Uganda Today: Is Meaningful Opposition In Uganda Now Reduced To Bobi Wine?
9th September 2023.’
For most of his 37-year rule of iron and blood camouflaged with electioneering to disguise the true nature of his capture of Uganda and everything we knew as the State of Uganda, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has shown no love for Opposition, and for that matter, pluralism in a pluralistic society. If he has not restricted political parties to their headquarters away from the population, he has bought political support of the parties’ leaders or hounded them under gun and tear gas in the fashion of “No One will oppose me”.
In fact, during his swearing in for his fifth term as President of Uganda soon after the 2016 General and Presidential Elections, Tibuhaburwa Museveni declared that there would be no Opposition in Uganda by 2020.
He moved quickly to silence the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) by reaching an agreement of cooperation with the then UPC President, Jimmy Akena, which effectively meant that the UPC was linked to the excesses, corruption, failures or successes of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Akena’s wife, Bet Amongi has since held a Ministerial position in the NRM Government, while Akena himself has persisted as a Member of Parliament, albeit a silent one.
More recently, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni reached a cooperation agreement with the President of the Democratic Party (DP), Nobert Mao – once a virulent critic of the President and NRM. Mao immediately reaped the post of Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs while his Secretary General reaped one as a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly.
Effectively, Mao and DP were silenced, since they were now part and parcel of the ruling cohort.
That left Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and National Unity Platform (NUP) as the only visible Opposition in Uganda. However, they remained chained at their Headquarters.
Then all of a sudden hitherto unexpected conflicts developed within the top ranks of the FDC, splitting it into two fiercely quarrelsome camps, all claiming to be the legitimate owners of the Party.
As I write this article, the continued existence of FDC is effectively hinged on the mercy of the two camps.
One camp consists of the Party Chairman Birigwa, Party Spokesman Ssemujju Nganda, Party Vice-President, Erias Lukwago, Deputy President for Eastern Region, Salaam Musumba and Retired Colonel Kiiza Besigye, the pioneer President of the Party who stood for the Presidency of Uganda four times, each time failing to unseat President Tibuhaburwa Museveni.
The other consists of the Secretary General, the President Patrick Amuriat and many others. The former camp has its headquarters at Katonga while the other has its headquarters at Najjanankumbi. They are now quarreling over the date for their General Assembly to elect top Party leaders. Therefore, FDC has no time to Oppose NRM and President Tibuhaburwa Museveni.
What is happening in FDC is not entirely new on Uganda’s political scene. In 1958, soon after Apolo Milton Obote was elected President of the Uganda National Congress (UNC), removing its founder President, Ignatius Musaazi, unrest started in the party. It split into two. One splinter group led by Obote went on to strike an alliance with a smaller party to form the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC). The other splinter group disappeared from the political scene, along with Ignatius Musaazi. Wheñ Obote wanted to be the independence Executive Prime Minister of Uganda he struck an alliance with the Kabaka of Buganda Party, Kabaka Yekka (KY), and he was able to marshal enough Parliamentary seats to beat the Democratic Party to the post-colonial leadership of Uganda.
However, soon after independence on 9th October 1962, political conflicts relating to Buganda developed within the Obote government. The marriage of convenience between UPC and KY ended miserably. As if that was not enough, political conflicts between UPC President, Apollo Milton Obote and the Party Secretary General, John Kakonge, emerged, which resulted in the latter being voted out of Office. Then more conflicts developed between the Party President and the man who replaced John Kakonge as Secretary General, Grace Ibingira. Grace Ibingira lost his post to another person, Felix Onama.
We don’t know how FDC will emerge out of its internal conflicts. Most likely it may survive but not as strong as it was before. It may even collapse and give way to the formation of a new party. Time will tell.
As DP and UPC are enjoying their honeymoon with NRM, not to build and strengthen them but to weaken them and strangulate them before the eyes of an increasingly youthful population, which has never belonged to any political party, and FDC is mired in internal conflicts that may destroy it, Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and his NUP are flying high on the previously and continually uncertain political scene. As I showed in a previous article, unsurprisingly President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has allowed Kyagulanyi and his NUP to emerge out of containment and take the country’s political scene by storm.
He has allowed the NUP President to undertake a countrywide political tour, ostensibly to open party offices. However, the tour has turned out to be a show of political clout and popularity among the largely youthful population, if we go by the huge multitudes of people that have received him wherever he has been, well-secured by the army, police and other security organs – the very ones that have hounded him and tear-gassed him whenever he tried to access the population.
However, wherever he has been he has told his multitudes of people that he is not on a campaign trail.
The cardinal question is: Has the Political Pluralism in Uganda been reduced to NRM and NUP towards the 2026 General and Presidential elections?
If one analyzes the sorry status of DP, UPC and FDC, one may be tempted to conclude political pluralism in Uganda is now represented by only NRM and NUP. However, this is not strictly true. There is the politics of Alternative Generator, also called MK Project (or Muhoozi Kainerugaba Project), first revealed to Ugandans in 2013 by General Tinyefunza Sejusa, who abhorred it and suffered the consequences until he was retired from the Uganda Peoples Defense (UPDF) recently.
General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, although playing politics illegally, has shown his stance in the rather uncertain pluralism of Uganda. Although he was recently the Bestman to his father, General Tibuhaburwa Museveni, when he and his wife, Janet Kataha Museveni, were celebrating the feat of 50 years in marriage, he has not hidden his intentions in Uganda’s murky politicomilitary sociopolitical environment. He wants power legitimized by the people since the Uganda Constitution 1995 states that power belongs to the people, although in practice people have been excluded from power, impacted by power, not really impacting power.
In his tours and statements undercutting the long rule of his father, and which have not been contradicted by the latter, Muhoozi Kainerugaba has been cited saying, “Tomorrow the NONSENSE of some people stealing our people’s wealth because they are connected will cease forever! We shall rebuild our country and indeed rehabilitate it from the ravages of corruption”. This is just short of accusing his father of building a corruption empire and benefiting from it.
Here Muhoozi Kainerugaba is talking like Bobi Wine, the NUP President. It is as if he and Bobi Wine agreed what to say to the people of Uganda. However, unlike Bobi Wine, Muhoozi Kainerugaba cannot extricate himself from accusations of benefitting from the excesses and unfair exploitation of the resources of Uganda through nepotism, corruption and cronyism. He cannot explain clearly where the money for his own wasteful celebration of his birthdays, his parents’ 50 years of marriage and the first birthday party of his father since he captured power in 1986 came from if not from the treasury of Uganda.
To be taken as a serious political force in the murky politics of Uganda, Muhoozi Kainerugaba will have to retire from the army and stop violating the Constitution and the laws of Uganda. Otherwise, he will continue to manifest as a political criminal using the advantage of his father being the President of Uganda to violate the Constitution and laws of the country while he is still a serving military officer in the UPDF. Since Muhoozi Kainerugaba is operating like an outlaw, the real legally acceptable political Opposition to NRM and President Tibuhaburwa Museveni remains Kyagulanyi Sssentamu and his NUP.
It is uncertain what the politics of Uganda will be like between now and 2026 when we expect to hold General and Presidential elections?
Will UPC and DP continue in their marriage of convenience with NRM to manifest as free, independent political parties unencumbered by NRMism?
Will Muhoozi Kainerugaba have retired from the army to completely engage in the politics of the country?
Will President Museveni continue to remove the army, police, other security organs and Resident District Commissioners from the politics of Uganda so that guns and tear gas are not an integral aspect of the country’s politics anymore?
Will Minister Mao have introduced his infamous constitutional reforms to destroy Universal Suffrage in the election of President so that instead of all the people, it is their Members of Parliament to elect the President?
Will there be an end to speculations of hereditary presidentialism in Uganda?
Will there be no more talk of Apartheid-like governance in Uganda?
Will there be no more talk of centrality of deep state in the governance of Uganda?
Are we just having a lull in the militarization of politics, which has been a major characteristic of politics in Uganda, that will give way to full-blown police and military onslaught on alternative political leaders and their audiences during the 2026 elections?
Time, the ultimate judge, will tell.
For God and My Country.