When Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu – better known by his stage name Bobi Wine – expressed interest in becoming Member of Parliament (MP) in the Kyadondo East by-election, many wrote him off as a ‘joke’ saying it was an unachievable dream for the musician cum politician.
Bobi Wine had been named Ghetto President by Kamwokya residents mainly for his music employed to advocate for socio-economic and equality in the political arena for the common man.
Bobi Wine reminisces coming from Jinja with his fellow artist, Mr Ali Bukenya alias Nubian Li and on seeing a billboard advertising the Kyadondo East position which had fallen vacant, the lattered convinced the former to stand which position Bobi Wine would later go ahead to win.
Government led National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate Mr Sitenda Sebalu and opposition power house, the Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Apollo Kantinti who had been thrown out of the sit by court eight months after his assumption had big stakes in the position because of the money they had from their political parties.
However, with the backing of the ghetto people whose plight he addressed, Bobi Wine trounced his opponents with a landslide victory of 25, 659 – shifting the paradigm.
“Of course, he [Bobi wine] was undermined by many especially the influential leaders and opposition parties,” Mr Collins Waiswa, a resident of Kamwokya slum, said as he puffed smoke off his cigarette.
Through the elections, the lion in the ghetto roared, consequently unmasking a new face to those that previously undermined the force the ghetto populace held. The NRM was moved and so was the ghetto youth. These appreciated the indispensable force they had in their grip.
The Bobi wine victory birthed the People pressure group – a force largely composed of youth with majority coming from ghetto. It is this, as argued by many that stamped that influence ghettos have on the face of Kampala. The ghetto dwellers are believed to be strong fueling elements that define Kampala’s heartbeat.
Slums or better known as ghettos – semi urban areas littered on the face of Uganda’s capital, Kampala – have the majority of the people surviving through hardship and poor conditions.
Towards the end of last year at Katwe, a stone-throw away from Kisenyi slum, President Museveni appointed Catherine kusasira as the presidential advisor on Kampala while Mr Mark Bugembe alias Buchaman -former ally of Bobi Wine- the advisor on matter concerning the ghetto.
This, many suggested, was a government initiative to have influence over the slum dwellers since it proved to be a prime factor in the ascension of Mr Kyagulanyi to the National Legislative Assembly and formation of the People Power pressure group.
Priority in food distribution
So, after the government launched the food distribution programme in Kampala, priority was given to slum dwellers and others in the semi urban areas. Some suggested it was because the said areas are home to Kampala’s biggest activity influencers who could go up in arms at any moment. However, the government reasoned that people are slums composed of a population whose majority thrived on daily earnings.
In Kawempe, where the food distribution programme started from, leaders claim to have been overpowered by government officials who were not grounded on details of the slums.
Mr Mathias Mulumba, the LCI chairperson of the Corner Zone in Kazo-Angola Parish, Kawempe North Constituency-Kampala said he was sidelined in the process.
“The food distribution was done by leaders who hardly know about the detail of slum dwellers, sidelining the real leaders that are grounded,” Mr disappointed Mulumba said and added; “It is very sad that LCs are given authority but not empowered to deliver on their mandates.”
Opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) die-hard, Ms Doreen Nyanjura, the Secretary In-charge of Finance at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) said the decision was orchestrated to disempower them from direct interaction with locals since elections are close.
“You also know that it became a crime for us [Kampala] leaders to donate food to our people,” Ms Nyanjura said in a telephone interview. “However, some of us, even when Museveni gave those reasons, we managed to deliver food to the starving people in Kampala.”
Majority of the slums that the government dished the food to have since decried its poor quality.
Mr Sunday Ssekyondwa, 34, a mechanic in Nabagereka garage lower, in Kisenyi said he is stuck with the food he got because it is not edible.
“I honestly got the food but I have failed to eat it because it is deplorable,” Mr Ssekyondwa said in a rather sad tone. “So, I am stuck with it because no one is willing to take it.”
“I regret why I pestered the Local officials for that food because the beans are unbearable and take very long to get ready,” Mr Vincent Kasule, another mechanic said in addition to Mr Ssekiyodwa’s disappointment.
He added: “And so how do you count on such food?”
Home to majority
Slums account for about 60 per cent of the residents of the city, the KCCA authorities indicate. The corner zone in Kazo-Angola Parish in Kawempe North alone is home to 15,000 households with an average of five members in each unit.
Makerere-Kikoni, Kiku Kimu, Kivulu and Katenga slums are to the majority of the Makerere university students. These slums usually provide a base for student protests and demonstrations before they spring into the university premises.
Slums are mostly plagued by diseases triggered by poor hygiene habits like typhoid and cholera plus malaria, a concern that has attracted some of the Business moguls of the city.
Late last year, The Ghetto Research Lab in Kamwokya through its initiative of constructing toilets using discarded plastic water bottled stuffed with polythene bags beckoned the Ruparelia Foundation attention. The foundation donated ….to support the initiative purposed to restore hygiene in the slums
Kawempe division, north of the Capital Kampala is said to host one of Kampala’s most brutal Gang leaders, best known as Mongolia who arguably commands the pronounced crime zones in the division.
At the center of Queensway, old and New Taxi Parks and Kibuye roundabout is Kisenyi, a place that birthed Sobi, a man said to have full grip over the criminal elements in Kampala’s downtown. Kisenyi dwellers and frequent goers best know him as Commander One – a title drawn bestowed upon him by his faithful.
Kisenyi, home to the notorious kings of robbery and theft that terrorize areas of Nakivubo, New and old taxi parks, katwe, Queensway, shoprite and St Balikuddembe Market alias Owino.
Security especially the Uganda Police Force has on countless occasions tried to contain the rogues but with minimal progress. Before gunmen silenced the then vibrant Buyende District Police Commander (DPC) in Bulenga, ASP Muhammad Kirumira had during his reign as the commander of the Old Kampala police station tried to crash criminal elements but made little progress.
Today the place is still dreaded for ruthless gangs.
“It is a no-go zone because robberies are done in the open and locals do nothing to help and yet they have full knowledge of those gangs are,” a mechanic who preferred anonymity said as he did the final fixes on omnibus-tyres he had been doing.
“Some of the political activists thrive on them because they are normally paid to stage protests and demonstrations within the city,” he added.
“We have learned that our work environment can be very vulnerable to changes that can heavily stifle our sector[transport] therefore always be prepared to embrace in whatever form it comes,” Mr Sekindi indicated.
Mr Kenneth Michael Situma, Kampala-based city lawyer indicated that the lockdown pushed him to cherish friends and family bonding.
“The previous weeks of the lockdown have demonstrated the value of family and few friends showing that these will always be there for you even during the toughest of times. They give whatever support one requires, especially emotional backing unlike employers who only care on one getting their work done,” Mr Situma stated.
He added: “I had adequate time to reflect on what lies beyond my current job description placing focus on ways it can sustain me through other unprecedented times in case they erupted again.”
Uganda, has since moved to partially ease the lockdown with some of the sectors getting the greenlight from President to return to business. Among them public transport that were instructed to only ferry 50 per cent of the numbers their motor vehicles are designed to.