Bugiri Municipality contest was a mirror image of the no-holds barred fight for supremacy within Uganda’s oppositon
July 28,2018 – FDC emerged empty handed from the seven electoral contests concluded yesterday highlighting the internal divisions within the party and a growing assault within the broader opposition against Uganda’s defacto opposition leader Dr.Kizza Besigye.
After the dust had settled, UPC and Jeema had gained a seat each while the FDC lost its closest race to Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye in Sheema Municipality.
The loss of Bugiri was particulary significant because it was the scene of a three-way battle between the Dr, Besigye on one hand and the ruling NRM, and a coalition of independent Kyaddondo East MP Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, Jeema, the Uganda People’s Congress UPC and the Democratic Party on the other.
While it would look like a revolt against the FDC for its refusal to back Jeema’s Asuman Basalirwa in the race, to those in the know, it was the culmination of anti-Besigye animus dating back to long before the 2016 Presidential election. That election itself, in which Dr. Besigye run on the FDC ticket despite the party having General Mugisha Muntu as its president and presumptive flag bearer had long been seen an opportunity for also-run opposition presidential aspirants such as Dr. Abed Bwanika and DP’s Norbert Mao as their turn to finally rise to the fore.
For some strange reason, these intelligent but perennially unsuccessful presidential aspirants blamed Dr. Besigye for their poor showing. But keenly aware of their lack of appeal, they threw their weight behind former Premier Amama Mbabazi’s bid under the Go Forward banner in the 2016 presidential polls.
Unbeknown to them, despite his smooth talk and promise of insider knowledge of the NRM’s dirty tricks department, Amama Mbabazi was a cold candidate who would not have won a popular vote even within his former home base the NRM. The emergence of Besigye as a factor in the race threw their plans into total disarray. Efforts to mediate between Amama and Besigye came to naught after after chief proponents of a single opposition flag-bearer led by Bishop Zac Niringiye and gave up an finally left the two to seek a compromise over several days at Bugolobi Suites.
According to people familiar with the effort, Besigye stuck to his bid to run after the only reason Amama advanced was that Besigye was still young and had other chances, while the 2016 race was Amama’s only shot at the presidency given the age-limit restriction on presidential candidates that was in face then.( A panel of judges hearing a petition against lifting age caps on presidential aspirants this week struck the provision from the constitution in a 4-1 majority decision.)
Besigye’s insistence on standing united the fringe opposition parties who saw him as greedy and presumptive, against him and the FDC in general. That set in motion a tacit agreement by the smaller opposition forces to launch an assault against Besigye in a bid to wrest the Ugandan opposition crown from him.
It is instructive that when the DP called a so called reunion with its youth wing – the Young Democrats – last May, speaker after speaker did not address they unity question but rather used the podium to lampoon Dr Besigye and the FDC. Non-conformist DP voices such as Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze, Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga that as seen as aligned to Dr Besigye aso became objects of attack.
In an rare alignment of interests also, the NRM which has been aggressive in denying the opposition any platform to organise, this time round suspended the Political Organisation Act, giving the police the police a tacit signal to allow a well attended DP reunion fete at Makerere University Sports Grounds.
After the Amama flop, the anti-Besigye camp have now placed their faith independent MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine as their new torch bearer against Besigye. While Basalirwa’s triumph in Bugiri is likely to be savored by the newfound alliance against Besigye as first blood, it comes against a background of an FDC split down the middle between the pro-Mugisha Muntu and Besigye camps. This is reflected in the fact that no FDC MP, including Abdul Katuntu, showed to support Namatende’s bid against Basalirwa.
But whether the anti-Besigye camp can rely on Bobi wine to lead their charge is a other matter. The youthful MP, who run as an independent after failing to find accommodation in both FDC and the DP appears to be choosing his own fights. Months ago he was in Rukingiri to support the FDC’s bid for the successful District Woman MP race there. In Bugiri he was ranged against Beigye. While his latest actions have excited the anti-Besigye forces, they may mean more than the fact that Bobi Wine is simply being his independent self.
PS: PLease see our story on M7’s deployment of Bryan White to try and eclipse Bobi Wine’s rising star.