UNMASKED! Tricks Bugisu politicians use to win polls


By Steven Masiga

These days in Bugisu region, or Masaba land (Bududa, Bulambuli, Manafwa, Mbale, Namisindwa and Sironko districts), for a politician and especially an MP aspirant to secure an election victory, it is a process by process which involves some many things such as cash, lies and not limited to witchcraft.

In the neighboring republic of Kenya, a cabinet minister and a Member of Parliament for Webuye West, Musikari Kombo had his election victory cancelled by court because he had used witchcraft to secure it in a petition filed by his opponent one Elima Maloba.

During court hearing, the witchdoctors who are alleged to have conducted witchcraft charms turned up like some sort of state witnesses and pinned the respondent for paying them to administer traditional oaths on voters calculated at instilling fear among them contrary to sections 9 of the Kenya elections Act.

A witchdoctor gave testimony before court on how he slaughtered a ram and ordered Kombo to sit on its skin while half naked and numerous rituals were conducted making him the winner of the Webuye West constituency during the 1992 General elections.

Thus, this is a common law position that those who secure election victory through magic, divination and other methods can have their electoral victory cancelled. Ugandan courts might find this ruling helpful because of the prevalence of the vice here.


Nandala Mafabi will be 60 years old by the end of his current tenure in 2026 and has represented Budadiri west for about 20 years on the opposition platform (FDC). He has some level of cash and influence in the region especially using his position as Bugisu Cooperative Union Chairman.

His nemesis Vincent Waboya, formerly of Budadiri East accuses Nandala of using BCU funds to promote opposition politics instead of promoting interests of farmers, a view shared by many NRM politicians around Bugisu. In January 2021 elections, Nandala donated to every household, as a policy matter of BCU management, about two pangas ,a hoe and some small stipend of about Shs10000. He knows the interests of his voters who are mostly farmers.

If conservatively quantified into monetary terms this can be about Shs50,000 per family which is a lot of money by rural and electoral standards and can guide one safely to a candidate of choice on the ballot paper.

The Moslems who wish to travel to Mecca are also funded by Nandala in fulfilment of one of their Islamic pillars. Older persons with complicated diseases such as Ania, tooth problems among others are also treated courtesy of Nandala. Those unable to afford paraffin for themselves, the Mp refills their tadoobas(small house lanterns) at his various fuelling stations.

Many of those who hang out with him say he is a very kind person who ensures that all his supporters have free access to booze. Equally during election time you see thousands of people lining up after every rally where the Mp generously gives them a transport refund. Many NRM candidates have found him very difficult to uproot. Even NRM’s Suleiman Lumoro is no match for him. The nearest person who almost brought him trouble at some point was Beatrice Mukhaye when she competed for Budadiri west on NRM ticket and also wanted to edge him out of BCU.


The Manjiya county MP was initially an NRM sympathizer for a very long period while serving as Bududa town council mayor, Chairman LCV, Bududa including even when he became an Mp. But in the last election, he renegaded and campaigned for National Unity Platform where Bobi Wine almost appointed him as Leader of Opposition if it was not the Mengo politics that preferred Mathias Mpuuga. NRM has also never stopped courting him, a friend who didn’t want to be put on record told me.

His open antics also endeared him to voters—that if he can eat nails, metals, what of mere bones—to him the threats on nail eating may have been for something political and not necessarily eating nails in a literal sense. Remember in 2016 elections he won Wakikona with a lot of ease, thus the nails eating saga could be a metaphor for Wakikona implying that if he could swallow a minister what of a mere NRM candidate with no political experience. This may have swayed voters to his side. Sometimes ordinary citizens are fascinated by miraculous episodes and as a former pastor and given the religious nature of people in Bududa many were quick in believing him. They wouldn’t dare not vote for a miracle performer though there was no empirical evidence to back up his assertion of nail eating. Besides his threats of nail eating, this time round Nambeshe had some cash to spend unlike previous campaigns.


Agnes Nandutu contested as an independent candidate having lost the NRM flag to Khayinza Justine for Bududa woman Mp. Khayinza lost in the general election partly on account of hate politics in Bududa. That she had masterminded the exit of her other competitors from the race on account of mismatch on their academic qualifications, a claim Khayinza rubbish on account of being neither an EC employee nor a court official. Nandutu won the parliamentary seat equally on questionable promises where she mesmerized her voters with claims that she is a virgin and thus available. Her emphasis about her virginity became a news item on Mbale’s radios especially Open gate radio where most political actors appear for political programs.

She could openly remind her voters of her virginity lest they forget and she was available for marriage by referring to herself colloquially as Umururumbu the English equivalent of virgin which is a paradoxical statement owing to the fact that Nandutu has about four children to her name. This endeared many young male voters to her side but created suspicion among middle aged female voters who put their men on guard lest they are grabbed. On hearing such news, young and older men alike mobilised heavily for her with hopes of landing her one time. This was a wrong portrayal of what she is not.


Some voters here were promised ministerial slots. Wakikona (Bushighai constituency) who wrestled out with Bududa LCV Chairman Wilson Watira assured his voters that he would be appointed as Prime Minister or short of that at least a deputy Prime Minister. Voters trusted his political promises 100%, however this has not materialized to-date. Crossing to Lutshekhe constituency, Modoi equally assured his people that he was above being appointed minister of state. Thus a cabinet post such as that of local government awaited him on account of his earlier status as a chief administrative officer.


In Manafwa district the youthful voters who are the majority here rejected the pleas of Ambassador Wolimbwa in representing them and opted for a young man of some other party platform other than NRM. The district woman seat was hotly contested with very strong candidates—Minister Goretti Kitutu and RDC Rose Mutonyi. Using grass root mobilization strategies especially funding women groups and sending a few outside Uganda for peer visits on finance and other savings techniques, Kitutu emerged victorious. She had also locally secured iron sheets using her connections and ensured that every household was given reasonable pieces for shelter.


Namisindwa district rejected NUP’s Wamilire and opted for the Chinese magician Masika Apollo. Sarah Netalisire was preferred as the woman Mp on account of her earlier links with the party and performance. John Musila went through on BCU initiative where she is friends and politically closer to Nandala than even NRM—the only open rift between the two is that when it comes to the issue of Bugisu cultural leader Musila is for Jude Mudoma while Nandala is on the other side.


In Bulambuli district, Alex Burundo, who happened to have put up a serious show, was swept aside by a newcomer, Katenya. The district woman Mp slot went to Irene Muloni hitherto powerful energy minister. Irene is very solid in NRM circles. With some influence over Umeme, she had extended power to many households in her constituency. Most of her voters also expected her to bounce back in the cabinet. Her counterpart, Mudimi went back to his old tricks of winning elections and besides, his competitor was a novice with no cash and political experience.


In Mbale city, the young Karim Masaba, a new arrival from Canada carried himself more than a Muganda woman. He knelt on any occasion whenever he encountered voters. His technique of kneeling was helpful in beefing up his arid purse. In Bungokho south, Wandwasi went through easily after the government talked to Mbale’s strong man, chairman Mujasi, to pull out of the race as plans were under way to have him accommodated somewhere else. Mujasi easily pulled out because it was him who had mentored Wandwasi by appointing him on the district executive as his vice chairman when the latter was a sub-county councilor. That may explain why chairman Mujasi was later on appointed a senior presidential advisor in charge of Bugisu affairs.


Bugisu as a region has achieved immensely under the NRM government. Schools both primary and secondary have picked up; most sub counties have health centre threes’ constructed; the Uganda-Kenya road is something to be proud about including many technical colleges like Elgon and now Maumbe Mukhwana which was pledged and constructed by President Museveni.

Many members of Parliament committed to undertake many developmental projects in their areas, I write to implore them to fulfill these contractual undertakings. It is a principle of law that those who promise must fulfill what they promised. The doctrine of pacta sunt servanda argues those who make contractual obligations to fulfill them. Public administration relates to promises made during elections and full filing them. MPs should transition from meeting basic needs of voters like food and petty cash and waragi including paraffin to focus on projects that generally promote development in their communities. Remember buffaloes are held by their horns and men by their words. We shall evaluate you on your output, 2026 is just about 1500 days away.

The writer is a researcher from Mbale. Tel 0706655811.

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