The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party is looking to reclaim the Kampala Central Parliamentary seat in next year’s general election.
The seat has over the past decade been held by Hon Muhammad Nsereko, an NRM leaning independent who has however been more hostile than cordial to his mother party.
He is now facing tough competition from the NRM, and among the contenders is Isa Kato.
Aged 37, Kato is best known as one of the leaders of the infamous group “NRM Poor Youths” which has made its name through its anti-corruption protests that often involved coloured piglets.
After several run-ins with the police on the streets and having championed what he calls the most effective youth-led campaigns in Uganda, Kato says it is time for him to have direct influence in policy.
“We realised that to change things we need people’s mandate. We have been pushing decision makers but now it is time to also influence some of these decisions,” he says.
Kato however, will need to first overcome Mr Cedrick Babu, another NRM contender in the party primaries which are slated for September 10th.
The latter is gunning for a seat that was once held by his father, Capt. Francis Babu — the longest serving Kampala Central MP — who was dislodged by Nsereko in 2011.
Mr Kato, before joining activism in 2013, was working with a big tour firm in Kampala. He studied Tourism at Makerere University and completed a number of related courses in India and England.
He holds so much against the incumbent MP Mr Nsereko, and goes on and on listing the things he thinks he has screwed up.
“As an MP, you are supposed to work with the leaders; but that’s not what (Nsereko) does. He just doesn’t relate well with fellow leaders, particularly those at the lower level,” Kato says.
“In this constituency we have 135 villages, but he has never attended a single meeting with them in ten years. As an MP, he is an ex-officio in the division councils, but he has never been there. All you hear about him is fighting with the President and the executive and amongst fellow MPs. That is what I am trying to change; I want to bring the issue of stakeholder engagement and participatory leadership. I want to go out and listen to the concerns of people of Kololo and Nakasero and the people of Kamwokya, because they are different.”
Kato says he intends to carry on with his activist style of leadership to parliament. He also doesn’t regret the methods he deployed in the past as a “Poor youths” protester.
“That was because we were desperate. When one reaches the point of throwing pigs at parliament, it’s because we had tried all other channels and failed,” he says.
Kato, who hails from Kayunga, describes himself as a ‘Musevenist.’ Last year, he and his group awarded the president with a peace medal.
But he also believes in collaboration with politicians from other political parties.
“There’s is no problem with me dealing with a UPC man whom I know is going to bring opportunity to my people in Kampala. I can’t say I will not work with a person because they are People Power. I will work with everybody at all levels.”
Among other programs he plans to implement once elected, is a “Poor Youth Empowerment” SACCO which will support young people involved in small businesses.
He also promises to deposit his entire first year salary as a parliamentarian to this Sacco.
Kato further promises to improve water and sanitation on the Kampala suburbs, rekindle the collapsing education standards in Kampala and boost transport infrastructure.
Also, he says he has drawn plans for decongesting Kampala by splitting the Central Business District into 4 zones “so that we can have 4 Kikuubos instead of one”