The Opposition Peoples’ Power Assembly going on in Gulu
“I foresee a political season filled with unrest rather than peace, acrimony rather than consensus and bitterness rather than contentment”
“I live everyday as it comes, not being sure of the next day. I am not blind to the fact that this regime wants me dead and dead as soon as possible. He is fearful because there has never been a threat to this regime like the threat we pose to it today as a generation. We know that the regime is going to try anything within their reach to block us from contesting”
GULU-UGANDA: “I foresee a political season filled with unrest rather than peace, acrimony rather than consensus and bitterness rather than contentment”, writes Mr. Mao Norbert, President General of the oldest political party in Uganda and a party which stands for Peace and Justice.
Even those who are skeptical would agree that autocratic leader of Uganda, General Yoweri Museveni’s seventh term in office as president got off on a bad start.
If the violence that punctuated the days leading to his declaration as winner, his controversial inauguration, and the spate of killings and high handed responses to citizen’s protests is anything to go by, then Mr. Museveni should brace himself for more turbulence for the remaining tenure at State House.
On February 18, 2016, Ugandans went to the polls to elect a new president, members of parliament and local government leaders in an exercise marred by wide spread fraud, voting irregularities, and intimidation.
Mr. Museveni was declared winner with 61% of the total votes counted and his main challenger, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, garnered 36% of the votes. Dr. Besigye has since refused to concede defeat, claiming Mr. Museveni stole his victory. He has since declared or renewed his ‘defiance campaign’ and establishes a parallel government he calls “The Peoples’ Assembly”.
When Mr. Museveni was being sworn in, his principal political enemy, Dr. Besigye, was under house arrest; and during his maiden speech as president who has just secured a seventh elective term, Mr. Museveni vowed that there would be no more opposition politician in the country by 2021.
However, with the emergence of a 37-year-old ‘new kid’ in parliament in 2017, Mr. Robert Ssentamu Kyaguklanyi, popularly known by his musical stage name of Bobi Wine, Mr. Museveni has never been the same. His prediction that there would be no opposition Politian by 2021 election seems to be falling apart, especially since July 2019 when this ‘new kid’ threw in his hat to challenge Mr. Museveni.
“I live everyday as it come, not being sure of the next day. I am not blind to the fact that this regime wants me dead and dead as soon as possible. He is fearful because there has never been a threat to this regime like the threat we pose to it today as a generation. We know that the regime is going to try anything within their reach to block us from contest”, Bobi Wine tells Aljazeera.
Mr. Museveni’s threat to ‘kill opposition by 2021’ seems to be fading away as this young musician turned politician, Bobi Mine’s popularity across the country seems to be gaining ground at the detriment of his wish to die in office.
He has therefore decided to enlist the support of security organs of state and raid state coffers to fund his political mobilization as a strategy to enable him retain power at all cost.
When Makerere University students decided to hold a peaceful demonstration last week over 15% increment of tuition fees, Mr. Museveni unleashed the security forces on the unarmed and peaceful students. He justifies his action by alleging that some political parties are creating unrest in universities to discredit his regime.
He uses the controversial Public Management Order Act to prevent opposition parties from holding public meetings while his loyalists hold public meetings at will. He raids public funds to finance his political party activities including buying off opposition politicians.
On Friday, October 25, 2019, his Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and longtime bush war hero, Major General Kahinda Otafire, was in Gulu to welcome into National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, a total of 310 former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) members who crossed over to the ruling party.
On the same day, hardly five hundred meters away, Dr. Besigye held his Peoples’ Government General Assembly in the private home of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in parliament also Gulu woman Member of Parliament, Ms. Betty Aol Ocan. During the Assembly, Dr. Besigye renewed his 2016 ‘Defiance Campaign’ as he also vowed to stand against Mr. Museveni in 2021.
In the Central City of Kampala, Mr. Museveni has recognized the strong base of Mr. Bobi Wine’s support that it comes from the most vulnerable members of society who live in the ghettos of Kampala and love for his music.
To combat that, Mr. Museveni has been touring the suburbs with sacks of money to buy off Bobi Wine’s supporters and appointed a fellow musician, Butcher Man as his envoy in the area.
What is happening in Uganda is not ‘unique’. Most leaders of Africa who took over from leaders like Dr. Kenneth Kaunda who took over from the colonial masters tend to cling on to power.
The Associate Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Godber Tumushabe assertss that there is no party called NRM because the so called NRM party is a mere purpose vehicle that was created by Mr. Museveni for his retention of power and in practice he uses it when he needs to.
“You have a problem when you have the ‘State of Uganda’ being the ruling party and then everybody else must contest against the ‘State’ and that is a fundamental problem because ordinarily the ‘State Institutions’ are supposed to be non-partisan, generally neutral, they are supposed to be arbiters in this political contest”, he is quoted in the Daily Monitor of October 19, 2019.
In their paper titled “Opposition weakness in Africa”, researchers Lisa Rakner and Nicholas van de Walle, say regardless of the nature and quality of electoral institutions, opposition parties have remained numerically weak and are fragmented and unable to carry out their roles of political counterweight to the victorious party and president.