Ugandan Diaspora News Editorial | November 2015 – What really Happened Inside the London Ugandan Opposition Meet?

Posted November 1, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 4,837 views


ronnie editor

Dear Readers,

Greetings from Boston, Massachusetts where we have enjoyed some great Fall foliage amidst mild temperatures. Back in Uganda it is sure to be a month of intense political activity as various camps position themselves for the “mother of all elections” in what will be the biggest test to President Museveni’s 30 years in office.

The NRM primaries are now a thing of the past but noteworthy was the number of times the elections were postponed by the NRM electoral commission.  For a party that claims to have about 10 million registered voters to organize party primary elections that planted more discord among its support base and left more chaos in its wake leaves one feeling uneasy about how the general elections will be conducted next year.

It was obvious that winds of change are beginning to sweep through as shown by the many incumbents including ministers that were defeated at the hands of little known newcomers. When it was announced that Musician Daniel Kazibwe a.k.a Ragga Dee had defeated Mr. Francis Babu a seasoned politician after the Kampala Mayoral NRM primary race, I knew it was about time I booked my seat for the Mayor’s debate between Erias Lukwago and Mr. Daniel Kazibwe. However if that is the best Kampala has to offer is a story for another day!

Although not surprising, why in this day and age are election materials still printed locally and easily accessible to candidates prior to the voting day. Reading stories of ministers and security personnel caught red handed was a point of concern, especially having pre-ticked ballots, wrong candidate registers and the mixing of voting materials at various polling stations nationwide for a party that controls the State treasury left me wondering what the real impact of this primary season had been.

The columnist in the weekly Observer really captured the mood: For a ruling party, with government resources and state infrastructure at its disposal, not to manage internal elections with minimal logistical hiccups speaks volumes. The pervasive mess suggests that the NRM lacks basic and critical organizational capabilities. The work of delivering the right voting materials to the right places is a bureaucratic task that requires a coherent system and competent personnel.

But while the NRM Party is now at its weakest, having lost some key supporters and architects of its ideology, the opposition has failed to forge ahead with a unified agenda to unseat the regime now in its 30th year. Debate has been ongoing on what really happened in London. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo opp at the London meeting presented a very rare but interesting twist of events when the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the former (International Criminal Court) – ICC Chief Prosecutor were pictured alongside the Ugandan opposition politicians. A detailed explanation was missing as to why Luis Moreno-Ocampo was present.

Amama Mbabazi, Kofi Annan, Kiiza Besigye and Olara Otunnu at the London closed door Ugandan opposition meet in London.

Amama Mbabazi, Kofi Annan, Kiiza Besigye and Olara Otunnu at the London closed door Ugandan opposition meet in London.

A surprise meet with Annan could be justifiable as he was the architect and special envoy who helped end the impasse surrounding the Kenya election violence, but Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s tenure at the International Criminal Court ended on a low note because some Africans leaders felt the ICC exercised selective justice when it came to the treatment of Africa. See link to learn more about the London meet —–Mbabazi–in-last-minute-talks/-/688334/2937334/-/item/1/-/ck6w6hz/-/index.html

Then came the leakage and the NTV news report that was either an attempt to upstage Besigye or a deliberate effort to endorse Mbabazi as the official opposition candidate. This move did damage to the TDA/Opposition efforts and increased the mistrust among the two leading opposition front runners whose preparations are now in high gear to launch their individual campaigns at Nambole this week.

And so while some have really been hoping and praying for real change the meetings held outside Uganda that leak to the media with no concrete outcomes are also a source of worry and frustration. The London meeting came a few weeks after the meeting of Mbabazi, Besigye and Raila Odinga in Nairobi, which some view as meddling into Uganda’s internal politics (and Odinga has been roundly criticized by President Kenyatta for suggesting that Kenya does not increase its purchases of sugar from Uganda).

To make inroads the opposition needs to adapt to the social media in this day and age were instant news cycles feed the masses with breaking news in real time. They should also have trusted stringers who can share the news in real time before moles and saboteurs put a spin on some of these stories that can easily sway undecided voters. (When Mr. Amama Mbabazi’s wife was hospitalized in London the news was first communicated through unofficial channels and not the campaign press office) In a country where the party and state institutions operate as one and the same, the opposition needs to show a close knit collaborative effort to create a grass-roots campaign structure now that NRM is still in disarray following the party primaries!

Tanzanian elections held recently had minimal violence (apart from the island of Zanzibar where election results were contested and later nullified), these election results ended Jakaya Kikwete’s  10 years in office after CCM registered 8.8 million votes more than Chedema’s 6 millions votes, according to the final vote tally presented by the Tanzanian electoral commission. If Tanzania and Kenya could see a change in leadership after President Nyerere and Moi — Uganda is also ripe for the same change in leadership yes we can live to see that in our lifetime.

In our case past elections have shown apathy among those eligible to vote, especially after Besigye made three attempts to defeat the incumbent that have fallen short. In Mbabazi some see hope of achieving this goal by chipping away at the NRM support among the progressives that wanted a reformed movement and progressive country. However its also clear that what Candidate Amama lacks is a political strategist to recruit and chip away at Mzee’s support base the way David Axelrod did for Obama during Hillary Clinton’s failed Presidential party nomination in 2008. Amaama Mbabazi or JPAM has not only missed several outstanding opportunities but some feel that he is losing traction because the campaign seems to have no clear direction apart from the slogan GO FORWARD.  He needs a clear message that resonates with the voters to inspire the change people long to see!

My point is that change is good for Uganda in several ways: it will improve service delivery, lead to improved accountability and allow for the reorganization of Uganda’s civil service. Before 1986 Uganda had functioning institutions like the Uganda Transport Company, Uganda Cooperatives Unions, Coffee Marketing Board, Uganda Airlines, Uganda Commercial Bank and many other potential bodies that were either sold off or mismanaged and run into the ground.

For a nation of over 37.5 million why are countries like Singapore and South Korea, which we were once compared with Uganda at the time of independence, way ahead of us? While we aspire to be a middle income country we have no middle class to speak of yet its the existence of this constituency that is always considered the real driver of the economic growth in developing countries.

What is equally surprising is the fact this regime has continued to use State resources to buy off political opponents. The recent social media outcry involving Ugandan artists/musicians who met the President at Munyonyo also revealed how easy and accessible the Presidential purse has now become. Am told that at a price tag of more than 700 million shillings the Tubonge Nawe campaign video was funded, produced and is now in circulation even as IGP Afande Kale Kaihura continues to remind the nation that campaigns have not officially  started for other opposition candidates!

Those who undermine the ability of the opposition to effect change may some day reflect that just as President Museveni and his NRM Bush War ushered in the politics of fundamental change, the opposition can and should be encouraged to consult and form a unified voice as the only way to bring about a permanent change in our politics. The structure of our politics today is founded on get-rich-quick schemes and patronage.  Critics of the TDA alliance need to revisit our history and some past alliances like the post- Amin Moshi administration formed in exile in Arusha. It is clear that the center is not holding and the creation of militia groups like “crime preventers” to augment the police force is viewed by many as a way to militarize this year’s elections and deter civil disobedience and more.

And so we pray that the pontiff’s visit to Uganda towards the end of this month will be more about uniting the people to pray for peace than about scoring political points, as occurred on the occasion of CHOGM commonwealth summit in  2005 which resulted in the worst corruption scandal and abuse of public resources in Uganda’s history.

To the TDA summit, Besigye and Mbabazi I say remember that this election should be less about your interests and more about the people of Uganda. Your current dialogue ought to reflect the voices and interests of the Wanainchi. Besigye must soften his hard-line stance and tame his overzealous supporters — the scene at the TDA Summit when his supporters stormed the meeting after learning he had not become the presumptive nominee was a case in point. For Mbabazi’s part, he needs some power brokers outside of party endorsements he has received and the family members who now form the real base to his campaign. He needs to show the opposition that apart from disgruntled cadres many of who have been defeated at the NRM Primaries he enjoys the support of some big name NRM or independent politicians. He must also make an effort stop the harmful rhetoric attributed to some of his supporters and close family relatives in the media. Perception is everything and sometimes careless statements do hurt campaigns.

And while Mbabazi and his campaign team have nailed their election advertising campaign via presentation, the foundation of their message as a Go Forward leaning NRM entity will need to be re-defined if those risking their political fortunes are to fully embrace Mbabazi as opposed to Besigye whose 3 previous bids have always fallen short.

The truth is Uganda is ripe for change but who like King David will be the anointed King to help heal the land and unite our people only time will tell!

For God and My Country.

Ronnie Mayanja
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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

    Ed Kay

    When we still write with tone of “they and us”, and end on a note of ” who will unite Uganda” , unity sounds like a word only used in the vocabulary of aliens from outer space. I get a feeling and with these sentiments that the opposition is not looking for someone to unite Ugandans, but rather someone who will castrate NRM members and more often than not, they zero on one who has inhaled more tear gas than one who has been at the base of the hose dausing those those he would like to use as a staircase to quench his presidential thirst. They all sound like they are in it only to do us a favor.

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