Uganda’s presidential election, although still a year away, has so far, according to the Electoral Commission, attracted 20 hopefuls and counting.
So who will be the main disrupter against the incumbent Yoweri Museveni and his political foe Dr Kizza Besigye? On Tuesday, former spy chief and security minister Lt. Gen Henry Tumukunde threw his hat into the ring to “escort Museveni home.”
A maverick lawyer-turned-soldier from Museveni’s sub-ethnic group of the Bahima (part of the larger Banyankore tribe) and a close relative by marriage to the Musevenis, Tumukunde’s announcement did not come as a surprise, but the timing raised eyebrows.
Tumukunde’s close relationship with President Museveni will make it hard for him to win over a sceptical public.
In his 34 years in power, Museveni has only had two challengers; Dr Besigye starting from 1999 to the 2001 elections, and Bobi Wine starting in 2017.
While Bobi Wine, is yet to face Museveni directly in a vote, just like Tumukunde, an analysis of voting patterns over the past four elections shows the incumbent is miles ahead. The two first have to dislodge Dr Besigye as opposition voters’ favourite.
In the past four elections Museveni has beaten Besigye by a clear margin of an average 2.5 million; and Dr Besigye has had a lead of between two and 3.5 million over his rivals. To be viable contenders, both Tumukunde and Bobi Wine must marshal numbers at this scale.
Godber Tumushabe, executive director at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, a policy think tank in Kampala says looking at the voter numbers presenting a wring prism to analyse the potential for disruption of elections.
He, however, admits that anybody seeking a major challenge to Museveni must first dislodge Dr Besigye.
“Our analysis of electoral data presupposes that there is a credible electoral system managed by a credible electoral commission that the results that we get are credible,” says Mr Tumushabe.
He says the assumption is wrong arguing that the current structure of results is predetermined to come out the way it does with the winner predetermined and the place of the second runner set.
Crispin Kaheru, an elections expert with the Africa Union says going by the data of election results a credible disrupter would have to “dislodge Besigye.”
The numbers game plays out very well in urban areas.
Statistics from electoral commission show that urban areas have significant number of registered voters, holding up to 35 per cent of the voting population.
This, analysts suggest, are the reasons why the ruling party NRM through the use of the UPF is disrupting all kinds of free political consultations whether through radio talk shows or public meetings. The most affected areas are the two main districts of Kampala and Wakiso in central Uganda.
The two districts add up 1,281,308 and 1,160,551 voters respectively.
Other districts with high number of voters are: Kasese with 372,102, Mukono 354,047, Arua 328,415, Jinja 274,772, Tororo 264,222 Ntungamo 261,953, Mbale 257,276, Luweero 256,454, Buikwe 234,218, Kamuli 233,930, Mayuge 229,252 Isingiro 221,881 and Lira 213,322 and Kyenjonjo 207,370 voters.
“Only 16 of the 135 districts have an immense power in their numbers to determine the political trajectory of Uganda at polls in 2021, all factors remaining constant. They could swing the national election in whichever direction they choose, if they voted homogeneously,” said Mr Kaheru.
But police brutality on the opposition have been vicious experiences in the same districts. For instance, Bobi Wine and his supporters have been on a collision course with police over consultative meetings intended to boost Bobi’s presidential ambitions.