The Observer | Credible Election, Not Crowds, Will End Museveni Misrule By Moses Khisa

Posted November 6, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 4,480 views



Opinion — Since Tuesday, the key talking point has been who, among the three leading presidential candidates Amama Mbabazi, Kizza Besigye, and Yoweri Museveni, pulled off the biggest show of support.

The talk has been more about the number of people that turned out for and after nomination than what the three candidates stand for and represent; very little, if any, about the substance of what they launched in their election manifestos and more about which procession caused the most traffic jam in Kampala.

Elections in Uganda are not won on superior ideas and persuasive policies; so, it is perfectly in order that we are discussing crowds, not manifestos. That said, the inordinate focus on crowd size is a little baffling because, just like manifestos, Uganda’s presidential polls are not necessarily won by the most popular candidate.

There is a danger in making a rather post-ante analysis by saying: “I knew before who would be the biggest crowd-puller”. But for anyone who has closely monitored Ugandan politics over the last decade or so, there was never going to be a contest about crowd-pulling in Kampala.

Any day anytime, Dr Besigye is unrivaled in attracting masses of Kampalans, especially the downtrodden who live on the margins in a country where access to decent and basic needs of life is skewed towards a few.

You can safely bet all your life’s fortunes and confidently retire to bed knowing that even the chief of renting support, General Museveni, would not match a man who many see as the ‘people’s president’.

Undoubtedly, as a demonstration of popularity and support, crowds matter a great deal, but not under all circumstances. Politics is a game of numbers.

It is also a mind-game. Public perceptions play an important role in either generating momentum or dampening hopes for a preferred outcome. Thus, projecting oneself as the popular candidate with a big following is ordinarily part of the repertoire of a campaign strategy.

Human beings, driven by a rational calculus, easily get swayed by what promises to be the winning side. So, drawing mammoth crowds can help in sparking a demonstration effect and compel fence-sitters or even those on the other side to join this side.

Yet in the struggle to end the Museveni misrule, the issue is hardly whether or not Dr Besigye is popular, moreover in Kampala. That is not the issue. In fact, Dr Besigye and his handlers need not spend precious resources trying to prove that point. It is needless. The real issue is whether there will be a credible election come February 2016. Most unlikely.

Not a thing has changed about the Ugandan political environment and the infrastructure for the conduct and management of elections. The enthusiastic crowds that cheer on Dr Besigye count for nothing if they don’t show up on polling day, free to cast their vote. And the ultimate crux is not whether

Besigye gets votes but whether he gets all his votes in the final tally of results. After being nominated on Wednesday, Dr Besigye lamented the fact fact he had appeared before the same electoral commission he considers partisan.

The electoral commission, as currently constituted, cannot organize an election that allows for the defeat of the man who appointed its top leadership.

The EC’s partisanship and partiality is glaringly reflected in the utterances of its spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa, who effortlessly combines arrogance with a display of raw power in defending the commission’s crappy mismanagement of the electoral process.

But even if the EC were to do their job professionally and competently, the extremely-unlevelled and unfair political environment we have cannot allow translating popular support into electoral victory. The same militaristic infrastructure for rigging elections that General Museveni has previously relied on is fully intact, in fact even more strengthened under the cover of so-called ‘crime preventers’.

For Dr Besigye and the entirety of opposition forces to win an election despite Museveni’s rigging machinery and the unfair use of state apparatuses requires nothing short of superior organization.

Shockingly, rather than focus on combining efforts to stop another electoral fraud next year, the new entrant to opposition trenches, Amama Mbabazi, and his promoters are bent on asserting the moral high ground for being the sole opposition candidate.

Beyond the rather unpersuasive claim to being the right person to engineer a peaceful transfer of power, Mbabazi has neither showed why the extant opposition should rally behind him nor demonstrated that he represents the quest for a new Uganda, away from the decadent rule of General Museveni.

Besigye and his unfailing loyalists, on the other hand, are adamant. They insist that only he has what it takes to lead the opposition front against Museveni. The upshot of this has been months of endless negotiations while overzealous foot-soldiers, on either side, engage in a gratuitously dirty game of throwing mud at each other.

Without deep introspection and a sober analysis of how to craft a strategy for ending Museveni’s rule, election-time excitement will come to naught. In the interim, the country will continue tottering under an atrocious system of dynastic rule.

The author is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the department of Political Science, Northwestern University, USA. Email –

About the Author

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


    Can’t disagree. He’s stated it all.

You must be logged in to post a comment.