Opposition reflects on ‘tough’ 2021, hopeful about New Year

Dr Kizza Besigye of the People’s Front for Transformation (PFT) and Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of ‘People Power Movement’. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Dr Besigye said despite what had been pertaining in the Roman Empire, Christ’s ministry was able  to overcome to an extent that Rome, which used to be the headquarters of the oppressors, is now the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Leading members of the Opposition, Robert Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Platform (NUP)  party, Patrick Amuriat Oboi of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Nobert Mao of the Democratic Party (DP) and Asuman Basalirwa of the Justice Forum (Jeema) and the former president of FDC, Col Dr Kizza Besigye, have described 2021 as a very challenging year.

The trio believe that the changes will be precipitated by sustaining activism and a change in the approaches and methods of work, but Mr Basalirwa does not share in that optimism.

The leaders made their thoughts known by way of Christmas messages that they sent out earlier in the week.

Mr Kyagulanyi, who is also known as Bobi Wine, described 2021 as “a very tough year”.

“We’ve lost very many loved ones to the brutality of the regime, many are still nursing injuries, others are languishing in jail, simply because they supported us in the elections,” Mr Kyagulanyi said in a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon.

He accused the NRM government of having done all in its power to suffocate democracy and to silence NUP, but hastened to add that the party has emerged stronger and that it has become more emboldened every time attempts have been made to intimidate it.

Besigye speaks

Dr Besigye, a former president of FDC and  head of the pressure group, Red Card Front,  in a message sent out on Tuesday said the celebrations of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ are relevant given the times in which the country finds itself.

“Christ was born during the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. Religious leaders had been corrupted and worked closely with the oppressively rulers; the judges didn’t dispense justice but the will of the ruler and the people lived in fear of the rulers,” Dr Besigye said.

Amuriat’s take

FDC president Amuriat said even as Ugandans celebrate Christmas, there is need to take stock of 2021, which he says has been characterised by gross rights violations and abuses.

“The year 2021 has been characterised from the very start by unfairness, including a violent and rigged general election, and this continued through the recently concluded by-elections,” he said.

Mr Amuriat together with Mr Kyagulanyi, both former  presidential candidates, were arrested on November 18,2020 for allegedly flouting government guidelines on the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus.

“It (2021) has also witnessed grave violations of human rights, including torture of innocent citizens some of whom lost life. Hundreds of political prisoners continue to languish in the country’s prisons and safe houses. Many who are locked up continue to live in fear,” Mr Amuriat said.

He said the gap between the advantaged powerful rich and disadvantaged weak poor has widened; theft of public funds including those meant for the containment of Covid-19 increased; unemployment increased, which has forced many youth to seek employment in the Middle East and relations with neighbouring countries deteriorated further. The situation, he says, is bound to get exacerbated given that Uganda does not have a post Covid-19 recovery plan.

Mao speaks

In a message delivered through the spokesperson of the party, Mr Okoler Opio Lo Amanu, the president general of the Democratic Party (DP), Mr Nobert Mao, noted that whereas several suspected terrorists have either been killed or arrested; and that the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has since launched air strikes on suspected ADF bases in the Congo and made an incursion into the territory in order to flush them out, the threat posed by terrorism remains alive. He called for vigilance.

Uganda suffered terrorism attacks on October 8, October 23 and November 16, the last of which left seven people, including three suspected bombers, dead, and many more injured. 

Among those that died when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the Central Police Station was a police officer. Also  27 of the 37 injured people were police officers.

Two other bombs went off on Parliamentary Avenue, setting vehicles alight and causing damage to several buildings. The attacks are blamed on the DR Congo-based rebel outfit, the Allied Democratic (ADF)  Forces.

In a message that seemed to target the youth, Mr Mao called on them to guard against HIV/Aids, which he said remains a clear and present danger.

“The most important thing is to keep your paraffin in your lamps because Uganda is not ending today.  Definitely after the generation in power, it shall be the youth to take over the affairs of this country. Now the youth should be protecting their lives very jealously,” Mr Mao said.

Mr Mao noted that the political landscape has been strewn with gross human rights abuses and violations that came to a climax during the Kayunga District LCV by-election, where the Electoral Commission (EC) declared the candidate of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), Mr Andrew Muwonge, winner with 31,830 votes and Ms Harriet Nakwedde Kafeero of the National Unity Platform (NUP) second with 31, 380 votes.

Hope

However, the opposition leaders have expressed optimism that significant changes will be occurring  on the political landscape.

Mr Kyagulanyi says the Christmas festivities should serve to give hope to all the oppressed.

Dr Besigye said despite what had been pertaining in the Roman Empire, Christ’s ministry was able  to overcome to an extent that Rome, which used to be the headquarters of the oppressors, is now the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

“The pursuit of justice and dignity for all people should be inspired by the life and ministry of Christ, whose birth we remember and celebrate. The terror and persecution we confront should confirm to us that we are on the right path. Let us celebrate the birth and life of Christ, in spite of the terrible times we are in,” Dr Besigye said.

Mr Amuriat who reiterated FDC’s position that political change will not come by participation in what he described as a “Museveni controlled and directed elections”, expressed optimism that there will be change on the political landscape. That change, he said, will come through nonviolent means.

“Although the year has been full of challenges, we optimistically look forward to a better year ahead. Our preoccupation as a party from the start of 2022 will be to provide the requisite leadership from the front in causing change to happen… We, therefore, have no option but to continue mobilisation of citizens for nonviolent change,” Mr Amuriat said.

Mr Mao said the political challenges that have not been resolved this year will be settled in 2022.

“We are going to have so many by-elections where the stakes are so high in 2022. We expect that the government will do the same that they did in Kayunga. There is only one shield that is to keep us safe from the fangs of the dictatorship. That is unity. When we unite we shall be able to conglomerate Ugandans into a force that can propel the regime out of power. That is my anticipation,” he said.

Pessimistic 

The president of Jeema, Mr Basalirwa, said 2021 has been characterised by politics of deprivation and repression.

“The space for political parties and civil society has been compromised in 2021,” Mr Basalirwa said.

Unlike his counterparts in the opposition, he does not believe that things will get any better in the next year.

Mr Basalirwa opines that the ruling NRM will be even more repressive.

“We are bound to see the regime become more autocratic and disrespectful of human rights and freedoms. The political space will continue to be constricted,” Mr Basalirwa said.

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