A Crowded Presidential field and the Moment of Political Truth

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Tomorrow and Tuesday, the Electoral Commission () will nominate presidential candidates in a crowded field for the forthcoming general elections slated for January 14, 2021, but mostly journeymen without substantial offer in policy alternatives for Uganda’s intractable problems. It will be very hard even for the most ardent journalists to remember some of the names. 

It is the first time since 1996 when Uganda began direct presidential elections through universal adult suffrage, that candidates will exceed ten, almost evenly split between party sponsored candidates and independents. Over the next two months the candidates with political bluster will be on the public weighing scale and most will be found seriously inadequate. The claims to speak for the people will be debunked. 

Some pundits argue that the calculation of the showmen spread across Uganda is to try and deny Museveni an outright victory, force a re-run, or stalemate and subsequently instigate violent reactions. There is credible information that some candidates may stage processions on nomination days hoping to provoke police response and if prevented then they could boycott the elections. Some may disappear as publicity stunt, and claim kidnap. That said, candidates must be given the freedom to canvass support to avoid no false excuses upon defeat.

The parties will have President Yoweri Museveni (NRM), Patrick Oboi Amuriat (FDC), Norbert Mao (DP), Mugisha Muntu (ANT), Revolutionary Party of Uganda, Robert Kyagulanyi (NUP) and Ecological Party of Uganda. Uganda Peoples’ Congress, that ruled Uganda twice, will for the second time in a row not field a presidential candidate due to internal decay.

As a Museveni campaigner, I usually don’t casually dismiss the fact that his long stay on the stage has caused a drain in public support and opinion. The main challenges to NRM are the youth bulge, attendant unemployment, social disaffection and the idealized world of a better future without much sweat. Many youths, on account of NRM’s weak engagement, and widespread negative discourse, often appear not Uganda present good times.

Museveni won the 1996 elections at 72 percent, and subsequent elections against overwhelming odds from the then raging armed rebellion in north, north east, West Nile, Buganda, and on the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was also the formidable combined opposition machine backed by foreign governments, some religious and cultural institutions, NGOs and CSOs, and an almost unanimous negative prediction by the media which appears absent today. Only a section of the media remains with sustained acrimonious narrative against Museveni. 

I am cautiously optimistic that if NRM campaigners work innovatively hard, Museveni will this time around win the January polls by even a higher margin than in previous three elections, and this why many believe in that bold statement. Firstly, Museveni is a meticulous strategic planner and hard campaigner who doesn’t take his opponents for granted. Over the years, Museveni and NRM have substantially delivered on each of the manifesto items of security and stability, rebuilding state institutions, revived and actually expanded the national economy with accompanying successes in health, education, water, electricity, transport and ICT services. 

Thus, Museveni’s longevity, contrary to being a heavy political burden, gives him the biggest appeal among all categories of Ugandans as a stable and trusted pair of hands to secure Uganda’s future. Museveni generates electrification with NRM and non NRM members alike particularly with his conciliatory approach for many rightly recognize that he is uniquely situated for these times.

Meanwhile, most opposition candidates have negatives that have been and will continue to be shielded by the media. Some like Kyagulanyi, Muntu, and Tumukunde appear more like placeholders than candidates with realistic chances of to win. Others among them could even be puppets of foreign sinister schemes in Uganda. 

Now, despite efforts to portray Museveni as a dictator who has accomplished so little not commensurate with three decades in leadership, he has stood and accomplished so much in the realms of democracy, rule of law, freedoms to individuals and collective groups to be swept down the drain with sewage. Museveni hasn’t paid lip service to his ideas, but has been a transformative leader.

As we evaluate this race at this earliest hour Ugandans recognize that the landscape favours Museveni as he and the NRM hold an unwavering swathe of support in every region and social segments that they won in 2016. 

These candidates have no real positions on policies, no constructive solutions to Uganda’s problems, but stubborn insistence that they are the genuine voices of the ‘people’, a claim that will be proved to be false because, there are surely enough patriots to ensure Museveni’s reelection. Museveni is very a strong candidate with a remarkably successful record to taut, running against an array of amateurs and haters who bear resemblance to nothing very useful.

These groups reinforce their arrogance through abrasive conduct although it is not hard to imagine the outcome when confronted with facts. Kizza Besigye’s two decades show that a falsified opinion clothed in populism and radicalism, eventually meets the moment of truth and dissipates.