District leaders shun offices over witchcraft (Uganda)

New Vision, 24th June, 2011

WYCLIFFE Ibanda, the new LC5 chairman for Kaliro district, entered his office on a Friday morning and found a black polythene bag (kaveera) stuffed with fetishes, hidden behind his chair.  Ibanda said it was the second time charms were being planted in his office in a month. He alleged that his predecessor, Elijah Kagoda, was trying to bewitch him. 

He would not have seen it immediately had a visitor not drawn his attention to a bed bug that was making its rounds on his chair.

“Where has it come from?’ Ibanda wondered, as he got up to swatthe little thing.

But before he could raise his hand, Ibanda saw the un-believable: Behind his seat was a polythene bag with a piece of paper with words written in Arabic, some dry roots, a piece of animal skin and crushed herbs in it.

The acting chief administrative officer, Haruna Kamba, rushed to Ibanda’s office to find out what was wrong. Ibanda made an instant decision. “Please replace all the old chairs in this office,” he directed the puzzled Kamba.

As the two pondered what to do with the bag, Joshua Pande, the Kaliro district procurement officer, a Born-again Christian, arrived and helped them dispose of the bag and its contents.

Ibanda said it was the second time charms were being planted in his office in a month. He alleged that his predecessor, Elijah Kagoda, was trying to bewitch him.

“This is Kagoda’s works, because he has not been friendly to me. He did not accept defeat. I have received many threats from his people that I will not spend more than six months in office.”

But Kagoda denied planting the charms, adding that he was a civilised politician who could not do such things.

“Ibanda doesn’t know what to do as a district chairperson. He used to promise voters heaven on earth, like increasing salaries of civil servants, creating jobs and promoting teachers, but everything is backfiring,” Kagoda said.

Ibanda has since changed office. He transferred his furniture from the old office to the new one and also bought a new padlock, which he uses to lock the office, even when he moves out to answer a short call of nature.

The issue of charms is not only in Kaliro, but even in other districts, especially where the incumbent lost.

Many new LC5 chairpersons have refused to sit in offices that their predecessors used. They have also refused the cars.

They fear that their predecessors could have planted charms there. These fears were most prevalent among chairpersons in central and eastern Uganda.

Hajj Nadduli, Luweero

The Luwero LC5 chairman, Hajj Abdul Naduli, said he changed offices because he received threats during the campaigns and after the elections that he would not last long enough to enjoy the office.

Naduli said: “I shifted to another office after I was sworn-in. I feared for my life. Some people threatened to use charms to finish me if I dared to sit in the former chairperson’s office.”

Naduli blamed younger politicians for using witchcraft to stay afloat. “They are treating political offices like private property. They don’t believe leaders come, serve and leave.

That’s why they are doing everything, including practicing witchcraft to keep themselves in power.”

Naduli said he had been around for some time and had witnessed newly-elected politicians, especially from Busoga, die suddenly in accidents due to witchcraft.

“I have refused to occupy the office, but I will use the vehicle. I jumped over several bodies during the NRA bush war and if anybody thinks he will use charms to threaten me, I am ready to face him,” Naduli said.

Ddungu, Buvuma

Adrian Ddungu has also exchanged his office with other district officials in the same spirit. “Politicians in developing countries leave their political offices in bad spirit and as a result, they don’t wish their successors well. That is why I have swapped offices with the others.”

Ddungu had no problem with the official vehicle because it was bought after the former chairman had left.

bought after the former chairman had left.

Bwanika, Wakiso

In Wakiso, the new chairman, Matia Bwanika, invited Bishop Paul Ssemwogerere to cleanse his office, before he occupied it.

While conducting the mass at the district headquarters two weeks ago, the Bishop commended Bwanika for opting to use prayers, instead of charms to protect his seat.

Nkuutu, Iganga

In Iganga, the chairperson, Shaban Nkuutu, also refused to use the vehicle of his predecessor, Asuman Kyafu, on grounds that he was not sure that it was free from charms.

“The man has been fighting me. His group fronted a candidate for the post of the speaker against my choice. Even after winning the seat, they are still fighting me. I fear for my life,” he said.

Nkuutu says by the time it was handed over to him, the official vehicle was in a sorry state with no mirrors.

Nkuutu also refused to occupy the office of his predecessor, saying it was dirty and he could not rule out the possibility of charms.

Muyonjo, Butaleja

Joseph Muyonjo of Butaleja occupied the office used by his predecessor, but declined to use the same chair.

“I was told the chair had been picked up by certain people and taken away for two days to an unknown place.”

“Although it was returned, like any other superstitious African, I feared to sit on it. Otherwise, I have comfortably settled into my office,” Muyonjo said.

Yiga, Kiboga

In Kiboga, Israel Yiga said he handed over his predecessor’s office to the vice-chairman and other secretaries. He occupied a neighbouring office that was previously housing the acting chief administrative officer. He, however, denied that these changes were related to witchcraft fears. Instead, he said, it was meant to improve services.

“Previously, the secretaries had no offices at the district, which made it hard for the chairman to monitor their work,” he said.

Yiga also shunned the car driven by his predecessor, saying it was in poor condition.

“During the handover, the office vehicle was never handed over to me. My predecessor, Siraje Nkugwa, had no official driver. He used his own people and they never bothered to maintain the vehicle,” he said.



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