By Zacharia Kanyonyozi
Photos: Facebook\YouTube Screenshots\Wikimedia Commons
The Last Word column in The Independent Magazine dated September 16, 2023, was notable for its blizzard of figures whose implicit aim was to paint the President of the National Unity Platform (NUP), Mr. Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, as a Muganda leader and not a leader who happens to be a Muganda.
It is an old ploy, one designed to show that Bobi Wine does not have the national electability to defeat Gen. Museveni. Even though we all know that Bobi Wine won the 2021 presidential elections.
But let us address The Independent article.
One, the figures used in The Independent article are Electoral Commission figures, a Commission everybody agrees is not free or independent and thus cannot be used as bellwether indicating electoral outcomes.
Still, we shall acknowledge the EC figures with some of our own:
Bobi Wine beat Gen. Museveni in 12 out of the 16 sub regions (namely Buganda (69.2 %), Bukedi (75%), Bunyoro (70.8 %), Busoga (68.3%), Elgon (Bugisu) (78.3%), Kampala (72%), Karamoja (53.3 %), Kigezi (44.1 %), Lango (57.5 %), Tooro (68.3 %), Rwenzururu (72.5 %), West Nile (66.7 %)) while Gen. Museveni won in 4 out of the 16 sub regions (namely: Acholi (51.7 %), Ankole (73.3 %), Sebei (51.7%), and Teso (49.2%)).
Does he still look like a leader who only appeals to Buganda?
Bobi Wine’s core voters were in the age categories: 18-29 and 30+.
Out of 18,103,603 registered voters, 57% voted which is10, 319,053.71 voters, over 8 million of whom were below the age of 40 years and therefore better disposed to the youthful Bobi Wine.
So much so that former presidential press secretary and media advisor Tamale Mirundi noted how Gen. Museveni tried to forestall this appeal by blocking Bobi Wine’s candidacy, but failed miserably.
Mirundi said, “Museveni has failed to Stop Bobi Wine from being on the ballot 2021.” And so Gen. Museveni & first family fronted singer Jose Chameleone thinking he might get a NUP card, but Bobi Wine denied him the ticket.
Bobi Wine went on to scoop the youth vote and he defeated Gen. Museveni amongst both gender categories, i.e. male and female.
Bobi Wine was able to trounce Gen. Museveni because in 10 out of 16 sub-regions thanks to the high rate of unemployment in those regions.
However, voters have realized that instead of addressing this issue, Gen. Museveni needs widespread poverty as an instrument of control and subjugation.
Away from electoral outcomes, let’s look at their processes.
Speaking at a three-day consultative workshop on Constitutional and Electoral reforms at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Thursday, 01 June 2023, Bobi Wine and the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga launched consultations on proposals for the amendment of the Constitution to introduce reforms that they hope will improve the country’s political landscape.
Discussing a paper at this workshop on how the legislature and courts can safeguard the Constitution, Prof. Joe Oloka Onyango asked Opposition MPs not to accept a government-appointed Constitutional Review Commission, arguing that any attempts to amend the Constitution should be bottom-up led.
“The Opposition in and outside Parliament has to keep the government on its toes. Something has to be done about the growing militarization which has weakened our institutions. People must force this process. It has to be a collective struggle for fundamental change,” said Prof. Oloka.
This is exactly where out discussion on electoral unfreedoms in Uganda should be centered: the growing militarization of the electoral process.
The Independent article agrees.
“Since he captured power, President Yoweri Museveni has made it a point to restrict his opponents from organising against him. He has been successful at this because he enjoys effective personal control over the security services. The army, the police and intelligence organisations are always used as an arm of the president to bolster his politics,” the article reads.
Indeed, the 2020/2021 campaign period was characterized by killings, beatings and violent dispersal of opposition supporters using teargas and rubber bullets.
In the five weeks from when electoral campaigns began on 9 November, 2020, dozens of people were killed in election-related violence, most of them shot dead by police and other security forces, including unidentified gun-toting individuals in plainclothes and scores of others were injured.
Gen. Museveni publicly acknowledged that 54 people were killed on 18 and 19 November in the protests and unrest that followed the arrest of the leading opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine.
However, The Independent prefers to view elections as an event instead of a process, so, to it, the militarization of the politics is no big deal.
Instead, The Independent holds the Opposition, particularly Bobi Wine, accountable for not navigating this major stumbling block and not the Museveni Junta for creating it!
“Anyone who have lived in Uganda over the last few decades knows this [that Gen.Museveni using the security forces to bolster his regime]. What intrigues me, therefore, is that the opposition have employed the same losing methods to respond to this challenge for the last 38 years. Are mass matches through towns the only effective vehicle to mobilise?” The Independent asks.
This victim-blaming is extraordinary in its sophistry and would surely make Squealer of Animal Farm and Joseph Goebbels very proud.