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M7 endorsement: why opposition wait for power is now eternal

By Henry Mulindwa & Richard Kintu

It is now official: President Yoweri Museveni will be on the 2021 presidential election ballot paper! This follows his endorsement for the top office by the ruling National Resistance movement (NRM) party Members of Parliament on Sunday March 17, 2019.

In a communication issued by Rogers Mulindwa, the NRM party’s Senior Manager for Information, Communication and Public Relations, President Museveni will be the party’s sole candidate for 2021 as per the motion that was moved by Hellen Asamo, the Eastern Region PWDs representative.

Asamo’s motion that confirmed a resolution by the CEC members who retreated to Chobe Safari Lodge in the Murchison Falls National Park, Nwoya District last month; threw weight to an earlier endorsement the NRM national chairman had received from the national association of districts and lower local government councils under their umbrella Uganda Local Government’s Association (ULGA).

This thus means that once this resolution is adopted and approved by the National Delegates’ Conference, President Museveni, already in power for 33 years, will seek a record sixth re-election.


Analyzing the decision by NRM MPs to endorse President Museveni, celebrated political analyst Joseph Tamale Mirundi argued that the latest Kyankwanzi decision sets President Museveni apart as a master of political calculation. He noted that whereas nobody in NRM can stop President Museveni from winning the party card in the primaries during the delegates conference, avoiding the ballot once for all is a better option.

“It is likely that President Museveni cannot get a credible opponent in the Delegates’ Conference. However, in Political Science there is a theory that says that given the unpredictable nature of elections, if you can avoid a ballot you avoid it,” he said.

He made the remarks in reference to MP Sam Lyomoki, who expressed interest in running against Museveni during the Delegates’ Conference. Lyomoki even went ahead to castigate NRM MPs at Kyankwanzi for ring-fencing Museveni against opposition for the party presidential candidate card in 2021.


During a recent interview, Besigye lauded President Museveni for being a strategic thinker who has a rare ability to think ahead of time. And indeed, by ring-fencing himself against possible internal opposition, Museveni vindicates Besigye’s assessment of him. Curiously, this ring-fencing comes at a time when all other NRM party officials have been exposed to open voting in the form of lining behind candidates’ backs as was done in the Local Council elections.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a political observer told The Second Opinion that by Museveni having determined his own destiny this early, he has bought ample time to decimate the opposition and it completely before 2021.

It should be noted that having vaccinated himself against any possible internal challenge, he now only has the opposition rivalry to contend with. The plus for Museveni though is that his 2016 pledge to crash the opposition by 2021 seems to be going according to plan.

“We have to remember that upon swearing-in in 2016, President Museveni vowed to crash the opposition by 2021; it is now apparent that he has achieved this mission if current signals are to be read well,” said the observer.

Curiously, the opposition is now plunged in nasty squabbles highlighted by constant accusations and counteraccusations as well as suspicion towards one another. Even at Kyankwanzi, the President pulled off a symbolic gesture of opposition destruction when he welcomed former FDC bigwig Beatrice Anywar into the NRM fold. It is worth noting that this was the first time Anywar was openly coming out in full NRM colours after years of flirting with the party with praises towards the party chairman.

Already, there have been altercations between DP stalwarts Betty Nambooze and Norbert Mao, with each accusing the other of having their hearts in other parties. In a recent public spat, Nambooze accused Mao of being a pumpkin (DP outside and NRM inside) while Mao accused Nambooze of being watermelon (DP outside and people power inside). However, it is worth noting that the pair’s altercation is hinged on deeper allegations against Mao, with many of his juniors accusing him of working for NRM and President Museveni.

Accusations against Mao were entrenched by Butambala MP Muwanga Kivumbi who accused his party president general of being funded by Museveni to disorganise DP and the entire opposition. Now, while Besigye accused Bwanika of always joining the presidential race so as to enable President Museveni to be last on the ballot paper, Muwanga claimed that Mao will soon declare his candidacy at the sponsorship of Museveni but with the sole aim of splitting the opposition vote.

While the above quarrels seem like they can be solved, the biggest threat about them is that they spill over into the humongous rivalry pitting Dr. Besigye against his prodigy Bobi Wine; which battle has seen both Dr. Abed Bwanika and FDC President Patrick Oboi Amuriat recruited on opposite sides.

The situation became worse after Besigye announced a parallel pressure group called The People’s Government. However, this did not go well with some opposition figureheads mainly those allied to Bobi Wine’s People Power group who even ahead to accuse Besigye of being a Museveni mole who is using his latest move to confuse the opposition in NRM’s favour.

As a way of showing their frustration, a group of alleged People Power diehards roughed up Besigye at CBS radio in Mengo recently as he left a talk show. While hurling insults to Besigye, these attackers told him off to leave the struggle for its new face in Bobi Wine because the retired colonel is now a spent force with nothing more to offer in the move to dislodge Museveni.

Most interesting however is that despite these attacks, there seems to be no clear plan by the opposition to put their house in order.

This is because the response to these attacks has been confusing as it has been incoherent. It should be noted that shortly after the attacks, Bobi Wine came up to distance himself from the attackers, thereby preaching respect and peace towards Dr. Besigye. However, the ensuing comments from opposition leaders points to a scenario of veiled continued hostility between the two camps. For instance, moments after the FDC revealed that they are investigating this fracas against which they will soon issue a report, its party president came out to direct veiled jibes at Bobi Wine. While appearing on NBS TV’s Morning Breeze show, Amuriat took swipe at those claiming that Dr Besigye has become a spent force and irrelevant to contemporary liberation struggle.

He then challenged those calling for Besigye’s exit to prove themselves by filling his role with their own actions.

He said that FDC would not be distracted by the attacks on the party because their ultimate goal remains to change Uganda’s leadership come 2021.

And in a swipe at Bobi Wine, Amuriat advised the opposition to focus on preparing voters for change instead of preaching for the acquisition of a national identity card to vote. He would be later supported by Besigye who reiterated his proclamation that a mere identity card (endagamuntu) cannot dislodge a dictator like Museveni. As if to throw the NRM mole tag back at Bobi Wine, Amuriat opined that it was even possible there were youths in the People Power movement who were being paid by the National Resistance Movement to taint the name of the opposition by instigating disagreements through fights.


Sources in NRM suggest that currently, there are several shades of opinion within regarding the transition process especially when president Museveni decides to leave power at a time he will wish to do so — by the look of things. One such opinion is that there are some top officials who feel threatened if power slides to another region. Therefore, in order to guarantee protection of their wealth and families, leaving power in Besigye’s hands would help. The reason is that Besigye is too rich and also has support already to propel him to state house. It is being reasoned that since he is too rich, he will not hurry to grab the wealth of rich NRM guns unlike other perceived poor candidates.

This opinion however, is reported to be facing a challenge after it emerged that regional politics has set in. We’re told that EAC member countries particularly Kenya and Tanzania are reported to be advising that should Museveni decide to leave power, he shouldn’t leave it in the hands of the military and yet Besigye is a retired Colonel.

The military according to Kenyan and Tanzanian lobbyists must be there to keep democracy just like it is being done in those two countries.

Sources in People Power told us that such NRM’s ploy to favor Besigye has already landed in their ears and has been amplified after the state left Besigye to start addressing rallies in the countryside without security interference and yet the DP reunion meetings are being crashed violently by the security forces. It is the reason the opposition has started viewing Besigye suspiciously though FDC bosses are pinning Dr. Abed Bwanika on being the one leaking DP secrets to the state resulting into meeting flops.

However, according to FDC shadow minister who is also a pro-Besigye MP, William Nzoghu, there’s no fight between People Power and Besigye’s people’s government. He said whereas Bobi Wine talks of people power, it is Besigye who has been leading this crusade since 2001.

He added that Besigye’s people’s government cannot fight with People Power because it is not structured and yet people’s government is structured right from National to village level.

“People power is non-existent. Bobi Wine has been on the political scene for barely two years. People Power has been propelled by Besigye since 2001. So, fighting People Power is like fighting your own shadow,” he said.

To Besigye, systems only function when they are structured and also have membership that is formal and registered.

“The Electoral Commission has already released the 2021 roadmap. If you ask People Power (Bobi) who do you think will guard your votes in Karamoja, Kalangala, Arua or even here in central; they don’t know them. These crowds they get at rallies emerge spontaneously and who makes a follow up on them? I have told Bobi not to go on wolokoso. If he really wants the seat (state house), let him structure himself,” he said.

Asked whether Besigye group accepts that Bobi is a big force currently, Nzoghu said that “Bobi has a following but he doesn’t know. He therefore has to structure himself so that he gets to know his support base. If he does this, then he can come and negotiate with the people’s government.”


To understand the notion that Besigye and the entire opposition will have hardships dislodging NRM and its candidate President Museveni, one needs to recall the defections and opposition attempts of former Museveni bosom buddies in late Premier Eriya Kategaya and one time super minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi. These would see their endeavors heavily dented by mistrust from would-be allies who viewed them as moles of the same man they intended to oust from power. Unfortunately, the mole tag has come back to haunt especially Besigye and his other position cronies; which makes them ready ‘samosas’ for Museveni to maul. It should be remembered that when former premiers Amama Mbabazi and Eriya Kategaya got sacked from government several opinions went around regarding what their next move would be.

Like Mbabazi who was powerful in government where he had served for decades, Kategaya too wasn’t a renowned business politician.

Whereas Mbabazi opted to out rightly stand for President following his sacking on September 18 2014, Kategaya also served a lukewarm stint in the opposition FDC. Mbabazi however, decided to form his own Go Forward party.

Sources stated that Kategaya’s stay there couldn’t meet his financial demands and he therefore opted to join one of the prominent law firms in town since he was a lawyer.

“He however couldn’t stand in court since he had taken long without practicing as an advocate. He ended up working as a clerk in that legal firm,” a source revealed, adding that even within the FDC, Kategaya was being treated suspiciously just like Mugisha Muntu who also eventually fell out with FDC.

The fate that befell Kategaya while in opposition also hit Mbabazi as his own associates in the loose alliance of The Democratic Alliance (TDA) started deserting him accusing him of being an NRM ‘mole’.

Insiders told us that it all started when Besigye formed a secret team which he led to Mbabazi’s office to find out his preparedness for the campaigns.

“Hon. Amama, the issue at hand is not about who should be the presidential flag bearer but getting victory. Can you tell us how you’re structured, how you’re going to bankroll your campaigns and all resources you have so that we know who between you and myself (Besigye) is more organised for us to be able to choose a flag bearer?” Top sources quoted Besigye as telling Amama in the run up to the 2016 elections.

However, sources said Mbabazi refused to divulge those details fearing that Besigye could have been spying on him.

“He didn’t give us the answers. This is the reason we (Besigye group) came out and strongly fought the TDA because it was an amorphous thing,” a top FDC source revealed.

Given that perceived mistrust against Besigye, eventually Mbabazi remained with a small section of DP supporters and his performance in the general election was not only embarrassing but also annoying and shocking.

By press time, gen. Mugisha Muntu’s new formation party had been cleared. It now remains to be seen whether Muntu— who speculators suspect will absorb Bobi Wine into his structures— will act as the balancing act and voice of reason for the opposition. But short of this, President Museveni’s Kyankwanzi milestone means the opposition may eternally wait for their chance to have a shot at the presidency for as long as Museveni is still interested in the topmost political chair.

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