The December 23, 2014, decision by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling NRM to endorse Mr Museveni’s nomination of Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba as the secretary general (SG) of the party made her the second SG of a ruling party to have come from Busoga sub-region.

The first person to have served as secretary general of a ruling party to have come from Busoga was Dr John Milcoth Magoola Luwuriza Kirunda, who was UPC secretary general between 1980 and July 1985 when the Obote II government fell.

The two emerged in different times and under different governments, but like Luwuriza Kirunda before her, Ms Kasule rides in a convoy of three vehicles led by a police lead car.

The only difference being that while Kirunda had bodyguards from what was then known as the Special Force, Ms Lumumba makes do with the police.

Too confident and full of life
Dr JMM, as he was popularly known, was a cocky and boisterous guy who was also the chairman of what was then known as JIK, an acronym for Jinja, Iganga and Kamuli, which were at the time the only districts of Busoga sub-region.

Save for those few weekends when he would be out of the country or on official duty upcountry, Kirunda would always spend Friday nights in either Hotel Bellevue or Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja before moving on for work in either of the other two districts and later his country home in Bulogodha, in Bugweri County.

Having assumed office at a time when Uganda was not only coming out of war of liberation, but also involved in another fight against the then rebel NRA, Kirunda who banned four newspapers, jailed several editors for calling for a probe into the wealth of Dr Obote’s men, signed more than 500 detention orders, including that of his cousin John Kirunda as part of a government counter insurgency plan and deported Prof Mahmood Mamdani for criticising the UPC government.

“He seemed to be in a hurry to do something. It was like he knew that the regime would not last for long,” says Benjamin Mwanja, a former UPC youth winger who closely associated with the UPC strongman.

Busoga has had a long tradition of factionalism, which has always undermined development, but Dr JMM, a bully who had very little patience with incompetent people, did not allow it to bear its fangs in Busoga during his time as UPC secretary general.

Spurred on by Dr Obote’s “eyes on hands off” approach which allowed ministers a greater exercise of both power and authority, Dr JMM soon asserted himself as the undisputed leader of Busoga, taking on the post of chairman of JIK, a body which brought together MPs and constituency chairpersons from what was then the three districts of Busoga.

At the time, as is the case today, Busoga’s biggest problem was in the area of education. Schools were few and ill equipped and a majority were in a state of disrepair.

Images of children seated on stones in tree shade classrooms or using parts of school playgrounds to learn to read and write are not new. The health centres are ill equipped and understaffed. Poverty has been ravaging the sub-region.

The situation has since prompted Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to call for a special social action programme for the region.

Back in the 1980s, Kirunda simply took charge and led the efforts that saw traditional schools like Busoga College Mwiri, Wanyange Girls and Kiira College Butiki refurbished.

New secondary schools like Kisiki College, Nkutu Memorial, Bukhooli, Bunhya and Bugobi secondary schools and Bubinga and Nakabugu girls’ schools came into existence. New primary schools were also opened in mostly Bukhooli, Kigulu and Bunhya counties.

He also spearheaded efforts that culminated in the completion of Christ’s Cathedral Bugembe, a stubborn Church building that had taken more than half a century to complete. He also helped have Jinja Town Hall renovated.

All that was achieved in Kirunda’s first two years as SG of the ruling UPC. Now that Ms Kasule Lumumba has made two years in a similar position, one wonders what she has achieved at a time when conditions in Busoga are not dissimilar to what they were when Kirunda first occupied a similar office.

We were unable to get a comment from Ms Lumumba for this article as she didn’t pick our calls or reply our text messages.

However, veteran politician Henry Kyemba says it is too early to judge Ms Lumumba given that she is serving under a different kind of leader and under different circumstances.

“The circumstances within which she is operating are different. The present leader is fairly strong in his own right, while Obote in his second term was quite weak and compromised. I am, therefore, not very keen on comparing the two or even on judging her,” he says.

The problem though, is that the Basoga believe that, “akaliba akendo akabonera ku mukonda,” (You can predict that a sampling pumpkin will make a beautiful drinking gourd as soon as it sprouts).
Some of them, therefore, think that they would have had a glimpse of what is bound to come from her.

imufumba@ug.nationmedia.com