Op-ed I By Odaka Asuman
Tororo—22, August 2020: I want to state that even if Dr. Kizza Besigye doesn’t appear on the 2021 presidential ballot paper, the Besigye factor will remain very present in the forthcoming general elections, and indeed in the political history of this country for sometimes to come.
I want to assert that his influence will be even greater when he doesn’t contest. My prayer is, however, that either way, his heavy influence should work for the change he has suffered for, for nearly all his adult life.
Being a keen observer and an active player in the Ugandan politics, the dynamics in the 2021 general elections differ completely from the previous ones. I have argued that it transcends just election or policy arguments but A LIBERATION STRUCGGLE.
The youth elections countrywide have confirmed my long-standing arguments that beyond manifestos, policy arguments and party colours; this election will have only two sides; THE YES SIDE represented by Dr. Museveni (not necessarily the NRM) against the rest of the country, in my opinion, represented by Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi and Gen. Henry Tumukunde.
My opinion is based on these two not because I underestimate the other players, but because of the unique mix these two represent in this matrix.
How they dispense their uniqueness to deliver Dr. Museveni to his waterloo has everything to do with the 12 factors below.
1. International wind against the Museveni regime
For all these years, Dr. Museveni has been enjoyed support and goodwill from foreign governments more than any Ugandan government in our memorable history. Foreign debts have been forgiven and more borrowed to him.
His willingness to fight wars in the interest of these imperialists won him great favour. In Sudan, he was able to contain Gen. Bashir and when it became clear they would not overthrow Bashir, a new plan was hatched to divide African vast nation. In the Congo, Mubutu was overthrown to create a chaotic environment where the world mafias could be able to loot the Africa’s richest nation. In Somalia, he dared and succeed where the American literally ran away.
These adventures and good rhetoric won him friends and goodwill which was instrumental in watering his patronage system which sustained his government.
However, as we speak, the same now doubts whether he can still serve their strategic interest given his age and the new dynamics not just in the world but also domestically. To the blessing of these “donors” these missions were being hatched by same people who now largely want Dr. Museveni out of power. Tumukunde, one of the tacticians is a candidate together with charismatic and people attracting a young man in the name of Robert Kyagulanyi.
This has obviously comforted them that even if they made away with him, these strategic interests will not be lost after all his continuous stay is endangering these interests and must now get out of power at the earliest available opportunity.
2. The Buganda factor
It has almost become a norm that the biggest tribes hold governments. The Kikuyu in Kenya, the Kyona in Zimbabwe, Zulu in South Africa, Dinka in South Sudan, etc.
In Uganda, in addition to their numbers, the Buganda are ordinarily the most educated, wealthiest, and geographically located not just the centre of the country but the seating of government yet continuously behaving like a disadvantaged minority in the countryside.
Lately, however, indications are that they are realizing their advantage and want power. The emergence of Bobi Wine energizes their ambitions and capacity of Bobi Wine, makes it a sure win against a tired Museveni who is even being challenged by not just an ordinary inner family member but also a security tactician.
I have also seen state/NRM operatives wrongly misinterpreting this renewed Buganda ambitions to take charge of government as tribalism, even when we know that ethnicity and religions can’t easily be dismissed in a political process. I honestly find it showy, shallow, hollow, pretentious and contemptuous that some people want to use it to stigmatise Baganda for their refusal to support Dr. Museveni.
3. The Catholic factor
Museveni’s long stay in power is partially credited to the goodwill of the Catholic Church. His divide and rule policy, however, has boomeranged as regards the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church silently begrudges Dr. Museveni for instigating the emergency of a sect just like he has done in all other organized sections of our communities. Besides that, the Catholic Church also seems tired of being in the number two position of the country besides other interest.
The emergence of Bobi Wine gives them a comfortable fulfilment of their ambitions and the Church or individuals within the Catholic Church are heavily working towards its achievement. Tumukunde and indeed others, especially Gen. Mugish Muntu, bring along a stabilizer.
4. Regional difference and alliance.
For sometimes there is a feeling in the North, East and Central that the national cake is not properly being distributed. This is evidenced by the illustrious number of people from Ankole and Kigezi holding the most influential position in the country. The comedy group “Bizonto” recently took the country by storm when they got arrested for speaking out about the same. This has caused discontent among people from other regions.
It’s this radical difference which Bobi Wine present to cause a natural alliance of the three regions vs part of western Uganda (part because western Uganda is not homogeneous).
But realistic political pundits state that Bobi Wine on his own presents a feeling of fear to some people from western Uganda, and more so with the Museveni extended family. General Tumukunde therefore comes in handy to bridge this gap and fear.
5. The youth factor
The demographic disfavours Dr. Museveni. Out of about 17 million people registered as voters in the next elections, nearly 12 million are below the age of 40 years. About 5 million of these are going to vote for the first time, yet there is evidence that it’s a direct result of the #FunnaEndangaMuntu campaign led by Bobi himself.
These are the most disgusted and frustrated age group with the Museveni regime. Their interests are not tied to history, and this is precisely why Dr. Museveni’s long speeches in every public address make no sense and impact to them.
Bobi Wine, on the other hand, is a personification of all their challenges. His achievement is a living testimony that one can be anything if s/he focused and worked towards it. The coming in of General Tumukunde comforts not just the older group that thinks the younger team is not experienced but also gives the first family some assurance of security. The combined with the determination I saw during the youth village elections make Dr. Museveni’s ride to waterloo a sure journey.
6. The Bob Wine brand
Bobi Wine is selling a brand with traceable known history. I am an eyewitness to this. It’s this “Bobi brand” that brought Muzanira, Mwiru Basalirwa and Wadri to parliament although other factors equally played a significant role. Bobi Wine engagements in these by-election made them not ordinary by-elections, and changed the political chess game forcing, Dr. Museveni (mis) advisors to try to stop him in Arua probably by even murdering him just like it was a miscalculated move to arrest and lock Tumukunde. This brand is now too contagious, infectious, very communicable, transmittable and spreadable across the geography, demography, social class and ethnic setting.
Therefore, I find it deceptive and an act of self-deceit that some people think by denying Bobi Wine the use of red berets, or the party NUP, they will have killed the spirit of the struggle. This struggle is partly because of the #BobiWine the brand and any organization under whose umbrella he emerges will be as popular as Bobi Wine the brand name; this brand put together with other attributes of other players like Tumukunde, Muntu is not stoppable in 2021.
7. The hard economic situation
The economic situation in the country is fast getting to unbearable conditions for the ordinary Ugandans. Poverty is increasing, economic inequality is widening, unemployment rate is worsening, yet everyday people are hearing how connected government officials are stealing trillion of shillings, yet Dr. Museveni’s cronies are living a lavish and extravagant lifestyle. Suffice to remember, it’s the issue of the “bread” that caused to the Tunisian revolution, the Egyptian revolution, the Sudan revolution and the Zimbabwe revolution. It’s the matter of the bread that is going to weigh in heavily in the 2021 general elections.
8. The increased education and enlightenment
As rightly intended, education is to expose the recipients to ambitions and the belief that they will get employed and material comforts after school. Once this expectation fails, knowledge, time and exposure in their hands is a lethal weapon especially to the intransigent, intractable and negligent government which NRM has become. The modern generation is the most educated generation ever to exist, most capacitated and facilitated in terms of connection and ICT capabilities. Yet despite all this, government has shown no capability to solve or harness to their advantage, instead I see some functionaries labelling them as goons, lumpens, drug addicts, etc. These are determined to end the government that now represents the continuation of their suffering.
9. The army comfort zone and other contradiction within the armed forces
I have lately heard very treasonous and repugnant statements carefully constructed by the propagandist to the effect that the army will not hand over power to Bobi Wine and won’t allow him to be president. The statement is not based on deep reflection on the pertaining to national and international prevailing trends. They want us to think that Uganda exists in isolation, yet reality is to the contrary.
Locally, we all know how disgruntled our brothers and sisters in uniform are, they go to the same hospitals that we go to, the same market that we go to, use the same transport system we all use, they take their children where we take ours and they are subjected to the same humiliation we are all subjected to. Why on earth would anybody expect them to behave differently? Do I wish to remind anybody that in 2016 elections opposition won in nearly all military and police barracks in the country? What does that say about how they feel?
Whereas it’s true some of the top commanders may not want to hand over power, the international trend doesn’t favour them. In fact, we would rather have a situation where they openly intervene than pretending to be democratic when they are not. To discredit this propaganda even further, a General and from both the ruling ethnicity and inner family circle is in the mix. Let the dance then begin.
10. Geo-political trends
The geopolitical happenings in the Great Lakes is making Dr. Museveni shabby and political odd man out. The DRC, Burundi among others are making Ugandan president the only “Mobutu” of the region who is out of fashion and trend. The young generation of leaders in the Great Lakes are increasingly becoming queasy with the Kampala regime. The regional interest can no longer be served by him, and there is evidence to that effect. They cannot afford to have unstable Uganda in the region just because of an aging Museveni. The contest between Bobi- Tumukunde vs Museveni is a contest between rising stars against a setting moon.
11. Tumukude brand
To my surprise and dismay, I have come across some people trying hard to downplay the role of Gen. Tumukude in the change matrix of 2021. Listening to some, especially those I consider elites and exposed to how empires of the world have collapsed in history, I find the reasoning pathetically less than what public expect from them.
A number of things must be noted about General Tumukunde in this configuration, but I will mention just two;
- Member of Mr. Museveni’s inner family. The most clear signal for the eventual collapse of all strong men and or empires in history have been announced by the disagreement on the political direction of the territory by the inner circles of the ruling family. In the monarchical arrangements, dethroning could even be through killing the reigning King. In the modern political dispensation, there cannot be better evidence of this than one member of the family standing against the other. And like we know, a Kingdom divided is one eminent for collapse. Tumukunde’s appearance on the ballot is providing us with that fact.
- The character of Tumukunde the man. For those who have known him, will tell you that he is a smooth operator, very deliberate, very particular and reasonably measured. Even the rumour in town about Gen. KK nearly overthrowing his boss using some elements in the police, “the crime preventers and the boda boda 2010 groups” in addition to thwarting the surgical operations which had been a leading JPAM’s strategy of overthrowing his boss’ government were all successfully contained by the operations designed and rolled out by Tumukunde. In additions to other personal attributes, this is not a personality a tired, long serving president would want in a race whose dynamics have completely unpredictable results.
In summary, the contest between Museveni and Bobi Wine – Tumukunde is one of two world tales, one representing the stressed and a scaring history that characterizes our past and the other representing the hope that hard work actually pays.
2021 elections represent the hope, the future, and personifies the struggle for good governance in our own times. 2021 is not going to be an ordinary election as already demonstrated in the village youth elections, and this wind will not be stopped.
It must be noted that for these factors and dynamics come real, they have to be harnessed by hard work, making some visible structures; lubricate them and make them work. It’s only then that the above factors can be of a meaning in the 2021 elections.
The writer is an activist from Tororo Municipality.
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