The fierce ascendancy, to the helm of Kampala city authority, of Lukwago capped a gripping election battle of epic proportions during which government security forces were heavily deployed – and remain dotted – on all Kampala streets to apparently target hard-line supporters of bitter rivals Lukwago, the outgoing Kampala central MP, and NRM’s flagbearer Ssematimba.
In line with custom, the Kampala District Returning Officer, Molly Mutazindwa, declared Mr Lukwago winner at just after 5.00 am – a legitimate denouement to an unprecedented dogfight between the Mayor-elect and Ssematimba for the White Hall in an election that has left the city irreconcilably polarised.
Lukwago garnered 229,325 votes (64.41%) against Ssematimba’s 119,015 (33.43%). Others in the race were; Michael Mabikke (Social Democratic Party) who came third with 4,092 votes (1.15%), Francis Babu, an independent in forth after polling 2,059 votes (0.58%), Sandra Katebalirwe Ngabo, an independent and Emmanuel Tumusiime of the Forum for Integrity in Leadership who got 1,035 votes (0.29%) and 539 votes (0.15%) respectively.
Within minutes of being announced new city leader, Mr Lukwago, a self-described anti-corruption crusader and a democratic “fighter” who has embraced everyday men and women – ones that are largely locked out of Mr Museveni’s elusive economic ring of steel – came out of the UMA conference Hall in Lugogo, where tallying of votes took place, last night to a huge cheer from the crowd gathered at the gates.
Lukwago had been seemingly waiting patently, eyes wide open and glued on EC tallying officials, as results trickled in.
He walked from the hall with his aides and campaign strategists in the midst of cacophony so typical of occasions like this. The gigantic throng of photographers provided the soundtrack as their shutters fired.
And then the outgoing Kampala Central MP and assertive human rights activist approached a vast collection of microphones set on the pedestrian walk-way at the UMA gates in front of the massed ranks of the country’s media.
“The victory is for the people of Kampala and the rest of Uganda. I am going to work for a fundamental change in the city,” Lukwago reiterated the message that defined his tenacious and ultimately successful campaign.
Gone was Mr Ssematimba who had earlier waited (until it became clear Lukwago was heading for a landslide) with other candidates at Lugogo Tally centre where Mr Lukwago was announced winner just under an hour ealier.
Gone too, at least on paper, was Mr Nasser Ssebaggala during whose wretched tenure Kampala has become a squalor.
But the new city leader was keen to pay tribute to Kampalans of all hues for standing by him through-and-through a hard fought campaign and for their dedicated contribution to the city in the face of immense difficulty.
And he was keen too to emphasise the need for a competent KCCA Chief Executive, with whom he hopes to work closely for a common cause. In a cajoling tone many have come to expect, Mr Lukwago advised Museveni not to appoint his foe Ssematimba or the outgoing Mayor Ssebaggala as Chief Executive, a clearest signal yet that central government overreach will not be tolerated by the Lukwago administration.
Relations with Nakasero could also become problematic. Mr Lukwago is deeply skeptical over full cooperation with Mr Museveni’s government, and remains probably the leading high profile opposition leader, at least in Kampala, critical of the stinking corruption and incompetency at the heart of the Museveni government, itself a towering edifice of repression and backwardness.
“My administration will act responsibly,” Lukwago said on the night when police reported no major incidents of dissent. “We will act to fight corruption on all fronts to create an environment in Kampala that our people deserve.”
As on previous occasions, Mr Lukwago, dressed sharply in a suit and bright orange tie, spoke confidently with no notes.
In the fading darkness of the night, he talked of rebuilding hope and trust in the city establishment.
But he also talked of building a more responsible society, with a stronger sense of community because “the city belongs to us all”.
His own collection of strategists was close by. Among them Mr Moses Kasibante, a former CBS employee who lost a seat he had won to NRM’s Singh Katongole after a controversial recount of votes in the disputed Lubaga North parliamentary election.
Mr Kasibante, with hands clasped in front of his chest, for obvious reasons looked less confident than his friend and lawyer, who stood addressing Kampala and probably the entire nation on the night.
Also present was Lukwago’s lawyer and undisputed M-elect for the Wakiso District constituency of Busiro East, Medard Sseggona, FDC vice-president Salaamu Musumba and MP-elect for Kyadondo East Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda.
Lukwago victory was unprecedented; he beat his opponents in all the five divisions of Kampala, including Rubaga Division where Peter Ssematimba is the LC3 chairman. Here Mr Lukwago garnered 62,791 votes, while Sematimba had 30,115. Amazingly Lukwago also won at a polling station in Kakeeka, Rubaga division, where his closest Ssematimba had cast his own vote on polling day.
Lukwago now takes the reins of a city choking under the weight of despicable problems emanating from failure in application by city authority mandarins, excessive corruption/widespread kickbacks, Museveni’s overreach and incompetent mayoral leadership: traffic jams, illegal and irresponsible driving, garbage, congestion, poor housing and health, poor drainage, a poor road network, record low employee morale and milliards of other challenges.
Mr Lukwago remains a Democratic Party member but disputes, with vehemence, Mao’s leadership and he is yet to signal any reconciliatory efforts to, at least, forge party camaraderie.
* Born: 1970 to Hajj Muhammad Mirundi and Hajjat Salmati Nkayaga, has over 20 siblings, we are told.
* Family: married to Nnalongo Lukwago, twins and another two children
* Education: Kampala Students Centre; Makerere University Kampala.
* Assembly: A Nkoba Za Mbogo Students Association, UYD and DP member.
* Early work: experience included working as a teacher.
* Pre-parliamentary career: worked as a voluntary political aide for senior DP figures including Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere. A strong UYD organiser, worked his way up to became a recognisable DP activist; worked as Lawyer at Lukwago and co. advocates in Kampala.
* Elected DP MP for Kampala central in 2006.
* In parliament, he served as shadow justice minister. He opposed “unfair/unjust” government bills including the land bill and the cultural leaders bill.
* In April 2007, as well as friend and Aruu County MP Odonga Otto, Lukwago was arrested, according to police, for planning an illegal demonstration at the Constitutional Square to protest the actions of Kiboko squad – a bush-like militia of some kind with unconfirmed links to the ruling NRM government.
* In the company of Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze, Lukwago opposed, as illegal, the elected of Norbert Mao as DP president in February 2010 at the Mbale delegates’ conference.
Some senior DP figures like Issa Kikungwe of Kyaddondo South continue to look for ways of ending Lukwago’s bitterness. Kikungwe describes him as “a valuable party member who must never be left behind”.
* Elected Mayor of the Kampala city on 14th March 2011.