Untold Story: How Netball Elections Brought Former Prime Minister to Campaign

Writing was all over the wall, Uganda Netball Federation was to change guard, and delegates and other netball stakeholders were not ready to just have the very same old wine into new bottles.

Sarah Babirye Kityo failed an attempt to join Ugandan Parliament again as Bukoto East Member of Parliament as she lost to NUP’s Kanyike Evans in a race that had 7 candidates. This wasn’t the end of the road, she immediately planned to fix herself somewhere politically.

Uganda parliamentary Netball team, coached by former She Cranes head coach Fred Mugerwa Tabale who is currently at KCCA netball team after being retired by Police netball team, this Mugerwa had to be the architecture for Babirye. Babirye was a member of the parliamentary netball team for five years.

Remember, removing the regime of Lydia Bukenya way back in 2007, Mugerwa was the Suzan Anek Kingmaker but eventually, he fell out with her to the extent of Anek dismissing Mugerwa from national team job just days to 2015 Netball world cup by phone call. Mugerwa believes it was due to money issues.

After convincing Jocelyn Uchanda to be in opposition after the failed attempt of 2017 to throw out Anek and executive by fronting Hajati Kibedi Nambuusi in an election where votes superseded voters, Mugerwa went on to plan for the next opponent. Because after the National Council of Sports threw out Hajati Kibedi Nambuusi’s petition they felt they could do nothing.

But then, Babirye came knocking on the doorpost looking for a Kingmaker in a game she could hardly follow save for the trip she made to Liverpool during the 2019 netball world cup.

“Yes, we were looking for a new generation and we even tried to approach Hon. Winnie Kiiza who had accepted to stand for presidency but later pulled out due to other commitments,” noted Mugerwa.

Netball Elections: Sarah Babirye Kityo casts her vote. Courtesy photo

Hon. Babirye Kityo wanted to start up a netball academy out of Liverpool excitement but she was advised so quickly that netball doesn’t have the same structures as football where the academy can earn some money during player transfer.

Soon she was directed to Mugerwa who later introduced her to netball people and picked the idea of having her as president.

Mugerwa drew the roadmap that helped Babirye being given the opportunity to become Posta Netball Club delegate. Babirye can hardly tell where Posta netball club does train from or anything else but just know she needed radar and there you go Posta was/is.

She tried as she could to almost visit every netball district in Uganda campaigning and getting in contact with all voters. Having sailed through in 2016 as Central region youth Member of Parliament, she knew the techniques to penetrate through the Electoral College.

She at least had to have one or two persons of integrity to form the backbone of her plan to become the Netball Federation president. She landed on Army spokesperson person Flavia Byekwaso, an army officer who hardly knew the existence of even UPDF netball club! For any news interview about her (Byekwaso) standing as vice president administration, she could hardly talk netball issues for five minutes instead she could be mixing it up with security talks! But anyway, you don’t need to know how the Kyankwanzi district sports officer helped in having Flavia Byekwaso become one of the district delegates! Yes, sports officers were the returning officers during netball elections.

Anyway, Babirye being with Fred Mugerwa Tabale as her architect, she got to know a lot of weaknesses in federation; having no recognizable offices, instabilities in league, poor national team management, lack of structures in netball and so many others. She came thriving on such information to convince the 241 delegates.

To take you back, the old regime had internal issues and general secretary Annet Kisomose decided to break away hence announcing her candidature for presidency earlier. Uchanda was convinced to stand by the old regime but she turned down the idea.

They fronted William Bwambale but inside themselves they couldn’t accept a man to take “their game”, later Uchanda accepted and Annet Kisomose made a U-turn but to stand on another post to fight common enemy Babirye.

By the way, if elections were to be held like in January, Christine Nampijja a teacher at Trinity College Nabbingo would have won because nobody had her/his head up for presidency like her by then.

When elections were to be held on Saturday 6th June, 2021, on Thursday 4th June 2021, Sarah Babirye Kityo got Hanah International School as the meeting point of all delegates who were ready to vote for her.

Delegates started arriving at around midday and each was given Ugx100,000 to buy toothpaste, toothbrush and the like. On Friday, Speaker of Parliament Hon.Jacob Oulanyah, Hon Kahinda Otafiire and former Prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda met all the delegates at different intervals to campaign for Sarah Babirye Kityo. Actually they were also accompanied by two NUP leaning Members of Parliament (names withheld).

All were emphasizing for delegates to vote for Sarah Babirye Kityo and her team that had army spokesperson Flavia Byekwaso for smooth running of the Federation.

Campaign went on for a while as Patrick “Salvador” Idring was the MC of the day.

Later on Friday, many delegates received phone calls from Jocelyn Uchanda being asked for votes and they promised to vote for her too. She later sent Ugx30,000 as transport for each of the delegates who answered her call. She called them to join her at Martyr wood hotel in Namugongo. But despite receiving money from her they declined to join her.

On Saturday morning after taking breakfast, army spokesperson Flavia Byekwaso was in Nsangi (Hanah International School) with two Military Police patrol that escorted three coasters and two taxis of Sarah Babirye Kityo’s delegation to Lugogo for election assembly.

On reaching Lugogo, the poor Jocelyn Uchanda had her one coast of delegates ready to beat the delegation from Nsangi.

Actually on that very Saturday every delegate to get on to the vehicle received Ugx150,000 on top of Ugx100,000 they had received earlier.

When contacted on what seemed to be voters’ bribery, Kityo said that it wasn’t the case since her opponents were still armed with federation bank accounts and used that money the way they wanted and therefore she too was free to use her own money.

In the end, it looked like “umbrella ticking” where everyone who came on “Sarah Babirye Kityo’s ticket” sailed without fail to overthrow the Anek regime constitutionally.

Though, old executive has yet to relinquish offices as they keep on tossing new executives, Sarah Babirye Kityo is up to the task.

With the help of Kingmaker Fred Mugerwa Tabale, just expect some Netball Federation constitution amendments in near future.

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