Things have been looking up for the rosary wearing Patrick Amuriat Oboi, the FDC president. After winning a highly contested election for president where he defeated former Army Commander Mugisha Muntu, FDC picked up two key victories sweeping NRM aside in Jinja East and Rukungiri. Then came last week’s election where NRM swept five out of seven seats. The other pair went to Jeema with the support of DP in Bugiri Municipality and UPC elected its 7th MP in Apac although Patrick Ocan seems to be a scofflaw from the law.
The by-elections were held in four major geographical regions of the country, Nebbi, Apac (northern) Kotido/Bugiri (eastern) and Western (Ibanda, Sheema). In one sense, these results were expected the incumbency rule generally favours NRM, which represented the larger constituencies in Sheema, Nebbi, Kotido and Ibanda. In Bugiri, FDC had high hopes after winning the Woman seat, and narrowly losing Wafula Oguttu’s Bukhooli Central seat in 2016.
FDC was unfairly blamed for sticking their guns on their candidate, a political novice Eunice Namatende, whom they had fielded first in 2016. FDC was accused of being greedy, a charge that stuck even though they eventually managed to lose in all seven races.
For all its weaknesses, FDC has created inroads in former NRM strongholds. In Sheema Municipality, where there was an alleged over vote (miraculous turnout), FDC lost by just over 1,000 votes. In Apac, the surge from behind win of UPC is mostly attributable to the industrious Maxwell Akora, the Maruzi MP.
In less than 30 months, campaigns will be in full gear for the 2021 general election. Uganda’s political configuration dominated by NRM has produced a status quo. Just 80-90 seats are genuinely competitive, a third of which are in Buganda. NRM has carefully diluted the Opposition strength by carving seats on mountain-sides, bus-stops, through numerous new districts.
Even in a region like Busoga, where most government policies have produced adverse outcomes and biting poverty, NRM has ceded just three to four seats at a time. In northern Uganda, the sentiment among the elite, is that they are happy to feed off the crumbs off the table and are in no mood to challenge the status quo.
For FDC, the ageing of its pioneer group, most of whom have stepped on the wayside, new ideas and dynamism is critical. In Teso, a perennial bellwether still recovering from the insurgency, FDC suffered a bloody nose in 2016 that swept Amuriat and Alice Alaso out of Parliament.
Next door in Bugisu, where FDC is anchored by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, FDC won just three seats, but a strong presence on the ground informed a high defection rate by NRM MPs in the age limit debate in opposition to amendment to the Constitution. NRM MPs, Connie Nakayenze Galiwango (Mbale) and John Baptist Nambeshe (Bududa).
In Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza (FDC’s), the first woman to hold this post, has done relatively well keeping her troops united. This is a complicated task as many MPs from the opposition sing opposition praises for the cameras but are in bed with the government at night. There have been a few embarrassing episodes arising out of this scratch my back I scratch yours too.
Opposition MPs featured prominently on the list of persons accused by police leadership of scamming free fuel. Opposition MPs took part in the reappointment of Kale Kayihura as IGP, including the 2017 reappointment, when it was clear that the gentleman had lost a grip on rising waves of crime and credible information had begun to mount of criminal activities by his subordinates.
In fact, when he was fired and later incarcerated, it was the same group that made a lot of noise about his situation, oblivious of the fact that while in office, Kayihura had done a lot to degrade the status and independence of the courts. Police simply ignored court process when it could. Police also began the practice of vetting court orders prior to their enforcement.
Mr Ssemogerere is an attorney-at-Law and an advocate. [email protected]