This was an election of firsts. It was the first time in Uganda’s history that a sitting vice president lost a parliamentary seat.
It was also the first time that almost 32 per cent of the Cabinet suffered reversals in bids to either retain or take seats in Parliament.
It was also the first time since the first direct elections of 1996 and the return to political pluralism in 2006, that Mr Museveni was beaten in Buganda Sub-region. He lost to National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate Robert Kyagulanyi with a margin of 614,677 votes, having garnered 838,858 votes against Mr Kyagulanyi’s 1,453,535.
The NRM lost the seat of Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and nine others within Buganda alone, and 24 other members of Cabinet lost their seats in Buganda and other areas.
In his address to the nation shortly after being declared winner, Mr Museveni seemed to suggest that the abysmal performance of the NRM in Buganda was down to people voting along tribal lines.
“In some of the voting, the pattern which we saw, very interesting, you can see some of that. Where now instead of people looking to solve the social economic issues of the people, they now bring back sectarianism. Like you saw the voting, for instance in Buganda,” Mr Museveni said.
But Prof Julius Kiiza, who teaches Political Science at Makerere University, argues that those looking at the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections results from Buganda region with ethnic lenses are missing a very big point.
“The ethnicisation of voter behaviour misses one critical fact; that not all those that registered to vote in Buganda are Baganda. As the highest number of Uganda’s urban population, citizens in the central Uganda voted for change. Theirs was a protest against the incumbent, not necessarily a block vote for Mr Kyagulanyi,” Dr Kiiza argues.
He argues that urban-based voters, who are more politically conscious, predominantly voted the Opposition because their desire was to see a change in the governance.
What about Busoga?
If Mr Museveni thinks he lost Buganda because of tribal sentiments, how would he explain his defeat in Busoga sub-region, where the voters chose not to vote for their own – Ms Nancy Kalembe – and settled for Mr Kyagulanyi?
Mr Museveni had previously enjoyed immense support in Busoga. He had never lost the Busoga vote since 1996, but lost it this time round.
Mr Kyagulanyi got 437,059 votes against Mr Museveni’s 404,862 votes to take Busoga, with a margin of 32,197 votes.
Mr Kyagulanyi won in eight out of the region’s 11 districts. He took Kamuli, Luuka, Iganga, Jinja, Bugweri, Bugiri, Namayingo and Mayuge districts, leaving Mr Museveni with only Buyende, Kaliro and Namutumba.
Whereas the NRM retained most of the parliamentary seats in Busoga, the Opposition made some major gains in the region.
FDC took the Jinja West seat from the NRM and also won in the newly created Jinja North Constituency.
NUP, on the other hand, took the newly-formed Jinja City Woman MP seat.
Mr Magode Ikuya, an NRM historical and former director for mass mobilisation at the Movement Secretariat, also argues that the new voting patterns come down to failures in the politics of the NRM.
“We (NRM) wanted to hoist a political line that would be rallying people around structural issues, but that collapsed. Politics is now about what people think about themselves and false politicking. That is a failure of the politics,” Mr Ikuya argues.
How does Museveni proceed?
Whatever the cause of the new voting pattern, the biggest question now is how Mr Museveni will proceed given that two of his biggest bastions of support have gravitated to the Opposition.
Mr Museveni has often criticised members of his Cabinet for, among other things, being ‘useless’.
During the 6th presidential investors roundtable at State House Entebbe in February 2019, for instance, Mr Museveni described his current crop of ministers as ‘selfish people’ who had failed to subordinate their interests to those of the nation.
Whereas he had previously encouraged the electorate to vote NRM MPs – saying even if they were “sick and sleeping”, they would be better than active Opposition MPs – he lambasted the ministers for sleeping on the job.
“Many of my ministers are sleeping. They are selfish and only think about themselves,” Mr Museveni said.
Did the electorate read into his frustration with the ministers and chose to help him retire them? What is he going to do with his vanquished cadres? Will he retain most of them? Or will he take advantage of what transpired in the constituencies to show them the exit and create room for the injection of new blood into what has been coming across, even to himself, as a lethargic and ineffective team?
Mr Onapito Ekomoloit, a former presidential press secretary, who was also MP for Amuria County, believes Mr Museveni still has so many options if he chooses to have a big number of people from Buganda in his Cabinet.
“Mr Museveni can pick on some people from around Mengo (the seat of the Buganda Kingdom) and others closely associated with the Kabaka to work with,” Mr Ekomoloit says.
Mr Ikuya believes it is time for Mr Museveni to go back to the drawing board and carry out wide consultations.
“The problem is that they no longer convene political meetings. But this should happen very fast because what happened in Buganda might happen in Bunyoro. There is need to understand the underlying issues. If we do not, someone will come up and claim to have solutions and before you know it, he will have overwhelmed you. (Idi) Amin came up with 18 points (when he captured power in 1971). How long did it take to get rid of him?” Mr Ikuya quips.
Mr Ikuya believes it is time for Mr Museveni and the NRM to do things a bit differently.
“The Baganda have said certain things. So how do you govern in Buganda when the political thinking is the way it is? If we are not able to persuade, then it means the politics has either collapsed or the idea. So there is need for a change in either the message or the idea. The message is either not there or it is packaged wrongly,” Mr Ikuya, also a member of the NRM Veterans League, says.
Name and Docket
Edward K. Ssekandi-Vice President
Amelia Anne Kyambadde-Trade, Industry and Cooperatives
Vincent Ssempijja-Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
Beti Kamya-Lands, Housing and Urban Development
Prof Ephraim Kamuntu-Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Judith Nabakooba-Information, Com Tech and National Guidance
Dr Elioda Tumwesigye-Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation
Ruth Nankabirwa-Government Chief Whip
Ministers of state
Molly Kamukama-Office of the President (Economic Monitoring)
Simon Lokodo-Office of the President (Ethics and Integrity)
Dr Atwooki Kasirivu-Office of the Vice President
Dennis Ssozi Galabuzi-Office of the Prime Minister (Luweero Triangle)
Julius Wandera Maganda-East African Community Affairs
Agnes Akiror Office of the Prime Minister (Teso Affairs)
Ernest Kiiza-Office of the Prime Minister (Bunyoro Affairs)
Christopher Kibazanga-Defence and Veteran Affairs (Veteran Affairs)
Dr John C. Muyingo-Education and Sports (Higher Education)
Rosemary Seninde-Education and Sports (Primary Education)
Joy Kabatsi -Transport
Beatrice Atim Anywar-Environment
Isaac Musumba-Urban Development
Benny Namugwanya-Kampala Capital City
Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi-Youth and Children Affairs
Mwesigwa Rukutana-Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations
One of the biggest talking points has been around how Mr Museveni will deal with the issue of the vice presidency.
The position of vice president has been held by a Catholic since 1994 when Mr Museveni appointed Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe to the Number Two job.
The job has been held by Catholics from Buganda region since Dr Kazibwe’s resignation in May 2003, following what is believed to have been a gentleman’s agreement between Mr Museveni and Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala.
The two principals are said to have reached the agreement after Dr Kizza Besigye declared in October 2000, his intention to challenge Mr Museveni for the presidency.
Worried that Dr Besigye would, through his wife, Winnie Byanyima, a Catholic, swing the Catholic vote towards Dr Besigye, Mr Museveni is said to have met the Cardinal and asked him to help secure the Catholic vote for him.
Sources close to both the presidency and some former members of the Rubaga Foundation, which brought together Catholics from all walks of life, indicated that Mr Museveni promised that he would in return appoint a Catholic to the vice presidency and also appoint many more to the Cabinet.
The appointment of a Muganda Catholic would serve two purposes. It would please both the populous Buganda region and the Catholic Church and keep their political support coming. That set the stage for the appointment of Prof Gilbert Bukenya, who served between May 2003 and 2011 before he was succeeded by Mr Ssekandi.
The political landscape has, however, changed. Mr Museveni has lost Buganda and his vice president was rejected by the people of Bukoto Central, Masaka District. Does he retain Mr Ssekandi as VP? What would be his options if he chose to bring the curtain down on Mr Ssekandi’s tenure as Vice President?
Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a lecturer at Makerere University, told Saturday Monitor in a previous interview that Mr Museveni does not like having vibrant personalities as his vice presidents.
“Mr Museveni appoints a vice president who, in his (Museveni’s) calculations, cannot think of having designs on the presidency. If a vice president shows any designs on the big job, he is fired,” Prof Ndebesa says.
“Buganda will most likely play second fiddle. He (Mr Museveni) does not want to show that he is disturbed or unsettled by what happened even if he internally is. He will try to take them (Buganda) through some political purgatory. It (Buganda) will take a while to get back into the fold,” Mr Ekomoloit argues.
Dr Kiiza, however, points out that Mr Museveni should not sacrifice competence at the altar of political expedience, especially given that neither the Constitution nor any other legislation ring-fences the office of Vice President to the Baganda.
“Rather than appointing a sleeping and incompetent vice president to supposedly appease the Baganda, what our people need are competent leaders, irrespective of their real or perceived ethnic identity,” argues Dr Kiiza.
Factoring in other regions into play
Mr Ekomoloit believes the next Vice President will be picked from another region.
“The vice presidency might for the first time come from northern Uganda. The NRM and Mr Museveni did quite well in Acholi, West Nile and even Lango, where they have an alliance with the UPC faction loyal to Mr Jimmay Akena. Mr Akena could as well be the next Vice President,” Mr Ekomoloit says.
During his speech last Saturday, Mr Museveni indicated that he was open to dialogue with the Opposition.
“The important thing is to maintain peace so that any dialogue is peaceful and meaningful. Actually, we have contacts with some of these groups, we can talk. Whatever divisions we have, we shall talk,” he said.
Will the next Vice President and Cabinet be a product of such talks if ever they take place? Or will it be informed by voting patterns in last week’s general elections?
That we wait to see.