Diini Kisembo, a medical doctor by profession is a Young Turk from the Bunyoro sub-region who is into philanthropy. He is seeking the coveted vice presidency seat on the Central Executive Committee (CEC) for Western region, the second highest organ of the NRM party. But can he upset the applecart and send the incumbent Maj Gen Kyaligonza Matayo packing?
Many of those we spoke to claim that it’s not out of reach for Kisembo to clinch the seat from the bush-war commander who is currently Uganda’s ambassador to Burundi.
“He is quite popular and his community outreach programmes have touched the grassroots and helped the underclass,” revealed John Mugisa a resident of Kagadi town.
Matayo Kyaligonza has served two terms as a member of CEC and he was thrust in the crosshairs when he threatened to slap Odrek Rwabwogo, a businessman who sought his seat in the last election.
With pressure mounting, Kyaligonza was unopposed after Rwabwogo and Hakeem Lukenge pulled out of the race in 2015.
At a strategic level, Kisembo believes that youthful candidates have the ability to traverse the country and put in practice poverty alleviation programmes.
“He has tried to engage youths in income generating activities and countered the people power groups in Bunyoro,” revealed Peter Asera who lives in Kagadi.
Under the Bunyoro Kitara Youth Initiative for Development, an association he started, many youths have been enrolled into Agriculture.
As the corona pandemic spread across the world and as it began to set foothold here in Uganda, Dr Kisembo rushed to various radios across the country asking locals to enforce preventive measures such as social distancing.
His campaign dubbed ‘I am safe my neighbour is not’ gained traction with locals across the country.
Kisembo has participated in public interest litigation when he filed a suit in the High Court against the Attorney General in 2012. Under Health Watch Uganda, an NGO he runs, Kisembo demanded that government offers treatment centres for nodding syndrome children and provides welfare to the victims of this ailment.
In its civil suit, the organisation alleged that the defendant government violated the right of children of Kitgum, Gulu, Pader and Lamwo districts as enshrined under articles 22 and 45 of the Constitution.
The organisation sought a court order directing the government to put in place adequate effective facilities to treat and control the spread of nodding disease in affected areas. Kisembo’s appeal cuts across the spectrum and he is quite popular across the four regions and amongst the youths and elders.
He also sued government over the compensation of locals who are residing at Bukasa, where an inland port will soon be constructed.
The government has since then earmarked shs 15bn to commence compensating residents of Bukasa in Kira Municipality to pave way for the construction of the Bukasa port, which is expected to commence in July this year.
According to the permanent secretary, ministry of works Waiswa Bageya, the government is supposed to compensate 2,700 project-affected residents and the estimated cost is about Shs29 billion.
Kisembo has also facilitated the formation of music associations across the Bunyoro sub-region to compose campaign songs for the president for the 2021 presidential poll.
He also established an education bursary for the best performing students in Bunyoro.
Whereas the corona pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, Kisembo has not sat on his laurels. He continues to educate communities on the dangers of the pandemic and has traversed many parts of the country preaching the message of safety.
He has endeared himself to the youths by crafting a message of hope anchored on pragmatism.
Kisembo has also not engaged in nitpicking and personal attacks against Kyaligonza he respects as an elder and historical commander. “He does not advocate for confrontational politics but that of co-existence,” said a source close to his campaign who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A campaign of this kind requires a financial war-chest so who is funding Kisembo? Kisembo is an entrepreneur who supplies medical equipment to a number of hospitals across the country.
He may not have billions of shillings to dole out to the electorate but he has enough funds to sustain a clean campaign out and be able to reach out every pocket of the country.
In the rules of the party, the regional vice-presidents will be elected by the entire delegates of the party at the NRM delegates conference.
It is not certain when the delegates conference will take place but the president during an interview with NBS last week when asked about the 2021 elections revealed that, “It will be madness to say you go and people gather. I don’t think it will be wise.”
With uncertainty on exactly when campaigns will rollout and the NRM primaries will be held, Kisembo believes that whereas the corona virus has brought life to a halt, it has given the president the pedestal to illustrate his leadership skills.
Uganda has one of the lowest covid 19 infection rates in the region and is yet to register any fatality.
“This is because the president is steadfast and is able to manage complex situations such as covid 19, we still need him and he has demonstrably showed his leadership acumen during this crisis,” revealed Kisembo during a meeting with youths in Hoima.
Kisembo believes that he can be the fulcrum between the youths and the old guard if he is elected to the position of vice-presidency western region.
As the people power fever sweeps across the country, Kisembo believes that he can harness the skill and mentorship from the old guard to pass a message to the youths and counter dissenting voices
His philosophy has largely been constructed by the leadership skills of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela.
Kisembo believes that leaders must offer visionary to locals to uplift them from poverty and also promote truth telling and reconciliation.
As the clock ticks towards the NRM primaries, Kisembo remains a beacon of hope that youthful leaders can transform society.