Bugiri parliamentary by-election has exposed Uganda’s Opposition

Tuesday June 12 2018


By Nicholas Sengoba

Uganda’s Opposition parties are pointing daggers at each other in the by-election for the Bugiri Municipality parliamentary seat. Voices from the Opposition, especially from the Democratic Party (DP), feel that only Jeema Party president Asuman Basalirwa should stand for the post. To their chagrin, FDC have fielded Eunice Namatende.

For that, FDC has been labelled greedy and inconsiderate. Former party president Kizza Besigye is taking most of the stones thrown at FDC. They claim he is egocentric. It is said since he came to the scene as an opponent of President Museveni before the 2001 election, the Opposition stood behind him right through 2006, and 2011.
In 2016, part of the Opposition supported Amama Mbabazi of the then newly formed Go Forward party. Again on that occasion, Besigye was the main subject as they thought he was selfishly standing in the way of a united Opposition beating NRM. Besigye faired far better than Mbabazi in what was described as a stolen election in favour of NRM.

It should be noted that Besigye did not also take it within his stride. While campaigning in Butambala, he took exception to sharing a platform with Muwanga Kivumbi because Kivumbi had elected to support Mbabazi.
The Baganda have an interesting saying that only the rain can test and validate the resilience of a grass-thatched roof. We always hear actors within Uganda’s Opposition preaching about democracy and vowing to fight for it.

Now it is raining and we are being treated to a very disappointing spectacle and reality. Democracy is about the people. It is for the people by the people and of the people. The people need to be given an opportunity to decide on who they want to lead them. Simply sell your idea to them.

Ring-fencing positions is a form of rigging an election for it diminishes the options of the voters and leads them coercively into a direction which may not necessarily be of their choice. The people, not the leaders should decide who they want to lead them. What should be prayed for is a free and fair process for all.

The tendency within Uganda’s Opposition is that many players think they know everything and it is their duty to direct the people on whom they should vote for. Anything or anyone who is contrary to their stand is labelled a pariah, who has been paid to disorganise the Opposition. These cheap shots are intended to intimidate and manipulate people into following particular individuals and their ideas.

FDC is a political party whose mission is to vie for power like any other political party. They have every right to field a candidate in any election. Jeema has the same right and owes no one an apology.
If one does not voluntarily stand down for the other, it should not be treated as a crime. After all, it is the people who will decide.

There is no need for people to call others names and blackmailing them. If in the past, the Opposition stood behind Besigye, they were not doing him a favour. They saw him as their best bet. In other words, they stood to benefit from his popularity and courage.

Many of the MPs always invited Besigye to their rallies and fought to stand next to him and have him speak highly of their capabilities as ‘our candidate.’ They fuelled his vehicle, not as a favour to him, but also that they could take a lift in it. It is dishonest to turn round and claim that he is selfish yet they were riding on his back as well.
Similarly, it is not right that the currently dominant opposition party FDC should behave like they are entitled to the Opposition vote. Being a dominant political party at one point in time does not mean you will dominate forever. UPC and DP in the 80s had no equal in Uganda.

KANU in Kenya and UNIP in Zambia almost had the entire Parliament of those countries to themselves. These days, they just have a handful. Having humility and a sense of history is important.

All Ugandans have a right to present themselves to voters without hindrance - even if people believe that they have no chance. The voters are not fools, let them decide. There is no need for mudslinging.
Namatende and Basalirwa, go sell your ideas to the people, they will decide.

Politics should not be a do-or-die. Not all of us will go to Parliament. The trouble with the Opposition is that when a person fails to enter Parliament, then they go into hibernation until the next election because they think Parliament is the only stage to effectively play politics and bring about change.
The Opposition has to expand the political base and thinking because they are not exactly effective in a Parliament where they are terribly out-numbered.

Besigye and Raila Odinga in Kenya are not in Parliament, but they command a great following. Of course, we recognise the pecuniary benefits therein to an individual who makes it to the august House. If that is what one is looking for, then it is another matter altogether.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. [email protected] Twitter: @nsengoba