Charles Onyango Obbo
Uganda’s 2016, rule of the generals, and how media feeds the beast
Posted Wednesday, October 2 2013 at 01:00
So the choice in 2016 is already down to which general shall be president.
Step by step, the shape for the 2016 election continues to take shape. As this column noted before, one of the first key stages was to decide who the National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate would be. The issue was resolved in the uproar over the “Muhoozi Project”.
Between April and June this year, Uganda was turned upside with the agitation over an alleged plot by Museveni to install his son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who is the commander of the Special Forces, as his successor. The anti-dynastic noise was remarkably loud. Ever sly Museveni succeeded in getting Ugandans (at least the NRM supporters) to say they preferred the father to the son.
Armed with that tactical endorsement, the next step was to define what kind of qualifications Museveni’s main candidate would need, and the issues of the 2016 campaign. Here, Museveni and his strategists went back to a script that has always favoured him. The President likes to call on his credentials as a guerrilla leader and a commander-in-chief who has faced off enemies in the region and triumphed.
First, the election of Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu as the leader of the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was one way in which the non-state political actors endorsed the idea that if the opposition wins the next election, then Museveni’s successor would still be an ex-soldier.
The “Muhoozi Project” also played to that construction about power in Uganda; if Museveni were not going to continue as the NRM candidate, then his replacement too would be a soldier – Brig Muhoozi.
Circumstances then conspired to reinforce this martial landscape, with the media offering a news menu dominated by men in uniforms and with guns. The big story of the year in Uganda will no doubt be Gen David Sejusa’s letter that really lit up the fire over the “Muhoozi Project” affair, with the sensational claim that there was a plot to assassinate those opposed to it. The Daily Monitor was on top of the story, and it was shut down for two weeks for its pains.
Sejusa then took off to the UK, where he has continued to make headlines with interviews on the BBC, VOA, and controversial revelations about goings on in Kaguta’s political house. At home, meanwhile, the news has been about two generals. One was Inspector General of Police Gen Kalekezi Kayihura, who never seems to leave the front pages.
More recently, it has been in a strange feud with the Minister of State for Lands Idah Nantaba. Before that it had been over the Police’s use of excessive force against Kisekka Market protestors, Kampala mayor Erias Lukwago, and former FDC president Col Kizza Besigye, who still unhinges the Museveni government with his every cough.
Next up was Gen Aronda Nyakairima, who was dropped as army commander and appointed minister of Internal Affairs. However, he didn’t resign from the military and Parliament tried to block his appointment. In the end State House cracked the whip and rammed his appointment through. Now Museveni has carefully been building a conversation about another general – Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader “Major General” Joseph Kony.
Museveni has tried to manouvre himself into the position of the lead African voice against the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Right now, he has made it seem that it is because of the case at ICC against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, over their alleged lead role in the 2008 Kenya post-election violence in which nearly 1,400 people were killed and 650,000 displaced. Others claim that Museveni is jittery about an assertive ICC, because it might go after him one day.
Museveni was once a staunch champion of the ICC, especially after it indicted Kony and his commanders. But that was because the LRA still posed a threat, and the President wanted to line up international support against Kony partly as a means for domestic legitimisation of his rule.
Kony, however, is now roaming the jungles of the DR Congo and the Central African Republic and the LRA is falling apart. A strident anti-ICC position means Museveni doesn’t have to cooperate in arresting Kony and handing him to The Hague, something he doesn’t want to do because his plan is to use the northern Uganda vote as the centre-pin of his re-election. As someone noted, he has travelled to northern Uganda in the last year more than to any other part of the country except his country home Rwakitura.
Secondly, for African leaders in search of an ideological purpose and a new enemy, and African intellectuals seeking a popular philosophical foothold, ICC bashing is today’s pan-Africanism and radical anti-imperialism.
So the choice in 2016 is already down to which general shall be president, and which general’s issues shall be the issues of the day.