As the 2021 general elections draw ever closer, the fickle opposition political groups are finding themselves between self generated rocks and hard places on whether to participate. In all previous elections opposition groups have squabbled over whether the elections would be free and fair, and often tried to demobilise their supporters in pre-election activities like voter registration.
During the last four years opposition leaders have talked at cross-purposes, sending conflicting signals to would be supporters. Most times they have tried in futility to discredit the electoral process. FDC for instance, installed what it called a peoples president, government and assembly which its own members including MPs shunned, and thoroughly discredited itself to be believed as a serious organisation.
FDC has been campaigning to have the elections postponed supposedly due to the COVI-19 pandemic yet quietly asking for the so-called transitional government suggesting three years for President Yoweri Museveni. NRM with overwhelmingly majority in and outside parliament has rejected both proposals, and elections will go ahead as provided for in the constitution. It is embarrassing for FDC to publicly ask President Museveni to declare a state of emergency yet they say they trust him.
DP too has been vacillating from one extreme position to another swinging like aimless pendulum to be believed on any major policy direction. In 2018, it initiated the DP bloc ostensibly to galvanise opposition groups only to abandon once it couldn’t serve its immediate mischievous goals leaving Norbert Mao a smitten man.
The only thing they have specialized in is being inconsistent in inconsistency to their own members. Each had previously said that running for president of Uganda wasn’t their main aim but as soon the Electoral Commission published the roadmap as they dived for nomination forms, without consulting one another leaving unresolved squabbles fester.
As a result, the opposition has left its members in confusion but now trying to disingenuously use the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason elections shouldn’t be held as scheduled. It is already evident that many opposition parties cannot find candidates willing and able to hold their flags in many parliamentary constituencies across the country. Kizza Besigye is politically washed that he is shy returning as a presidential candidate. This is the real reason they chorus that using mass media, digital and social media as the main platform for campaigns isn’t effective and doesn’t give them level playing field.
But available evidence shows that the media would be more easily available, cheaper, instant, faster, and caters for diverse listenership. One wonders why opposition leaders if they care so much, would want the gather their supporters and would-be voters at public rallies so as to expose them to COVID-19.
As a way to disorient the NRM MPs, FDC has been running misinformation, disinformation and false propaganda that NRM CEC and President Museveni intend to handpick NRM parliamentary flag-bearers, and that most MPs had been blacklisted.
From the events that are unfolding, although still in nascent stages, it is also becoming clearer that the wish of some opposition leaders to form a grand alliance and have a single presidential candidate to face the NRM will not materialise. The first controversy to resolve is the long line of the purported presidential aspirants many of whom are of questionable standing perhaps announcing their bid in the hope they will be offered money to give way. As blackmailers some hope that they can be ballot spoilers in their areas of origin. The wish to field single coalition parliamentary candidates in constituencies too is becoming a pipe dream because many rival opposition aspirants are picking nomination forms to tussle each other.
Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Greg Mugisha Muntu, who bolted from FDC and last year, launched Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) has already been crowned his party’s presidential candidate. Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that he can withdraw his ambition. And although ANT isn’t such a serious force as had been billed by its founders and political analysts, it is nevertheless shaking the opposition trees wrecking havoc in FDC backyard by enticing two MPs, Gerald Karuhanga and Paul Mwiru to join its ranks.
So far, Muntu and ANT are not proving that they are the third force they had hoped to become in Uganda’s emerging although disputed democratization. The ever tribal bickering DP, led by Norbert Mao, remains the limping third popular party. Mao, too, has been telling whoever cares to listen that he will be running again for president of Uganda having lost so miserably in 2011. Knowing is quiet stubbornness, not many pundits think he can relinquish to anyone else although he is sure of a miserable performance.
Robert Kyagulanyi and Gen. (Rtd) Henry Tumukunde are sadly discovering that they won’t be the public’s favorites on the presidential ballot. As many said consistently over the past two years, Kyagulanyi has been a bubble and passing wind cashing on a small groups of gullible youths. Tumukunde like many NRM turncoats has tried to sell himself as a political kingpins whereas not, and the coming days will disprove him.
The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre