Masaka- Although it is more than two years to the next parliamentary elections, Masaka Municipality legislator Mathias Mpuuga and his arch-rival Fred Mukasa Mbidde are already in early campaigns ahead of the 2021 parliamentary polls.
Mr Mbidde, the Democratic Party (DP) vice president, currently serving his second and last term in the East African Legislative Assembly, wants to unseat Mr Mpuuga, a DP stalwart.
Mr Mpuuga has served two terms in the same seat having succeeded Mr John Kawanga.
Early last week, Mr Mbidde, who doubles as Masaka DP chairperson, during a press conference in Masaka Town claimed Mr Mpuuga had become unpopular and that DP risks losing the seat if they dare give him the party ticket in 2021.
Historically, Masaka is known as DP’s stronghold because one of its founders, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was a son of the soil.
Mr Mbidde started early groundwork to oust Mpuuga in July when he financed campaigns for many party flag bearers in village elections where DP won in 23 out of 26 villages in the three divisions of Katwe–Butega, Kimaanya-Kyabakuza and Nyendo-Ssenyange.
The bad blood between the two politicians came to the fore last Friday when party diehards convened in Masaka for a reunion. The seemingly peaceful event turned chaotic as party loyalists from both camps fought each other.
Trouble began at around 3pm when youth allied to Mr Mpuuga attempted to block Mr Mbidde from entering a marquee at Liberation Square, the venue for the assembly.
The youth cornered Mr Mbidde and roughed him a bit. He was rescued by ushers.
In the ensuing brawl, Mr Mbidde’s personal assistant, Mr Moses Katende’s, eye was severely injured.
After forcing his (Mbidde) way into the crowded marquee, Ms Florence Namayanja, the Bukoto East MP, called members to order, but they defied her.
A few moments later, Mr Mbidde was invited to address the gathering, but he was booed.
“My president general [Norbert Mao], allow me to share with you the information I have just got right now, someone organised a group of 16 youth from Muteesa I Royal University to come and take away the microphone from me…But I know this game better than any person here and I will prove it at the right time. Our focus now is to unite and cause change in our country,” Mr Mbidde said.
The situation forced Mr Mao to announce that he was going to call off the reunion if the youth continued to react in the same manner.
“Which picture are you showing our visitors here; this is the worst DP reunion ever since we started,” he said.
Speaking to the gathering, Mr Mpuuga did not directly talk about the scuffle between the rival camps, but instead urged Mr Mao to prevail over errant party members.
Dr Abed Bwanika, the president for People’ Development Party, who directly participated in organising the event, blamed Mr Mbidde who he said came to disorganise the gathering with “simple battles intended for personal benefits”.
“Mbidde, we shall not allow these simple fights as we push for change in our country. You are here just focused on fighting for a small seat,” Mr Bwanika said.
The animosity between Mr Mpuuga and Mr Mbidde supporters first reared its ugly head a couple of weeks ago during preparatory meetings for the reunion.
Both camps organised parallel meetings with each accusing the other of trying to confuse party members.
Former DP president Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere did not survive booing from youth who accused him of speaking for so long.
“Do you want me to stop here; I can stop if that is what you want,” Mr Ssemogerere said before ending his speech.
Speaker after speaker called for unity, tolerance and mutual respect if the Opposition is to attain State power come 2021. “Take my words in good faith, it is true we have grown up in a generation that does not respect elders, let us not copy such bad behaviour,” said Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, the Kyandondo East MP.
Mr Kyagulanyi also called upon Masaka residents to join the struggle of liberating Uganda.
“Though I am ready to lead this struggle, I can not do it alone. You have all witnessed whenever we mention the word people power, the security forces respond with weapons,” he said.