What you need to know:
- When the party joined the fray in 2019, it chose town hall meetings over conventional mammoth rallies that have come to define Uganda’s body politic.
Opposition political parties have been figuring out how to respond to Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s possible run for the presidency.
Some, like the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), have warned that demonstrations are not off the table.
“We want to encourage [President] Museveni to hand over a list of his properties to his children and wives. Uganda is not a family property and Kainerugaba must know this,” Kira Municipality MP, also FDC spokesperson, Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, said.
“We will mobilise the country to resist any attempt by Museveni to hand over our country to any member of his family. If they want, let them share Rwakitura and Kisozi (Museveni’s country homes) and not Uganda,” he added.
The Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) has responded rather differently.
“My insistence is that let him first retire Gen Muhoozi then he can continue with political manipulation,” ANT founder Gen Mugisha Muntu said, adding: “We shall deal with them differently, but this army needs to be given the respect it has been built on blood. The armed men and women are still shedding blood even as we speak that needs to be respected. It can’t be for an individual.”
Three years on…
In March, ANT marked three years of existence. When the party joined the fray in 2019, it chose town hall meetings over conventional mammoth rallies that have come to define Uganda’s body politic.
“Focusing on small town hall style meetings has allowed us to engage in conversations with voters, not just one-way rallies,” Gen Muntu reasoned then.
Mr Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University, said he initially thought ANT would appeal to people not “interested in the politics of mud-slinging.” The party, however, polled dismally during the 2021 General Election despite getting political heavyweights such as Mr Gerald Karuhanga, Mr Kassiano Wadri and Mr Paul Mwiru in its tent.
This past week, an unsuccessful election petition by Mr Mwiru challenging Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta’s election as Jinja South East lawmaker was dismissed. This means ANT won’t add to the different political shades in the 11th Parliament. The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Mwiru’s appeal on grounds that he had failed to file within the prescribed timelines.
“Rule 31 is quite clear that the appellant shall lodge with the registrar of the Court of Appeal within 30 days after the filing by him or her of the memorandum of appeal,” Justices said in a judgment read by the court’s deputy registrar.
A SWOT analysis carried out by the party last year was expected to be telling. It showed ANT that an attempt was being made to punch above its weight.
“Finances were a major hindrance in our campaigns,” Edith Sempala, who leads ANT’s women wing, confessed.
Before the 2021 polls, attempts to court FDC stalwarts such as Mr Elijah Okupa, who represents Kisilo County; Ms Angelline Asio Osegge, who lost her Soroti Woman MP seat to FDC’s Anna Ebaju Adeke; Mr Abdu Katuntu, who retained his Bugweri County seat after tussling it out with FDC’s Julius Galisonga; Prof Morris Ogenga-Latigo, who was defeated in the Agago North race; and Abed Nasser Mudiobole, who, for the umpteenth time, lost the Iganga Municipality race to Peter Mugema, all fell through.
“They had counted on them because MPs have money. They can print posters for councillors and many other things, but they didn’t show up,” a source at ANT told Saturday Monitor.
During the party’s soul-searching meetings, its members also attributed its abysmal performance to dark arts deployed by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
“We had expectations in Ntungamo [Municipality],” Ms Sempala said, attributing Mr Karuhanga’s loss to “soldiers who voted.”
“Even in Arua, we had the same problem. Hon Wadri was targeted by the NRM. We also had Hon Mwiru, whose appeal was thrown out by the court not on the substance of the matter but on a technicality,” she added.
Above all, the National Unity Platform (NUP) wave that swept across the Buganda region did not spare ANT.
Ms Sempala said people in the region “just vote for what’s trending without factoring in who exactly they are voting for. So we were affected in a way.”
ANT has consistently insisted that they build a party based on grassroots policies as opposed to individualism. Many observers, however, believe this is ideal.
“It’s not the persona that matters in Uganda as such, but the constituencies you represent,” Mr Ndebesa says, adding: “I think [Gen Muntu] failed to identify the constituencies to associate with. You can’t create constituencies by running around and talking. You must have a social base, a natural constituency.”
He, for instance, noted that NUP and its leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, identified with the youth, Buganda, Roman Catholics, and the music fraternity.
ANT senior officials, however, insist that it’s foolhardy to dismiss their approach.
“Even if we throw stones, Museveni has been here. Haven’t people tried to go to the City Square [to protest]? Has Museveni left? Which style has worked?” Ms Alice Alaso asked rhetorically, adding, “Let them advise us on the style of politics that has removed Museveni from power in the last 35 years and then we shall change.”
A former secretary general of the FDC, Ms Alaso, who currently is ANT’s acting national coordinator, says her party chooses “to be diplomatic” because “we know President Museveni maximises the use of cohesive instruments of the state.”
“ANT is not in the popularity contest and our objective is to nurture people with the correct message. We want people to appreciate the importance of value-based leadership,” she adds.
Building party structures or concentrating on the removal of Museveni from power is one of the reasons that led to the split within FDC that created Dr Kizza Besigye and Gen Muntu factions.
ANT spokesperson Wilberforce Sseryazi says their long-term strategy is to “entrench the party in the country beyond the next election.”
Ms Sempala concludes: “I know people talk about removing the dictator, but for us, the most important thing is to break the cycle of dictatorship.”