The presidential inauguration held on Wednesday this week at the Kololo Independence Grounds, passed off well, and hugely a success with eleven Presidents, Heads of State, and twelve delegations from across the world attending in personally, defying the Covid19 pandemic. Locally, close to five thousand Ugandans mostly leaders from districts, parliament and Cabinet, all tested for Covid19 three days earlier and found to be negative also in attended in person.
That number excludes the support staff and various layers of security personnel who were also tested and strictly complied with the Covid19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) especially wearing of face masks, hand sanitising, and observing social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid19. As expected, it was certainly expensive and tedious, but worth the effort and demonstrated Uganda’s capabilities in disease surveillance and control measures.
Hopefully, it also calmed fears and the political hubris that opposition elements had tried to clutch on accusing government and the NRM of disregarding or thrown caution to the winds by inviting more than 200 people to congregate in one venue contrary to the Ministry of Health’s policy on public gatherings.
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And contrary to the naysayers including the US embassy in Uganda that issued negative travel advisory to its citizens, warning that the event had the potential to explode into violence, the ceremony at Kololo, the environment in greater Kampala metropolitan and countrywide remained very calm without a single incident of politically motivated confrontation. The bad losers who had drawn red lines over the inauguration on sand fizzled out even before day break, and Kizza Besigye a diminished bravado, railing against President Yoweri Museveni on BBC radio from thousands of miles outside Uganda. Also, unlike in 2016 when then US Ambassador Deborah Malac led ambassadors from the European Union countries to walk out of the ceremony because then Sudan President Omar El Bashir was in attendance, this time all stayed to the end of the function.
The naysayers must be very disappointed that the empty threats by local opposition groups they offer tacit support as surrogates to cause unnecessary trouble under the guise that they were cheated at the elections, and therefore have legitimate grievances, fizzled out like the morning dew. They had hoped that even the slightest of political friction would attract a heavy, perhaps disproportionate use of force, and therefore blight the start of President Museveni’s new term.
In addition, such friction would also provide the foreign meddlers with cannon fodder to continue flaying Uganda on democracy and governance issues. The threats especially by NUP hooligans of throwing petrol bombs around Kampala meant to scare the public didn’t gain traction because security agencies have had sufficient time infiltrating them and nipping their mischief in the bud.
It now remains to be seen if NUP whose leadership claims that victory was stolen from them will not permit its MPs-elect and other leaders in the lower tiers of government to take up their slots. But like Kizza Besigye and FDC, any reasonable mind expects that NUP elected MPs and local government councillors will ignore the hubris and go enjoy their hard-won victory and the goodies that accompany those offices.
Robert Kyagulanyi is almost certainly destined to be left to rant a lone cry of bereavement outside parliament, and gradually out of mainstream politics, unless NUP engineers for him a seat in bye-election. Like previous opposition party leaders who remained outside parliament, Kyagulanyi will find it difficult to control NUP MPs who will now have money, enjoy status, and don’t need his direct benefactor. Kyagulanyi could find himself a rejected and dejected man running away from the false shadow he helped create.
But in a world where even the richest by Forbes and Bloomberg testament like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft developer Bill Gates are booted by their wives, and Jennifer Lopez just separated and now living single lives, Besigye and Kyagulanyi should find adjusting easy. After all, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, Olara Otuunu, Norbert Mao, and Amama Mbabazi have now fully adjusted. And Like Lopez who returned to former boyfriend, indications are abound that Mbabazi could be on his way back with NRM and Museveni, which is very welcome.
And with the swearing-in of new MPs, and inauguration of the Eleventh Parliament where the NRM has an overwhelming majority of 337 out 529, a new government should start in earnest to implement the NRM election manifesto which hinges on continuous efforts towards socio-economic transformation, vigorous industrialisation and job creation. Quite frankly, while it has been a bad year of mostly self-generated infliction of political pain, the NRM and government have gradually been able to roll back the hostile posture.
Now NRM leaders must reflect deeply on the dim view with which they are portrayed in the general public to chat a clear path and remain relevant in years to come, otherwise NRM could be in real trouble at the next election. To triumph, NRM must remain steadfast when facing what is expected to be a stubborn, arrogant, abusive and unyielding opposition.
The writer, is Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre