The year 2020 is beginning in a high notch considering that yesterday Saturday, President Yoweri Museveni began his long march from Galamba in Wakiso to Birembo in Kibaale district, a distance of about one hundred ninety-five kilometers leading liberation war veterans, servicing army personnel, political leaders and youths. The trek will be over a six-day period with rests at eight preselected venues where captivating war story-telling will be over camp fires. The journey, routes and duration have been modified to accommodate the demands of the veterans and local population to include some major landmark places along the way. This is the second such walk after the 1999 one led by President Museveni to retrace his guerrilla war routes.
For starters Galamba was a major base and theatre of the NRA within the broader Luwero Triangle. It is situated about 15 kilometers along the Matuga-Nakaseke road before Semite. Birembo is the famous rendezvous where in 1985 President Museveni, then the guerrilla leader met the enigmatic Mobile Force Brigade Commander, Salim Saleh Rufu on his way back after capturing a bounty of arms from Kabamba military barracks far away and hundreds of kilometers in Mubende district. The journey will cross six districts of Wakiso, Nakase, Mityana, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, and Kibaale, and is expected to be a tough one considering that it is rain season with streams and rivers full, grass every tall and roads muddy.
The main purpose of the trek is to remind Ugandans of the invaluable sacrifices that National Resistance Army (NRA) fighters and political mobilisers of the NRM, the two precursors to the present day NRM made over the five year guerrilla war without any rear base from 1981 to January 1986 when they succeeded in capturing state power, fighting a war supported by mainly peasants who gave their children and food supplies. And yes, we expect the opposition to accuse President of using this walk as a political stunt to launch an early election campaign.
The second major event and also related to the first will be the meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Conference (NC) of the NRM slated for January 24-25, 2020 to approve proposed amendments to the NRM constitution especially to provide for open lining up behind candidates in the primaries. This method is hoped should significantly lower the cost of running NRM internal elections as well as provide transparency and fairness to reduce complaints, intrigue, and unnecessary litigation.
With those two conferences running back-to-back, the stage should be set for a vibrant mobilization within and outside NRM, as that will kick in the beginning of renewal of leaders from the villages to the top-level including primaries to select the NRM flagbearers for the general elections. We hope this time round NRM leaders will show some retrain in the internal competition.
From a humble vantage point, I know that asking Ugandans to make 2020, a year of peace, harmony and socio-economic progress is a tough call considering that it is a precursor to the 2021 general elections, for which many have already raised their stakes and sounding war drums.
It would really be nice seeing joint meetings of rival political leaders to build convergence on the immediate contentious issues to avoid running acrimony, and perhaps violent eruptions. However, the saber-rattling from FDC, appears, we could as well prepare for the roosters to come for roasting.
As usual, we expect opposition politicians to try and target both low and high profile individuals seen as active and strong supporters of President Museveni with the main objective of isolating, blackmailing, intimidating, physically assaulting, and orchestrating harassment against them at public meetings, and media platforms, especially social media which is cheap and easy for the political hoodlums to hide their identity.
But as the mischief makers plan their schemes, security forces, especially police, should torn down their abrasive conduct when dealing with unarmed demonstrators, as this gives them some opportunity to gain public sympathy. In 2020, Ugandans need to witness, reduced incidents of reckless arrests and detention of opposition politicians, civil society leaders, and journalists. The often-unexplained obstruction of their public activities ought to reduce to a minimum, after-all, some of them are already drowning and seek to cling onto any straw.
In parliament, opposition elements, working with the small, but very vocal disgruntled NRM fringe of attention-seekers will seek to exploit their privileges to throw about unrestrained, unverified, and difficult-to-substantiate accusations of corruption and abuse of office against high profile government officials especially ministers. As usual, most will be false red herrings meant to captivate media and public attention that government lost track, is incompetent, anti-people and irredeemable.
The media terrain is expected to increasingly become partisan, hard-hitting, skewed, corrosive and politically destructive, first to the general body politic, but even so to itself and opposition. As often, they will combine to underestimate NRM, while overstating their own value, and convince themselves that a path exists even beyond the dead end. Otherwise, let’s all contribute to making 2020 a year of harmony and prosperity.
Opondo, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre