OP-ED

Why 2026 may not give Museveni the challenge we anticipated after 2021

By Benesa Edrine

Whenever an election period draws closer, the political atmosphere in the country begins to heat up. In just a little over one week, Uganda will mark exactly three years since the last general elections that gave President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni his record sixth term in office.

In power since 1986, Museveni’s ability to judge the political environment at any given time and act upon it accordingly has earned him tones of admirers and haters alike.

2021 marked the sixth time the General from Rwakitura was presenting himself before his dedicated masters-the voters to choose whether to keep him in power or send him in retirement to look after his cattle as he has always said would do after retiring.

This time as well, though, Ugandans elected to continue with him at the helm. One specific difference in the 2021 challenge was the absence of perennial challenger, Rtd Col. Dr Besigye, and the emergence of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu in his stead. 

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Museveni turned out eventual winner as was most expected,  with Bobi Wine emerging first runners-up. This particular contest raised a lot of hope for those who wished the longest reigning charismatic leader to go, reasoning that Wine was a symbol of an energised opposition which unfortunately didn’t turn out to be.

Optimism still reigned after the January 14th bloody nose, with projections that the next conquest could be the toughest for the party in power. Many of those for this school of thought believed that since Wine had only been in the national political game for just a little over two years, he hadn’t yet organised himself well to unite his forces to give President Museveni a decisive lesson. They also projected that the National Unity Platform would be able to forge unity with other opposition players come the next elections which would eventually consolidate the opposition vote to the benefit of the struggle.

A thorough assessment of the forming political cloud in the sky, however, paints a rather different picture, highly pessimistic for those seeking a change the majority of Ugandans seem to seem uncalled for. Talking of the unity in the opposition,   General Museveni has already scored a decisive win by enlisting the Democratic Party( DP) on the side of the ruling regime as part of his grand agenda to foster national unity. This is in addition to the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), making it two of the most significant and oldest political parties in the country. 

In a recent interview with BBC, Museveni re-echoed his commitment to continue engaging members of the opposition on working in his government as a way of cementing national cohesion.  This olive branch was conclusively extended to Bobi Wine and Besigye, two of the regime’s most senior critical leaders. Although the two are yet to officially respond to the offer,   the revelation that such talks continue to others below their ranks should worry all political party leaders who still want to prioritise their small agendas ahead of national unity. 

Since we have already seen scores of former opposition members thriving since joining the ruling side, and continue witnessing new ones every other day, who knows there might be no one left on the other side save for the parochial leaders?

This must therefore give significant reasons for all opposition political party leaders to consider reaching out to General Museveni regarding his offer if at all they are interested in participating in building the nation as they variously claim.

As 2026 approaches, I find NRM to be in its strongest position since 2001 when Besigye first attempted to challenge his power constitutionally.  Improved services, and good infrastructural development such as good roads, power generation, irrigation, health, and education, are some of the interventions that seem to have endeared the country to a great leader.

For the first time in a very long period,  NRM was able to obtain significant victories in prior to hostile regions of the country, including Bugisu,  Teso, West Nile, Acholi, Lango and Rwenzori in 2021. With the system’s proved track record of bonding with its people and rewarding loyalty,  there is no doubt more will vote for the president in 2026.

As we wait to witness what Besigye and Bobi Wine have to say in response to the President’s offer, all is certain that Museveni is headed for a landslide victory should he declare he is returning to the fray in the next general election. 

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The writer is the Deputy RCC for Soroti East Division.



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