Uganda’s two main Opposition political actors, Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, yesterday converged in Wakiso Town and pledged to work together to challenge President Museveni and his NRM party in next year’s General Election.
Although Opposition parties principally agreed on the need to form an alliance that will front one candidate to contest against Mr Museveni in the next elections, they did not pronounce themselves on when this will be formed.
People Power spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi said: “We are striving to see that the population speaks out and has a voice. We have always longed to work together as a force and hopefully we see that we can join these energies until the General Election.”
However, this will not be the first time Opposition actors are uniting to challenge the ruling NRM. Opposition political parties made the first attempt under the Interparty Cooperation in the 1996 presidential elections when Uganda Peoples Congress and the Democratic Party fronted Mr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere.
In 2001, the Opposition rallied behind Dr Kizza Besigye under Reform Agenda. In 2016, there were attempts to field one presidential candidate to face Mr Museveni under The Democratic Alliance (TDA) but this collapsed because the Opposition political parties once again failed to agree on who should be their joint candidate.
Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, said yesterday that the Opposition political parties need to be united ahead of the 2021 elections and called on the actors to use defiance and push Mr Museveni out of power.
During his New Year address to the nation, Dr Besigye backed a proposal of fronting a joint presidential candidate.
Early last year, the Democratic Party (DP) led by Mr Norbert Mao mooted a proposal for the opposition to field a single candidate for each elective position at the presidential, parliamentary and Local Council levels in a bid to unseat the ruling NRM party.
Even though the coordinator of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, did not attend yesterday’s press conference, he told Daily Monitor that an alliance is the best chance for the Opposition to defeat Mr Museveni.
Gen Muntu said the Opposition should not only agree on fronting one presidential candidate but also joint candidates for Local Council elections.
However, history shows that this will require Opposition leaders to make sacrifices and put personal interests aside. In the 2016 elections, efforts to form a coalition failed because Opposition leaders could not agree on who was to lead the alliance. TDA, which selected the former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as the joint Opposition presidential candidate, failed after Dr Besigye pulled out.
Statistics of the three previous elections also indicate that Opposition coalitions still got less votes against Mr Museveni. For example in 2006, Mr Museveni got 4,078,677 votes, which represented 59.28 per cent of the total votes cast. He was followed by Dr Besigye with 2,570,572, representing 37.35 percent.
The three remaining Opposition candidates—John Ssebana Kizito (DP) Miria Obote (UPC) and Abed Bwanika got less than 2 per cent combined.
In the 2016 elections, the combined Opposition votes totalled 3,879,940 against Mr Museveni’s 5,971,872.
Mr Godber Tumushabe, the associate director of Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, policy think tank, says as long as the formation of the alliance is intended to win an election, it will be hard to dislodge Mr Museveni.
“My view has always been that we are fighting against a very entrenched dictatorship. Museveni has captured all state institutions. I don’t think a political coalition will make any difference. These political parties have their own differences like in 2016, we tried to have it but because of these differences, it didn’t work,” Mr Tumushabe said.
He said any attempt being made to bring change must not be anti-Museveni. “It should be a pro-democracy alliance. Anti-Museveni coalitions cannot work. You need more pro-democracy alliances that are even open to the NRM members,” Mr Tumushabe said.
Makerere University senior historian Dr Mwambusya Ndebesa also said the Opposition coalition will not work if its sole aim is to win elections.
“The coalition that will work is the alliance to open political space. Elections organised by Museveni won’t be won by someone else,” he said.
Dr Ndebesa also revealed that the Opposition need “a critical political movement” that will force Mr Museveni to negotiate “political space for transition”.
He said the Opposition may not have to come together organisationally but strategically. “They can cooperate without integrating but with one objective of forcing Museveni to negotiate transition and handing over power. Participating in elections is an event. It should be an instrument for mobilisation for bigger goal which is transition and power space,” Dr Ndebesa said.