Political fever. Busoga Sub-region got a face-lift after the commissioning of a new bridge; the political animosity between Paul Mwiru and Nathan Igeme Nabeta was reignited by a by-election in Jinja East while in Bugiri municipality, singer-turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi put his mobilisation credentials to the fore pitting Jeema against FDC, writes Daily Monitor’s Philip Wafula.
On October 17 last year, President Museveni and Mr Masahisa Sato, the Japanese State Foreign Affairs minister, officially opened the new bridge in Jinja District, later named Source of the Nile Bridge.
The Shs313b iconic bridge was meant to provide a safer crossing over River Nile to substitute the old Owen Falls Dam Bridge, about 500 metres north.
Seventy-two harp-like stay cables and white ones connecting the bridge deck to two 69-metre tall inverted-Y pylon towers are some of the complex features that define the new structure.
The bridge was structured to reduce a gridlock and accidents by diverting pedestrians and motorcycles to the old one while maintaining a design speed of 80 kilometres per hour.
“We have only had one accident on the new bridge since its commissioning compared to how rampant they were on the old one. Trailers [used to] paralyse traffic when they broke down on the old bridge which is no longer the case,” a traffic officer stationed at the bridge said on condition of anonymity.
“The day President Museveni left the old bridge to us, I was very happy because we can now freely cross over without being knocked,” Mr Musa Nsubuga, a boda boda rider on Main Street, said.
The officer-in-charge of Jinja Police Station, Mr Nasur Anguyo, said with 202 Light-Emitting Diodes bulbs at the base of the stay cables to illuminate the bridge at night, there has been no case of security breach.
“The lighting is perfect and there is a 24-hour patrol by Counter Terrorism personnel. We have had no security breach or incident on the new bridge since it was commissioned,” Mr Anguyo said.
However, two restaurants that were constructed on either side of the structure remain non-operational to-date, with workers saying they will open “soon.”
Jinja, Bugiri by-elections
On March 15, Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party candidate, Mr Paul Mwiru, once again faced off with Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta of the ruling NRM and six others in the Jinja Municipality East Constituency by-election.
Mr Mwiru won the election after garnering 6,654 votes while his main challenger, Mr Nabeta, got 5,043 votes. The two were followed by Faisal Masaba (Ind) with 117 votes.
The seat had fallen vacant in January last year following a Court of Appeal ruling that upheld an earlier ruling by the Jinja High Court which overturned Mr Nabeta’s February 2016 victory, citing rigging through falsification of election results at Danida A-D Polling Station.
Mr Igeme later petitioned the High Court in Jinja in April 2018 to nullify Mr Mwiru’s victory, citing massive voter bribery and intimidation by the respondent (Mwiru).
The district NRM vice chairperson, Mr Majid Dhikusoka, said they had a ‘cache of evidence,’ setting ground for a legal showdown with the FDC legislator. However, to-date, the case has never been heard.
The Opposition was still undone as they took the spoils in the Bugiri Municipality by-election.
The election pitted former FDC party president, Dr Kizza Besigye against his protégé, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
While Mr Kyagulanyi allied with the FDC to defeat the NRM in Jinja East and the Rukungiri Woman MP seat in July, he backed Mr Asuman Basalirwa’s candidature.
“I am certainly going to Bugiri; we decided to stand together during the time when our Constitution was being tampered with and that is why we have supported FDC candidates - Paul Mwiru in Jinja and Betty Muzanira in Rukungiri. This time we are supporting Jeema’s Asuman Basalirwa in Bugiri,” Mr Kyagulanyi was quoted by local media.
At the end of the contest, the district returning officer, Ms Kunihira Christine, declared Mr Basalirwa winner after getting 3,928 votes.
Mr Francis Oketcho (NRM) came in second with 3,267 votes followed by FDC candidate Eunice Namatende with 928 votes.
Museveni interdicts town clerk
In October, the Jinja Town Clerk, Mr Francis Byabagambi, was interdicted over shoddy construction work on the Main Street in Jinja Town.
The Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Local Government, Mr Benjamin Kumumanya, said President Museveni had ordered the interdiction.
He said a commission of engineers led by Badru Kiggundu has been dispatched to investigate the reported shoddy work on the Shs11.6b project.
However, some political actors believe the Town Clerk is a ‘small man’ to draw the President’s attention, arguing that such matters are settled by permanent secretaries.
However, to-date, no substantive Town Clerk has been appointed, with his deputy, Mr Jophram Waidhuba, holding office in acting capacity.