UCU Law Student beats decades-older candidates in election

By Lule Eriah

Before January 2021, the closest Mary Immaculate Wabuyele had been to politics was campaigning for other candidates. 

In 2018, she was the campaign manager of Joshua Wanambwa, who was contesting for the position of Uganda Christian University (UCU) guild president. Wanambwa lost in that election. The following year, guild presidential candidate Timothy Kadaga brought Wabuyele on board as his campaign manager. This time round, Wabuyele’s candidate won.

Wabuyele during the campaign. Courtesy photo.

When Wabuyele, a fourth-year student of law at UCU, declared her intentions of contesting herself in national politics last year, she took many by surprise. It was even more surprising that the novice emerged victorious over contenders two decades older than her. For the next five years, she will represent Goma division in Mukono as a councillor in the local council three. She assumes office in June this year.

In Uganda, councillors monitor performance of the civil servants in their jurisdiction, ensure compliance of government policies, approve budgets of the respective local government, as well as monitor provision of government services.

Wabuyele attributes her victory to the support from her friends and family. The tenacity of the 23-year-old could have been passed down from her mother, Lorna Wabwire, the sole provider her daughter’s tuition especially since the death of her husband in 2018. 

“I don’t know the right way to explain how Mary has brought prestige to this home,” said an emotional Wabwire. “I can’t imagine that my girl represents all these people in the division.”

Wabuyele’s poster used during campaigns. Courtesy photo.

For a novice politician who only showed up to campaign twice a week due to the stringent academic schedule of the law school, one would understand the source of Wabwire’s emotion.

“I thank God that in spite of having less time to campaign, compared to my fellow contestants, the people of Goma still trusted me with their votes,” Wabuyele said. She contested on the National Unity Platform party ticket. Many candidates who contested on the same party ticket in central Uganda emerged victorious because of the party’s popularity in the area.

Her greatest challenge during the campaign trail was the language barrier. She was reaching out to not only the uneducated people, but also people with diverse dialects, the majority of whom do not understand English. 

“Since I was young and educated, if I had tried to use English during the campaigns, it would be construed as a mockery of their illiteracy,” she said. “Besides, some were already indifferent about the fact that I am a young woman who aspired to lead them.” The two contenders who Wabuyele defeated were her mother’s age. 

“I was very shocked when Mary told me she had joined national politics. In fact, till now, I am still shocked she won,” Carle Uwitingiyimana, a student pursuing a course in procurement and logistics, said. “I believe one day, she will become a Member of Parliament for the area.”

For now, Wabuyele has the uphill task of elevating her impoverished community by ensuring that the government services in the area reach the intended beneficiaries. Most of the residents are subsistence farmers. 

 “As a woman councillor, I want to lobby for my people from this society, so that I can inspire socio-economic development in the area,” Wabuyele said. Should she achieve this goal, voters may find it easy to give her another nod for an electoral office five years from now, if she chooses to contest.

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