Mbabazi and Besigye — ‘See you at State House’
Finally and unintentionally Ugandans may be poised to eject a ruthless dictator of 30 years when the East African country holds presidential elections in March.
For the past fortnight a coalition of opposition parties had come together under a grouping called The Democratic Alliance (TDA) to try and elect a single candidate whom they could all rally around.
TDA couldn’t accomplish this task primarily because each of the leading two candidates would not yield to the other when their individual supporters dug their heels and it was clear why.
Both of the candidates have a distinct base. Both used to be members of the ruling National Resistance Party (NRM) which has now morphed into a cult of personality machine around the country’s dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni.
One of the candidates, Dr. Kizza Besigye, who publicly broke with Museveni more than 16 years ago has been the face of opposition in Uganda.
He’s run three times against Gen. Museveni. His supporters and many observers believe he won the last two elections and was only denied the office through rigging.
Indeed Gen. Museveni’s own coordinator of intelligence services, Gen. David Sejusa, who had briefly fled to London in 2013 declared that he was involved in manipulating the results of the 2011 vote in favor of Gen. Museveni.
In the last few years Dr. Besigye burnished his Democratic credentials by leading public protests against the dictator and enduring numerous arrests and vicious beatings. Through his sheer will of force and courage he has endured and built a large and loyal following of Ugandans who have also become emboldened and willing to challenge the dictatorship.
Besigye also reaffirmed he has national support during his recent tour around the country to contest the leadership of his own party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). There was some recriminations between his supporters and those of then FDC incumbent Mugisha Muntu; the other camp thought Besigye should’ve given Muntu a chance. But Besigye and Muntu shook hands and their supporters have now rallied together as democracy requires.
The other candidate the TDA had considered as sole flag-bearer for the entire opposition was Amama Mbabazi who until last year was Gen. Museveni’s prime minister.
His supporters include those within the ruling NRM who see that even with an iron fist Museveni, after 30 years, can’t extend his regime. They don’t want to be in the political wilderness and cut off from jobs and the other resources and benefits that come through state patronage. They see Mbabazi as a lifeline.
Some Mbabazi supporters may also belong to supporters of the other political parties, the Democratic Party (DP) and Uganda People’s Party (UPC) whose leaders have endorsed Mbabazi. Many believe Mbabazi has a better chance to defeat Gen. Museveni because as a recent senior regime top official he knows how elections are rigged.
Also, as a former security minister and Secretary General of the ruling NRM, Mbabazi has supporters within the party’s grassroots structures, within the intelligence and military services; he’s also accumulated a massive war chest through the years.
Each man, Besigye and Mbabazi, running alone as sole opposition candidate, would have presented a potent challenge to the dictator Museveni.
Both running at the same time could now present an insurmountable challenge.
This is because they can rally their supporters and in an election with Museveni, Besigye and Mbabazi on the ballot non of the candidates would likely get the 50%-plus required to avoid a runoff.
This means that since both candidates’ supporters want to get rid of Museveni they would then rally behind either Besigye or Mbabazi depending on who gets the most votes in the first round. Now Besigye and Mbabazi have to shake hands and tell each other “See you at State House.”
The TDA may have succeeded in a round-about way.