The giant opposition Party in Uganda, the Forum for Democratic Change Party (FDC) has taken the lead for closing all loopholes expected in the upcoming 2021 presidential elections. This comes after a delay by Electoral commission (EC) to carry on the Verification of the national voters’ register and identification of persons with disabilities ahead of the 2021 General Elections, which started recently with very low turnout in many parts of the country. The verification exercise that aimed at weeding out ghost voters from the register and stop cases of multiple-voting was not going on as planned. The village council offices where it was meant to be conducted were either closed or inactive.
One of the issues that emerged is that there has been very little publicity around this exercise. For example, people in Wakiso district, with a population close to 3 million, revealed that they didn’t know that the verification exercise was going on at village council offices all over the country. “The government did not announce the verification exercise and how the people would know that it. Let the electoral commission announce and if they don’t have money, they should let the opposition parties and people power mobilize people to go for the verification exercise.” said Mulindwa John. On the point of inadequate publicity and a failure of the civic education exercise, the EC has abdicated its rightful role and left it in the hands of civil society organizations such as Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), which is not right.
Civil society is only meant to supplement the work of the EC and not the other way round. In some areas, it was discovered that verification officers who are meant to convene meetings through area local council chairpersons were going about the meetings hastily and moving on to other areas. Why the hurry? Is it about lack of manpower or inadequate funding? Whatever the reason, the EC needs to fix it as it will negatively impact on the exercise. The need to have a clean register cannot be over emphasized. The cleanliness of a register says a lot about how credible an election turns out to be. That is why the EC should move now to fix some of the challenges that the verification exercise is facing.
Consequently, Dr. Kizza Besigye unveiled his latest campaign, Article Three Twerwaneko. Twerwaneko is based on Article Three of the Constitution, which requires Ugandans to defend the Constitution and ensure that it is restored if it has been suspended, overthrown, abrogated or illegally amended. Tweraneko, the catchword of the campaign, in Luganda means ‘let’s defend ourselves.’
While speaking to journalists during the launch of the campaign, Dr. Besigye said he has rolled out successive anti-Museveni campaigns and will continue to do so until his end goal is achieved. He said the campaigns reinforce one another. What the opposition activist did not say at the occasion but repeatedly admits, is that uprooting Mr. Museveni from power is proving to be a very hard task, something which has led to self-doubt among those seeking change.
The campaign came after Dr. Besigye launched “Tubalemese”, which means ‘let’s fail them.’ In stressing the urgency of the need for Ugandans to defend themselves, Dr. Besigye says they face an existential threat and could get wiped out like the Aborigines who once claimed Australia and New Zealand as their lands. If Ugandans don’t defeat President Museveni’s government, which he says is devoid of patriotism, they could be replaced by “new people” who he says are already arriving and “taking over our land.” Dr. Besigye and his colleagues in the People’s Government insist that Mr. Museveni has breached the
Constitution in a number of ways including, they argue, by detaining Dr. Besigye, who was a candidate before the 2016 elections cycle was concluded. Dr. Besigye insists that he won the election by 52 per cent and was blocked from proving his victory, perhaps before courts of law, since he remained under house arrest until the time for doing so elapsed. They argue that Mr. Museveni occupies State House illegally. It is for this reason that Dr. Besigye set up the People’s Government in 2016. It was under the auspices of the People’s Government that the press conference to announce a looming round of protests was held. The ‘peoples’ president’, as his fans refer to him, Dr. Besigye was flanked by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, the ‘deputy people’s president’, and over a dozen other members of the mock ‘administration’.
Shall other opposition parties join?
Before the “next actions” in the Twerwaneko campaign, Dr. Besigye revealed at the press conference, that they will hold a ‘national convention’ to sell their ideas to other change-seeking forces with the view of coming up with a joint programme of action. People and parties to be contacted for the national dialogue include all the opposition parties and other political players. We understand that People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, the national coordinator of the newly formed Alliance for National Transformation, are among the leaders that declined to join the People’s Government. After announcing the new campaign and plan to hold a national convention, Dr. Besigye appeared on the Frontline, a talk show on NBS TV. Here, Mr. Ofwono Opondo, the head of the Government Media Centre, laid into Dr. Besigye, accusing him of trying to use the new campaign to ‘remake’ himself as the most potent opposition figure. This thinking is not confined to only Mr. Opondo but is widespread even among Opposition players, who for one reason or other, don’t get along with Dr Besigye. A number of political players we talked to believe it is the reason Mr. Kyagulanyi, who declined to speak to us for this article, declined the invitation to be part of the People’s Government.
In addition to that, Democratic Party president, Norbert Mao said there would be no problem with them joining the Twerwaneko campaign, but he hastened to add that they would do so as a way of building trust so that they can engage on better terms when the time comes for the Opposition to select a joint candidate.
Dr. Besigye and his passionate backers, including Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president Patrick Amuriat Oboi, argue that the Opposition should prioritize putting pressure on Mr. Museveni’s government over preparing for elections, while a number of other players prioritize mobilizing for the 2021 elections.
Mr. Kyagulanyi, for instance, has expended a lot of labour encouraging Ugandans, especially the young adults, to register for the upcoming election. Mr. Mao, on the other hand, has set a deadline of end of year for the other Opposition parties to show interest in the process to select a joint candidate for 2021. FDC’s argument is that Mr. Museveni must be pressed, through protests and civil disobedience, to come to the negotiating table – and peacefully cede power. That is what Mr. Amuriat promised when he campaigned to lead the party. That is what Dr. Besigye says repeatedly. And FDC has said it will use its leadership of the Interparty Organization for Dialogue (Ipod) to push for the exit of President Museveni. The party and Dr. Besigye say they can only get into the 2021 election cycle if their best efforts to remove Mr. Museveni from power don’t materialize before then. And they add that if they go into the next election, they will go into it with the knowledge that it will be rigged.
What Ugandans Say about 2021 elections
Mr. Sam Waiswa, a Ugandan from Iganga says, opposition should focus on protecting the votes come 2021 than wasting billions and billions in dialogues. “Let Dr. Besigye and other colleagues from other opposition parties divert the money for dialogues and invest it to protect 2021 votes because we all know Mr. Museveni remains in power as a result of vote rigging,” said Waiswa. NRM member, Joseph Ssewava says “NRM Party is alive and it will always be alive and that’s the reason why we shall always support NRM even after 100 years.” He added that at all times, president Museveni has been defeating opposition parties and that’s the reason as to why they have resorted to campaigns and protests, but, he advises them to join NRM if they think they don’t have a super candidate like president Museveni.
Mr. Ofwono Opondo, the head of the Government Media Centre said NRM is one party which doesn’t believe in vote rigging but believes in democracy and the power of people. He added that, that’s the reason why their sole candidate President Museveni always wants to reach his people (Ugandans) to support them in different ways and move together as one family to see that Uganda reaches a point where all people are well-off. “When opposition talks about vote rigging, actually, they are the ones who steal votes because on many occasions, police arrests opposition supporters with ballot boxes with ticked votes and prosecutes them in court. But we as NRM, we are ready to support our candidate to win the 2021 elections and we know he will make it because he has invested his efforts,” said Ofwono.
By Kiggundu Joseph
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