Army brutality, unfulfilled pledges cost Museveni votes from the Islands

Army brutality, unfulfilled pledges cost Museveni votes from the Islands
Incumbent president Yoweri Museveni during his campaign trail.

Kalangala, Uganda | URN | Voters in the Island districts of Buvuma and Kalangala say President Yoweri Museveni polled few votes there largely because of the brutality meted against fishing communities by the army, the illegal land acquisition and unfulfilled presidential pledges.

Unlike previous elections where Mr Museveni won in both districts, he lost to the National Unity Platform [NUP] candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine.

Mr Kyagulanyi won Buvuma district with 64 per cent of the total votes cast while Museveni scored 32 percent, a drop from the 57 per cent score against Kiiza Besigye in 2016.

Mr Kyagulanyi also flipped Kalangala district winning it with 70 per cent while Mr Museveni polled 28 per cent of votes cast.

Five years ago, Mr Museveni scored 53 per cent of the votes in the district. According to the Electoral Commission [EC] results, most polling stations where Mr Museveni scored fewer votes are situated on the islands.

For instance, Mr Museveni got one vote at Kakunyu polling station in Kkome Island, Mukono district while Kyagulanyi scored 57 votes. At another polling station Lwanga-Muto, also located on this Island, Museveni scored three votes while Bobi Wine got 44.

In Buvuma island at Malijja-Wabuzi polling station, Mr Museveni polled four votes, Kyagulanyi 16, at Kasanyi Pentecostal Church, Mr Museveni scored four while Kyagulanyi got 44 votes and Mr Museveni scored five votes at Lyabalume polling station where Mr Kyagulanyi garnered 122 and at Bukuzi polling station where Mr Museveni got six votes, Mr Kyagulanyi polled 66.

But Museveni’s dismal performance did not surprise any of the residents, not even the National Resistance Movement [NRM] coordinators and mobilisers at Buvuma who say that the islanders endured a lot of issues in the period before campaigns. These issues they say disadvantaged Mr Museveni when people went to vote on January 14.

The Fisheries Protection Unit was deployed in 2017 on the waters of Lake Victoria to curb illegal fishing methods. But during its enforcement, an alarm was sounded from the fishing communities in 21 districts bordering water bodies accusing the officers of confiscating their boats and vehicles, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, extortion, harassment by beating and in some cases killings.

Edward Ssekanga, a fisherman in Buvuma says that the government failed to control the activities under the Fisheries Protection Unit [FPU] on Lake Victoria through which soldiers in turn went on a ‘torture rampage.’ Brutality against the Islanders has wisely been documented through various media reports but sadly, nothing substantial has been done.

Ssekanga says residents of Buvuma have raised concerns to the relevant authorities but soldiers continue to torture, beat fishermen, confiscate engines and fishing nets. As a result, he says they have lost sources of livelihood.

Godfrey Yiga, an NRM coordinator says some people have become homeless because of the oil palm project which acquired about 10,000 hectares of land to grow palm trees in the district. But a number of residents say they were forced to vacate their land before compensation or the compensation rates were too low.

Scovia Sanyu, a resident says Museveni scores were indicative of a protest against government actions. She explains that several voters and residents are angry about the inadequate service delivery in the education and health sectors.

The incumbent Buvuma Constituency MP Robert Migadde Ndugwa says Museveni has made promises since 2011 but none has so far been fulfilled. He cites the bricklaying machine promised to Bajjo Women’s Group, the upgrade of Buvuma Health Center IV to a general hospital, public secondary schools in each sub-county, and a special loan scheme for the fishing community among others.

Jacob Sserumaga, a resident at Lwomolo, Kkoome islands says that they derive their livelihood from the lake, and when it was surrounded by soldiers, they were stopped from carrying out any activity on the lake.

“In our islands we are voiceless, we thought that maybe voting for change can contribute to change of our wellbeing. On the mainland we hear of referral hospitals, in the islands, you think are close to the city but once you’re referred, it means the end of your life. The most beautiful school our children have attended is the lake but all the activities that support our living are restricted now,” Serumaga said.

This is the same story in Kalangala district where Museveni got five votes against Kyagulanyi’s 122 votes at Kyeserwa playground polling station in Butulume parish. Here, the residents told URN that brutality against fishing communities disadvantaged Museveni.

Benaddi Matovu and Vincente Lubega, both NRM  coordinators say voters were harsh towards Museveni’s campaign agents because the government had failed to resolve the issue of army brutality on Lake Victoria. Matovu who is also the NRM chairman in Kyeserwa village says he was not surprised that Museveni polled only five votes at the polling station.

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One of the residents, Paul Kibbi says that apart from army brutality, voters are bitter about poor service delivery such as in the health and education sectors. He explains that residents are infuriated by the high water transport costs to and from Kalangala health centre IV, located in Kalangala town council.

Kyeserwa village is located on Mazinga island at the Uganda-Tanzania border. As a result, residents seeking health services either travel to Tanzania or spend 50,000 Shillings to and from Kalangala town council to access Kalangala health centre IV. They incur more costs once they are referred to Masaka Referral Hospital.

Vincente Lubega another resident however accuses NRM leaders including Matovu of not campaigning enough for Museveni, something he says also resulted in his poor performance in that polling station.