After Kyankwanzi, what options for opposition?

Whereas the common aim of removing President Museveni binds together the opposition in certain instances, Democratic Party president general says the unity is not always enduring.

Sunday February 23 2014

Opposition party leaders Mugisha Muntu (FDC), Olara Otunnu (UPC) and Norbert Mao

Opposition party leaders Mugisha Muntu (FDC), Olara Otunnu (UPC), Norbert Mao (DP), founding FDC president Kizza Besigye Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago PHOTOS BY FAISWAL KASIRYE  

By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi

All indications are that President Museveni will play by a different script in the coming election cycle. In the past, he would leave everyone guessing on whether he would offer himself for re-election until just weeks to the campaigns.

This time round, however, his tacit approval of what happened during the retreat of the ruling party’s MPs at Kyankwanzi suggests that he does not intend to keep Ugandans guessing anymore; they better know right now that he will contest the 2016 election.
The full implications of the move by the MPs to propose Mr Museveni as the sole National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential candidate in the next election will only be clear in the fullness of time.

A pronouncement by a section of NRM youths that the move was illegal and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s insistence that the party’s presidential candidate is still to be decided by the relevant organs of the party, suggests that the Kyankwanzi resolution could still be contested.

Observers have predicted for long that Mr Mbabazi could launch a presidential bid of his own and many still do not rule him out even after he signed the Kyankwanzi resolution that proposed Mr Museveni as the sole NRM presidential candidate.

This means that all the individuals currently being referred to as potent contenders for the presidency in the coming election are members of the ruling party.
Apart from Mr Museveni and Mr Mbabazi, former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga are also often mentioned. Prof Bukenya has vowed to take on Mr Museveni even if it means quitting the ruling party in search of another political vehicle.
But as the power game is fought out in the ruling party, Dr Kizza Besigye, Mr Museveni’s fiercest challenger in the past three elections, has said he will not contest in the next election because he sees it as pointless to stand against the incumbent.

Dr Besigye’s party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which leads the opposition in Parliament by virtue of its numerical strength in the House, is still struggling to recover from the cracks that resulted from the election that replaced him as president. The other parties virtually pose no threat to write home about.

Under the circumstances, therefore, what options has the opposition against Mr Museveni?

Scattered opposition
But before we delve into the options for the opposition, it is worth paying attention to an observation suggested by Democratic Party president general Norbert Mao as to whether there is even such a thing as the opposition.

Mr Mao suggests that it would be erroneous to talk about the opposition as one united entity. “There are too many scattered goals in the opposition,” he says.

He says within the opposition are those “who can’t stand Museveni for one more day for whatever reason, there are those who are just fighting to see a change in the way the country is governed, and many other groups with all sorts of interests”.

Whereas the common aim of removing President Museveni binds together these groups in certain instances, Mr Mao says the unity is not always enduring. “The challenge for the opposition is to get the binding glue that will bring everybody together under the same umbrella,” he says.

The differences within the opposition are often worsened by differences in approach and infiltration by the ruling party, whether real or perceived.

A key procedural difference that has dogged the opposition in the recent past is on whether to concentrate on preparing for the next election or to take on Mr Museveni through protests.

This split was recently enlivened by Aruu County MP Odonga Otto as he protested his being dropped from chairing a parliamentary committee. Mr Otto castigated the administration of FDC president Mugisha Muntu’s “deliberate purging of activism oriented leaders”.

Mr Otto said that individuals like himself, shadow attorney general Abdu Katuntu and former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi had been side-lined within the party in favour of those who do not favour activism as a method of work.

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