Jinja. Opposition leaders are drawing strategies on how best they can garner support from Busoga sub-region ahead of the 2021 national elections.
For the past two months, the Opposition has attempted to make inroads in the sub-region only for their efforts to hit a police brick wall.
In all instances, they have failed to address urban residents and instead had their convoys diverted to the peripheries or in some instances, back to Kampala.
The former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president, Dr Kizza Besigye, has reportedly held several covert meetings in the area since December last year.
“Are you for example aware that early this year, he (Besigye) travelled to Busia District, spent two days there and nobody noticed?” said a source that did not want to be named because he is not the party spokesperson.
The Democratic Party (DP) was on February 20 stopped from holding their highly anticipated reunion at Jinja Rugby Grounds.
The DP president general, Mr Norbert Mao, who reportedly left Kampala for Jinja at 6am, was immediately upon arrival, placed into a waiting salon car and whisked to Jinja Central Police Station until 3pm when he was escorted out of Jinja.
On March 16, police in Jinja fired teargas and live bullets to disperse supporters of Dr Besigye who had just been hosted on a radio talk show.
Dr Besigye, who had during the talk show, urged Ugandans to oust President Museveni from power before the 2021 general elections, was promptly led to Budondo, on the outskirts of Jinja Town, from where he addressed his supporters.
On March 28, police in Kaliro District blocked Dr Besigye, the FDC party president, Mr Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and other party officials from addressing rallies at Bulumba Trading Centre, Kaliro Town Council, and Lugonyola Landing Site, before dousing them with teargas.
So, why is the Opposition trying, albeit with limited success, to attract Busoga’s attention?
Mr Kenneth Kakande, the DP spokesperson, says their game plan is to sit with other Opposition parties and front a single person against NRM.
Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula, who has since retired to farming in Nawaka Village, Ikumbya Sub-county in Luuka District, says Busoga has been a vote basket for President Museveni since 1996. He says the strategy Mr Museveni has adopted towards Busoga is multi-pronged; ignorance, poverty and containment of the Opposition by using the military and police to exclude their activities from the area.
By doing so, Prof Afunaduula says, the President’s illusionary popularity in Busoga is sustained.
“The police could be clearing the Opposition to hold their rallies but knowing fully well that they can never be allowed to carry out their political activities in Busoga. Doing so could burst the myth of a popular Museveni in Busoga,” he adds.
Prof Moses Khisa, an assistant professor of political science in the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University, does not think the Opposition has a viable game plan for Busoga or for the whole country.
“They are consumed in petty and infantile squabbles, thus it is difficult to see their compelling and overarching strategy. The FDC cannot promise a showdown when they have a divided house and are spending a lot of time directing their fury and fire at Bobi Wine,” Prof Khisa says.
“On what basis is the promised showdown? As for [Maj Gen Mugisha] Muntu working with Mao and Bobi [Wine] again, on what basis and with what modus operandi? Muntu has not shown that he has built any credible and strong political infrastructure on the basis of which he can cooperate or coalesce with other actors,” he adds.
On Busoga as a battleground, Prof Khisa says it has always been NRM’s strategy to keep a stronghold on the sub-region.
A source in FDC, who is familiar with this political jigsaw, says: “Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu wants to ally with Bobi Wine (Kyaddondo East MP) and Mao but for us we are planning for a showdown this year.”
However, Dr Frank Nabwiso, the former Member of Parliament for Kagoma County in Jinja District, says Busoga sub-region has always been taken for granted that they cannot demand for anything.
“FDC is fronting a new Busoga comprising people who are a bit militant. Apparently, it is that language that NRM leaders will accept,” Dr Nabwiso says.
“Nandala (Mafabi) has said many things using a militant voice on Bugisu Cooperative Union and government has bowed. FDC has had Mr Abdu Katuntu [Bugweri County MP] and Mr Paul Mwiru (Jinja East MP). However, Mr Katuntu has announced that he will not contest in 2021 while Mr Mwiru’s political future is in the balance because he is leaning more onto former FDC party president, Gen Mugisha Muntu, than FDC,” he adds.
Dr Nabwiso adds that Busoga has a big population of about four million people and about 38 MPs, including Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, and important government officials such as Hajj Kirunda Kivejjinja.
“In that regard, NRM can claim to be strong with the presence of those individuals in such positions,” he says.
Dr Nabwiso regrets that the sub-region seems to lean on individuals and not a united front, wondering why ‘none’ of the 38 MPs and 10 district chairpersons can meet President Museveni and tell what Busoga wants.
“I don’t know what they (MPs and district chairmen) are afraid of. The biggest economic activity in Busoga is sugarcane farming. Lorries carry sugarcanes not food. Instead, the farmers use the money got from sugarcanes to buy food,” he says.
The NRM’s top most organ, the Central Executive Committee, during a retreat at Chobe Safari Lodge in the Murchison Falls National Park, Nwoya District, in February, set into motion President Museveni’s re-election in 2021.