OPINION: Museveni Would Lose Only if Left to Run Alone

Boycott would signal to a rebirth of real, change-seeking opposition in Uganda.

During the #Togikwatako campaign, after Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers had brutalized opposition legislators, Museveni realized he risked winning the vote against zero opposition.

Victory against no opponent is meaningless. Opposition MPs had agreed to simply boycott parliament and allow the man have his way. News in the corridors of power confirmed – there is never concrete evidence for stuff like this – that Museveni quickly entered a deal with opposition politicians to have them stay in parliament.

Instead of boycotting, they were being asked – contracted – to stay in, campaign and vote against the amendment. This way, Museveni’s pre-determined victory would actually claim the legitimacy of competition. The actual amount of “professional fees” disbursed to his clients [we need to keep a strictly business language here] remain unconfirmed: while some sources claim it was Shs 70m for each, others have indicated Shs 40m was the deal.

See, while the opposition would be victorious in boycotting, they would also have done their job – as opposition – if they stayed in parliament and opposed the amendment. There, voters would see them either way as doing their job.

But while boycotting would actually dent Museveni’s pre-determined victory, staying in parliament and simply opposing the amendment bolstered this victory. That is why Museveni was paying for opposing – and not boycotting – the entire process. Our opposition politicians played ball.

Incumbent presidential candidate, Yoweri Museveni must be hurting from Besigye’s decision not to stand in the 2021 polls.

See, Besigye offered him the best candidate, and stiff competition to “win” against. He was the standard pugilist in the other corner for a believable showdown. A well-educated, genuinely angry and articulate soldier, Besigye was the gold standard character for opposition drama.

A tough-talking contender, with an unmistakable presence, gruff-voiced Besigye was a natural crowd puller necessary for display of power. Sometimes, when a low crowd turnout was anticipated, Museveni’s team, through especially Boda-Boda 2010, mobilized crowds for Kizza Besigye – most famously when former prime minister Amama Mbabazi joined the fray of opposition.

The election thus had “stiff competition” absolutely necessary for a national election – with pre-determined results. It has to look like a real election.

That Besigye is out surely hurts the Museveni camp. A Museveni “victory” in the forthcoming election is surely guaranteed, but there needs to be a show of competition. The uncertainty – over enough competition – has surely thrown NRM into panic as they have to have a performatively real election with a strong challenger.

And this is not to underestimate the place and stature of Bobi Wine as a challenger. Rather, I am speaking to how Kyagulanyi is likely to be cast in some NRM pre-scripted drama. Indeed, this essay seeks to celebrate the stature of Bobi Wine as the new kid on the block.

Although Bobi Wine does not offer a perfect replacement for Kizza Besigye as an electoral challenger, he will certainly give them a good show. Charismatic, musical, and creative, Bobi Wine has emerged as the candidate of choice especially in Kampala. If the double-standard nonsense of no open campaigns is not sustained, Bobi will surely pull large crowds.

Plus, with Abdallah Kitatta back in circulation, Bobi can be helped to give NRM good competition estimating or even more than Besigye. In the end, Museveni will win a good win – with competition from a good candidate.

My contention is this: if the opposition wants Museveni to lose, they have to do what they failed or refused to do in during the #Togikwatako campaign: let Museveni run against himself. The mantle falls on the main contender of the moment who happens to be candidate Robert Kyagulanyi.

Mr Kyagulanyi has to follow Besigye’s example [it came late, I know], and boycott these uninteresting electoral Olympics. If boycotting were also embraced by Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Nobert Mao, Patrick Amuriat/Wasswa Birigwa, Museveni would be a dead man.

They could argue that they are short on resources, and are instead using the little they have to build their parties. They could also claim Covid-19 is a real threat, and cannot risk the lives of Ugandans. I cannot imagine the panic Museveni would be thrown into anticipating their next move.

Opposition politicians have always wanted to unite, and the best unity under Uganda’s sophisticated autocracy, is unity in boycott. And there is no better time to pull this off than under the madness of scientific election.

Of course, there would be underlings claiming to fill the opposition void: there would be a Gen. Henry Tumukunde, a Maureen Kyalya, and a Joseph Mabirizi. But these remain minions whose power is in running alongside others. Boycott would signal to a rebirth of real, change-seeking opposition in Uganda.
|||By YUSUF SERUNKUMA. The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.|||

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