What you need to know:
- "If you are planning to look for a sole candidate to go to the 2026 elections, I am not with you. I will not to be party to be considered for those kinds of things. I don’t think 2026 in itself organised under what we have been discussing will ever cause Ugandans to be free. And the sooner we really unite over that, the better for this country,” Dr Kizza Besigye, Opposition activist.
The Opposition has emerged from its two-day consultative workshop on constitutional and electoral reforms split over how to loosen President Museveni’s nearly four-decade throttlehold on power in Uganda.
The workshop convened by the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP) accentuated two strains that have in recent years polarised the Opposition.
While one school of thought threw its weight behind coalescing one candidate when Uganda next goes to the polls in 2026, another frowned upon normalising a process that has always shaped into what in their book is a ritualistic coronation of the incumbent.
“If you are planning to look for a sole candidate to go to the 2026 elections, I am not with you. I will not to be party to be considered for those kinds of things,” Dr Kizza Besigye said on Friday, adding, “I don’t think 2026 in itself organised under what we have been discussing will ever cause Ugandans to be free. And the sooner we really unite over that, the better for this country.”
The Electoral Commission’s independence, or rather lack of it, came up for mention across the two days the workshop was convened. Dr Besigye, who has been beaten by President Museveni four times at the ballot, said it would be prudent to “invite the whole country not to allow any other person to organise fake elections.”
The founder and former president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party proceeded to state that “no elections will take place … if we lead the country to say ‘no’ to organising fake elections.”
Yet Mr Mike Mabike, who at the turn of the second millennium won the Makindye East MP race on a Democratic Party ticket, believes the Opposition can make a lot of inroads in 2026 with a sole candidate. He was clearly not alone in coming to the conclusion that activism that Dr Besigye pushed for is not a silver bullet.
“We’ve seen pressure groups. The Red Card. Why hasn’t this worked? Doctor, I think there is a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to the side of the Opposition,” Ms Gorreth Namugga, the Mawogola South (National Unity Platform or NUP) lawmaker, said.
A number of NUP lawmakers seemed to be amenable to the idea of coalescing behind one flag bearer in 2026.
“The population needs to know who the flag bearer for the Opposition is, we market our candidate over the next three years, and we face the terrain,” Mr Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West, NUP) said.
There were, however, lots of grey areas perhaps best captured by Mr Patrick Nsamba (Kassanda North, NUP) when he confessed that “the answer is really not coming out yet more clearly.”
In his opening remarks delivered on Friday, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, the NUP principal—told the Opposition that its “main duty should be removing the Museveni dictatorship.” He didn’t offer clarity what shape the removal would embody, but made clear his little faith in electoral processes.
The conclusion of the chief convener, LoP Mathias Mpuuga, told its own story. He said thus: “I will continue convening you to have these intra and inter-party small conversations so that we can agree on how to move to the next level to avoid the controversy that makes us look like we are clueless.”