OP-ED: The elections of 2021 may be too far behind us but many of its components will most likely continue influencing the country’s future political terrain for years to come.
Four-time Museveni challenger Rtd. Col. Dr Kizza Warren Kifefe Besigye was for the first time in over two decades out of the presidential contest, while debutant Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu put up a spirited fight against Gen.Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s three and a half-decade grip on power.
Also noteworthy is the fact that former Spy Master and Security Minister, and former Army Commander, Lt. General Henry Tumukunde and Maj. Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu – two of Museveni’s most respected Army Generals were some of the people that challenged for the top chair in the general elections held early this year.
In the previous election of 2016, Museveni had faced off with long-time allies Maj. Gen. Benon Biraaro and John Patrick Amama Mbabazi formerly Prime Minister and NRM’s Secretary-General. Besigye was also in the contest as had always been the case.
In 2016, Mbabazi had always been seen as Museveni’s biggest threat, with many captivating Besigye as “an old wine in a new bottle” that was way past his usefulness. Efforts were made to keep Besigye out of the polls by the united alliance of opposition- TDA but failed.
What transpired in the March 2016 elections is public knowledge. Mbabazi was humiliatingly defeated and Besigye once again reigned supreme as the key opposition performer.
Besigye loyalists had consistently attacked Mbabazi as a Museveni stooge who had been sent to destabilise the opposition and had his master an easy way to reelection.
Besigye however remained coy on the allegations through the campaign period and thereafter.
A little over a year after the polls, Mbabazi had given away ceremony for her daughter to the powerful South African Ramaphosa family and Museveni was among the guests invited in a camaraderie reunion that sent tongues wagging.
As expected, talk that the former Prime Minister’s recent participation in the presidential contest was a Museveni project was in no time trending once again.
A meeting at Museveni’s country farm in Kisozi-Gomba, an invitation at the January 2020 NRM Delegates conference at Namboole and another at the Jan 27th, 2020 Tarehe Sita celebrations of the UPDF in Nakaseke would further amplify the voices of those accusing Mbabazi of double standards.
The veteran cadre has since renounced his misunderstandings with the president and was an integral part of Museveni’s January 14th reelection drive. He had widely been speculated to bounce back in the cabinet announced on June 8th something that never was to be. He has however maintained he is committed to the party and willing to continue serving even without being in Cabinet.
Benon Biraaro, another of Museveni’s fierce critics in the race was not lucky enough to witness the 2021 contest. Whether or not he would have participated in the contest, only God Knows.
Biraaro was called to be with the lord on the 12th of February, 2020 but not before publicly venting out his dissatisfaction with the regime he had served since the rebellion days in 1982.
At a requiem mass held on the 14th of February, 2020, Biraaro’s family confessed that Museveni had played a part in settling the medical bills of the deceased bush war comrade while hospitalised at Nakasero Hospital.
From 2019 up to late mid-2020, Besigye was made to endure the most humiliating cyberbullying from main members of the oppositions he was widely respected for nurturing over the years. These were majorly Bobi Wine loyalists who strongly believes that their candidate would only prevail if Besigye is dragged out of the way.
Led by key propagandists like Abbed Bwanika, Latiff Ssebagala, Samuel Lubega Mukaaku, Sulaiman Kidandala, among others, a dangerous negative campaign was hatched to portray the former Museveni physician as a problem rather than a solution to the fight for regime change in Uganda.
They for instance spread yet to be substantiated reports that Besigye owned a string of petrol stations all over Uganda that were left to operate unhindered while Bobi Wine’s music concerts had been banned.
Bobi Wine himself is on record having publicly castigated the man he had once called his mentor, for claiming there is no democracy in Uganda after participating in four elections respectively. He said he and his group strongly believed in the country’s democratic process and were confident he would win and get announced by the Electoral Commission.
Inside the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), at the peak of the hot battle for supremacy between Rtd. Col. Besigye and Rtd. Gen. Muntu, these incidents were evidently witnessed.
For his civil approach in seeking regime change, Muntu was demeaningly baptised a regime apologist who only worked to strongly undermine the liberation efforts of his comrades in the struggle.
Then he left in 2019 to form his party- the Alliance for National Transformation, going along with scores of leaders and supporters. The story has since never been the same. And with the coming of Kyagulanyi and Besigye turned into a punching bag himself, FDC were made to learn the hard way.
What followed after January 14th, I beg it’s reserved for another day.
But to give you a small hint, the group begrudgingly found themselves before Owiny Dollo challenging the outcome of the elections albeit without evidence.
Whereas Besigye was suspected to be in bed with Museveni after he claimed he had won and even gone ahead to organise a mock swearing-in ceremony in Kiseka Market and he was not charged and convicted, NUP has similarly claimed they won and they are the rightful bearers of state powers.
Museveni is yet to send the singer-cum-politician in jail or even summon him to record statements at police?
What does this mean?
For a country where all former leaders have died in exile and critics either maimed or sent to jail by reigning leaders, the suspicions are somehow understandable.
Yet the track record of Museveni working together with his former critics makes such political myopia not only redundant but also inexcusable.
Ministers Okello Oryem and Betty Amongi hail from families of former heads of State- Tito Okello Lutwa and Apollo Milton Obote respectively, while Taban Amin is the son of Late Iddi Amin Dada.
Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere of the Democratic Party, the late Aggrey Awori, Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, Deputy Speaker Anitah Among, Beatrice Anywar, Nakiwala Kiyingi, Beti Olive Namisango Kamya are some of the examples to show how Museveni has always been willing to work with those that oppose him.
The men mentioned in the headline above believe that opposition politics is nothing just more than standing for ideals different from those of the party in power. It is not personal and thus the conversation should only be on principals and not personal.
The IPOD platform whose aim is to provide a platform for the different parties to dialogue on matters of governance has widely been viewed as a move in the right direction. NUP, by being the newest party with parliamentary membership, is expected to join the summit for the subsequent discourses. Their leadership has however kept their cards close to their chest, reportedly contemplating on whether to join or not. These were tactics of the past.
Take home: There is an urgent need to learn the new Museveni of the 21st century for any group to stand the slightest chance of taking power from, or after him.