Under a dimly lit tent at his Kitovu residence in Masaka, the retired Catholic Bishop of Masaka, John Baptist Kaggwa sought to fight a solution to the bickering in the Democratic Party (DP).
To the meeting, the prelate invited mostly DP leaders hailing from the Masaka sub-region – where the current squabbles in originated.
DP vice president Fred Mukasa Mbidde skipped the meeting that was attended by MPs Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality), Babirye Kabanda (Masaka Woman), Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East), Robinah Ssentongo (Kyotera Woman) and Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu (Kalungu West).
The party’s legal advisor, Samuel Muyizzi as well as a new convert, Dr. Abed Bwanika also attended.
According to Kabanda who is also the party’s national treasurer, the DP leadership sought Kaggwa’s intervention after realising that the fights would cost the party’s hold on the sub-region at the next elections. Of DP’s 16 MPs, seven come from the Masaka sub-region.
“I thought that the problem is limited to Masaka Municipality [where Mpuuga and Mbidde are fighting for supremacy] but it appears to be bigger. There are other underlying factors that need to be urgently addressed,” Kabanda said.
Several DP leaders from the seven districts in the sub-region accused Mbidde of undermining them.
For instance in Kyotera, the DP vice president is allegedly working with the state minister for Micro Finance, Harunah Kyeyune Kasolo to campaign against Ssentongo, the woman MP.
Kaggwa listened to similar accusations from Bukomansimbi and Kalungu.
Before heading to Kitovu, the MPs except Kabanda had a meeting at Masaka’s Patel Shamji Hall which was addressed by Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi and suspended organising secretary, Sulaiman Kidandala.
During this meeting, the DP politicians announced that they will not boycott any of the activities organised by the group loyal to party president Norbert Mao but threatened to use both political and legal means to “take back the party.”
“They are doing whatever they doing to annoy us into boycotting the ongoing processes in the party. We are telling them that we shall not boycott any activity; we know the law, and, we also know how to play politics,” said Mpuuga.
Earlier in the week, some 10 MPs led a section of party members to address the press in Kampala at which they gave the party leadership an ultimatum to meet a raft of demands including giving proper accountability of the party’s finances.
“If they fail to honour the ultimatum, we shall do whatever is possible to save the party of our forefathers. The next stage will involve both legal and political actions to ensure that our demands are met,” Mpuuga said.
Among the issues that the politicians told Kaggwa is Mao’s failure to organise by-elections to fill positions former national executive committee members who either died or defected to NRM.
When secretary-general Mathias Nsubuga Birekeraawo died in 2016, Mao announced a year of mourning before the position can be filled. His deputy, Gerald Siranda took charge in acting capacity.
Months earlier, the deputy woman leader, former Bukomansimbi Woman MP had left a vacancy when she perished in a motor accident on Masaka road.
In 2017, the national treasurer, Issa Kikungwe also died months before the party’s national chairman, former Jinja Municipality mayor, Muhammad Baswale Kezaala defected to NRM following his appointment as deputy ambassador to India.
On this basis, Kaggwa suggested that before embarking on a new electoral process in the party, it is prudent that the leadership vacuum at the party’s NEC is filled. “I want you to tell Mao that I propose that the vacant positions at NEC be filled before anything else can be done,” Bishop Kaggwa said.