Ssemwogere’s residence in Makerere, and Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago’s residence at Wakaliga.
Kyagulanyi, his deputy in charge of Buganda, Mathias Mpuuga, Butambala MP, Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze Bakireke, Busiro East’s Medard Lubega Sseggona and Kira Municipality MP and FDC spokesman, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda in addition to Mulwanyammuli and Lukwago are some of the notable names that attended the meetings.
Ssebaggala first declared his ambition to become Kampala’s Lord Mayor in 2018 but dropped the idea after two embarrassing moments at Prince Kassim Nakibinge Kakungulu’s residence at Kibuli, where Muslims at the annual commemoration of the late Nuhu Mbogo’s return from exile, and Nakibinge’s traditional Eid luncheons showed the Kawempe North legislator that Lukwago is the man they want for the job.
Ssebaggala retreated to Kawempe North but an internal assessment by NUP showed that he was trailing in a distant third position behind Muhammad Ssegirinya and Sulaiman Kidandala. With Ssegirinya favoured to hold the NUP parliamentary flag in Kawempe North and Kidandala taking up an administrative role at the NUP headquarters, Ssebaggala was advised to try his chances with a shot at the Lord Mayoral race.
Within NUP, Ssebaggala jostled for the party’s flag with singer Joseph Mayanja (Chameleon). While many in NUP are suspicious of Chameleon – whom they fear to be a state agent, they could still not allow a contest between Ssebaggala and Lukwago.
Most of Kyagulanyi’s strategists are Lukwago’s allies who have closely worked with him since the days of the Ssuubi 2010 pressure group that was formed in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
This explains why Ssemujju co-ordinated the meetings that sat at Lukwago’s residence while Mpuuga and Sseggona coordinated meetings at Ssemwogerere’s residence.
Away from the meetings, Ssebaggala was increasingly being told that a contest with Lukwago was a miscalculated move. Some like Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko, used their social media platforms to urge Ssebaggala to step down for Lukwago.
“My brother and Imam, Latif Ssebaggala is our best candidate for the East African Legislative Assembly [EALA]. He is an experienced politician and a humble diplomat. I have no doubt in his vast leadership skills, he will be a great representative of Uganda in EALA come 2022,” Nsereko posted on Facebook, further urging Ssebaggala to leave the mayoral race to Lukwago.
And as Kyagulanyi, Mpuuga and Sseggona arrived at Ssemwogerere’s residence for yet another meeting, Ssebaggala announced his withdrawal from the mayoral contest.
“I have taken this decision in the best interest of the wider opposition and also given the fact that we have many conflicting interests as NUP where there are people who are supporting other candidates and this may cost us as the opposition,” Ssebaggala said.
He promised to find time in the due course to declare his next move since he had already moved out of the Parliamentary race for Kawempe North.