The Observer | How Museveni took Besigye votes in 2011

Posted October 8, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in The Roadmap to 2016 ~ 3,076 views


M7 2011

Mapping Museveni’s spectacular climb over Besigye 

With a 37 percent vote haul in 2006, Dr Kizza Besigye notched his most significant performance so far in a presidential election – defeating President Museveni, the eventual winner, in 20 of the 69 districts.

In some districts in Lango, Teso and Acholi sub- regions, Besigye’s margin of victory over Museveni was emphatic, at times nearing 70%. But in 2011, Museveni turned the tables.  Not only did he ‘recapture’ 17 of the 20 districts previously under Besigye’s stronghold, the president won in 42 out of the 43 new districts created after the 2006 elections.

A comparative analysis of the 2006 and 2011 election results shows that Museveni’s overall vote tally increased from 4,078,677 in 2006 to 5,428,369 (a difference of 1,349,692 votes) in 2011 despite the voter turnout declining from 65% to 58% in 2011. Within the same cycle, Besigye’s votes declined from 2,592,954 to 2,064,963 votes, a margin of 527,991.

The bulk of Museveni’s new votes in 2011 were from Lango, Teso and West Nile sub-regions. The NRM flag bearer won in 107 out of 112 districts. Besigye won in only four districts; Serere, Soroti, Kaberamaido and Kampala. DP’s Norbert Mao took Gulu.


Political analysts, scholars and media observers have offered several explanations for this upswing in Museveni’s political fortunes in the various areas. Some claim President Museveni and his handlers literally ‘bought’ the election in some areas. Others attributed the president’s impressive performance in northern Uganda to the return of peace there after two decades of war.

Meanwhile, Besigye’s loss has been attributed to a lack of clear political strategy and absence of party structures in some areas. In 2011, Besigye lost grip in areas where he appeared to have firm support in 2006.

For instance, in 2006 Besigye defeated Museveni in all six districts of Arua, Adjumani, Nebbi, Moyo, Koboko and Yumbe that made up West Nile sub- region then. In 2011, he lost in all six districts to Museveni. In Kasese, where FDC had won in 2006, there was a complete reversal of fortunes after government returned the institution of the Obusinga.

Even where Besigye maintained his dominance over Museveni like in Kampala and Soroti, the margins reduced drastically. Conversely, the rate at which Museveni’s vote margin increased in some areas, which had overwhelmingly rejected him in 2006 was simply mindboggling.

For instance in 2006 Museveni got only 7% of the vote in Lira compared to Besigye’s 80%. In 2011, Museveni scored 50% and Besigye 38%.


Acholi is the sub-region where Besigye’s vote margin declined most sharply. In 2006, Besigye scored 82% in Gulu, 75% in Kitgum and 77% in Pader. In 2011, the former FDC leader scored 20% in Gulu, 15% in Kitgum and 14% in Pader.

From the results, it is clear that Besigye’s vote margin in Acholi declined largely due to the entry of Acholi big shots Norbert Mao (DP) and Dr Olara Otunnu (UPC) into the presidential race.  Mao won in Gulu with 42%, against Besigye’s votes (20%).

In Kitgum, meanwhile, Otunnu garnered 35% of the vote compared to Besigye’s 15%. At 38%, only Museveni performed better. In Pader, both Otunnu (18%) and Mao (16%) performed better than Besigye (14%).

So, by eating into Besigye’s votes while not garnering substantial votes of their own, both Otunnu and Mao, from our analysis, helped hand Museveni marginal victories in Acholi sub-region.

However, writing recently in The Observer, Prof Ogenga Latigo, the former MP for Agago and Leader of opposition in Parliament, partly attributed the opposition’s loss in the sub-region to its failure to articulate other issues after the end of the war.

“In the run-up to 2011, the core wish of the Acholi for peaceful resolution of the LRA war came to pass, and with it went our key political demand and campaign agenda. No doubt, ending the war was a factor in the electoral shift witnessed in the north in 2011…,”Ogenga wrote, adding that other factors like violence, bribery and intimidation played a part in Museveni’s victory.


With the 2006 elections, FDC emerged as the dominant political force in the sub-region.  Overall, Besigye got 72% of the total vote in the sub-region compared to Museveni’s 22%.

In 2011, the pattern changed with Museveni garnering 48% and Besigye 42% of the vote. Sandrine Perrot, a senior research fellow in political science at the Centre for International Studies (CERI), spent more than a month in Teso sub-region during the 2011 campaigns talking to various political players.

First Lady Janet Museveni and President Museveni queue up with other voters to cast their ballots in 2006

After the elections, she authored a paper titled: An NRM recapture of Teso in 2011? What voting means in a hybrid regime. Perrot notes that previously the FDC and other opposition figures (Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere) took Teso on the card of insecurity while exploiting local grievances like cattle rustling.

But after the 2006 defeat, the NRM went back to the drawing board, developed mobilization structures, communicated better, and came up with strategies to retake Teso from FDC.

Museveni’s campaign messages in the sub-region, Perrot notes, focused on local issues such as compensation for veterans, paying the arrears of Arrow boys, compensating the Mukura massacre victims, constructing health centres, upgrading Soroti flying school and many more.


Another game changer in the 2011 elections was the creation of new districts. In the run-up to the 2011 elections, 43 new districts were created, pushing the total to 112 districts, up from 69 in 2006.

Our analysis shows that Museveni defeated Besigye in all but one (Serere) of the newly-created districts in 2011. In fact, Museveni registered some of his best margins in the new districts of Buhweju, Mitooma, Namutumba, Napak, Otuke and Rubirizi.

Elliott Green of the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE) argued in a 2010 paper that the creation of new districts has always been part of a political strategy by President Museveni to win elections.

Green argued in his 34-page paper, entitled “Patronage, District Creation and Reform in Uganda”, that in the early days, Museveni was able to co-opt the opposition through a broad-based government but with the introduction of elections, he began to reduce the number of opposition ministers which in turn reduced his ability to use patronage to buy off voters.

“These reduced patronage opportunities were, however, countered in part through district creation as the number of new districts announced in the five years prior to national elections grew from five (1996) to sixteen (2001) to twenty- four (2006),” Green wrote adding that Museveni relies on the new districts to win votes.

So, might the recent creation of 58 new constituencies and municipalities give us a clue as to how they might vote in 2016?

2006 2, 592, 954 4, 078, 677
2011 2, 064, 991 5, 428, 369

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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment


    This article makes very big assumptions that are not true. First: What we have as the results never indicate the voters will. Those are strongly doctored figures by any measure. Second: Why would we have faith in an election that is judged by one of the candidates from start to finish?

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