NRM govt is better off freeing and empowering Opposition parties  

Tuesday September 29 2020
sengobapix
By Nicholas Sengoba

It has become the norm. Opposition political parties and politicians in Uganda can’t respire and it is only getting worse. 

If the security agents are not dispersing and scuttling their efforts to meet the people, mobilise and attempt to strengthen their effort, acolytes of the ruling NRM party are buying off their members with money and promise for State jobs. 

Every passing election sees an even weaker fielding by the Opposition despite the fact that grievances against the long stay of the NRM government are not only growing longer, but are also easier to explain to the multitudes of people affected by them. Poor schools. Hospitals becoming hospices. 

The brutality and impunity of security agents. The increase in reliance on nepotism and ethnic considerations as a basis of national resource allocation, among others,  are not alien or mere hearsay to many. They are now open secrets.

So we have a contest where an opponent  who happens to be sponsored by the State, financially and has at his disposal the instruments of coercion to use when push comes to shove, is also organising the competition. On the other hand, you have extremely weak or virtually non-existent disorganised political parties, which for practical purposes, exist only in name. 

On the face of it, it is an advantage to NRM for they are in a boxing ring with an opponent whose hands are tied and eyes blind folded. But in reality, it is extremely dangerous both for the NRM and for the country at large. 

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It is common knowledge to hunters and even to generals on the battlefield that when an animal or an army is surrounded, it is important that they are left a corridor to escape. This corridor gives them hope for life after the battle. 

In case it becomes untenable to fight on, they may run for safety and thus minimise casualties for themselves and the attacking army. 
If they do not have that window of hope, they are likely to fight for their lives, since they will die anyway.
 
When followers get frustrated with political parties that do have the capacity to provide meaningful opposition to the ruling NRM, they will be led into temptation to use means outside the known political avenues. 

Uganda is slowly getting to that level. If political organisations opposed to NRM lose meaning, the members who are mainly energetic, unemployed youth will have no point of convergence to unify and guide them. 

They will end up like stray dogs with without proper leaders to discipline and provide them direction to achieve their political goals. Eventually, you will have anarchy and violence and that will derail everyone. 

One may be tempted to think that because the NRM has the backing of the State on its side, this is a minor problem that may be solved by deploying the coercive instruments of the State, but it is not that easy.

When taking on the State, the weak and dispossessed have dangerous options. One of these is that they are motivated by the fact that they have nothing to lose. Heads or tails, their destiny is suffering and death. Leaders with moral authority like the men of the cloth have been pocketed. The police and the courts are too weak to protect them so they are left to their own devices. 

The youth that have kept the Palestinian uprising (Intifada) against Israel in the occupied territories plus the young people deployed by terrorist organisations  such as the al-Shabaab and al- Qaeda, in suicide attacks, may not over throw regimes, but are of a nuisance value.

They have increased the cost of doing business across the world as security checks have now become a way of life. The spending on research to detect hidden explosives in mundane personal care items like perfume and toothpaste keeps escalating to keep abreast with the quest for terrorists to conceal their life and property destroying explosives.

Coming back home, we may have to build higher and re-enforced wall fences. Invest in bullet proof vests and vehicles in our convoys plus hire more armed guards. That is why the ruling NRM needs to go back to the drawing board and assess its strategy of decapitating Opposition political parties as a strategy of domination.

It may now be smarter to ironically prop up Opposition political parties formally, using State funding and giving them the more legroom to mobilise and meet the people. This will give them an avenue to vent their anger and grievances in an organised manner and give them hope. 

NRM should not have fear for they still have the advantage of holding sway over the electoral commission whose members are hand-picked by the party head of the NRM. So giving the parties a considerable amount of breathing space does not mean throwing out all NRM’s advantages in the unbalanced political sphere.

The alternative is disaster for it is easier to deal with one tamed lion than a scattered field of angry, energetic radar-less wild jack asses.

Twitter: @nsengoba

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