It is a fact that Betty Atim Anywar, the Member of Parliament for Kitgum Municipality, has recently had a lion’s share of media attention. The reason behind this unprecedented media attention is the way she voted on the age limit Bill. For those who have just come to Uganda, she supported the removal of a constitutional provision, which says that a presidential candidate should be between 35 and 75 years of age.
Even as an Independent Member of Parliament, Anywar has her roots in the Opposition. As shadow minister, she led popular protests against a government proposal to sell part of Mabira forest to a sugar baron. But between January 2016 and December 2017, MP Anywar has been associated with (and expressed passionate support for) Dr Kizza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi and Gen Yoweri Museveni. Now, with a politically frustrated population, this is an act of political treason.
Matters were not helped by our Anywar voting for the removal of age limit, which clearly gives Gen Museveni eligibility to rule Uganda for life. In my understanding, the age limit Bill debate was about two things: A population fatigued with Gen Museveni’s leadership of more than 30 years and the possibility of Gen Museveni’s eligibility to rule the country for life.
No MP should hide behind the façade of party whipping to justify his or her voting. Save for personal and selfish interests, there was nothing partisan about the Bill: It was a clear case of Uganda vs Museveni. And as a (third?) term MP, Anywar was in a better position to appreciate these things.
Even then, most of the MPs had gotten a hint of the public mood. If one could not be guided by the heart beat of the population, the manner in which the process went was instructive enough to guide one’s vote.
Therefore, it is wrong for MP Anywar to cite weaknesses in the political Opposition when making defence of her vote. Neither is her Independent MP status.
Independent or party card is a platform for candidature, but not a platform for an argument for defence over a particular issue. The platform doesn’t (or rather, it is not supposed to) take away one’s brains (conscious conscientiousness).
As I write this in my hotel room in some far-away climes, I have collected and listened to some of the video clips in which Anywar has been interviewed. Her lines of defence are even inconsistent. But I feel sorry for her; I see someone being manipulated by the media. She is just a victim of the media.
The beginning of her media blitz was an NTV vox-popish interview on December 20. Given her lack of clarity and later the Yes vote she cast, NTV sought her out again. First she appeared on NTV’s On The Spot. And then there was some kind of exclusive NTV interview.
Dear reader, MP Anywar is just a victim of the media’s obsession with controversy. And the earlier she realises that, the better for her political career and family. And I say, MP Anywar needs someone to protect her from the media.
For a fee, I can be her media adviser. My first piece of advice to her is that not all media questions must be responded to. Never allow yourself to be excited by the media; for it is a doubled edged sword: It can build or kill you.
Does Anywar know how the media has been hunting for MP Nabilah Naggayi? But in the circumstances, she would be ill-advised to talk to the media.
Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.