Sunday, February 26, 2023

The parliamentary by-elections for Serere county, Serere district, concluded on Thursday, has, yet again shown that the collective opposition could be in the evil’s eye for a while longer, and must now find other more credible reasons to cry foul in the future. The NRM suffered due to stitch-up when at the burial of MP Patrick Okabe, NRM leaders endorsed and have indeed campaigned for his son Emmanuel Omoding who emerged winner, against NRM’s Philip Oucor.

It’s worth recalling that as the 2021 general elections drew ever closer, fickle political groups found themselves between self generated rocks and hard places. In all previous elections opposition groups have squabbled over fielding joint candidates while simultaneously discrediting the electoral processes including by demobilizing supporters not to participate in preparatory activities. 

The opposition’s wish to field a single coalition candidate in Serere fell on dead ground like it has been in previous general election circles including for presidential candidate because many rival aspirants consider entering parliament their personal life-blood, rather than an effort to expand and consolidate opposition gains against NRM.

FDC for instance, installed what it called a peoples president, government and assembly which its own members including MPs discredited and shunned. In the Serere by-election FDC President Patrick Oboi Amuriat nursing old-school type grudges, refused to back Alice Asianut Alaso, FDC founder Secretary General, but now in the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT). 

Alaso, arguably a prolific legislator, held Serere district woman MP seat for fifteen years (2001-2016), suffered two back-to-back defeats to NRM’s Helen Adoa, only to opportunistically return for this constituency by-election which she has lost miserably and wrote her own political epitaph. The FDC candidate Emmanuel Eratu believed to have been brought in to undermine Alaso trailed with just 1,252 out of 36,766 votes counted.

DP and UPC that have vacillated from pole-to-pole swinging like aimless pendulum, this time didn’t even bother to show up in Serere because they both have now specialized in being inconsistent to their own members, and leaving unresolved internal squabbles to fester making then increasingly unattractive.

It is becoming evident that some opposition parties may not easily find candidates even willing to seek their flags in the 2026 parliamentary elections across the country. In fact FDC may be hard pressed to get a figure with a national stature to hold its flag, more-like  Amuriat who in 2021 simply limped off the field. 

Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Greg Mugisha Muntu is gradually discovering that neither he nor ANT can be the ‘third’ or a ‘serious’ political force as had been billed by its founders and analysts, although it shook trees wrecking FDC. Robert Kyagulanyi and Gen. (Rtd) Henry Tumukunde too have sadly discovered that they cannot be the public’s favorites on the presidential ballot. As many said consistently over the past three years, Kyagulanyi remains a bubble and passing wind cashing for gullible groups of youths driven mostly by tribal orientation. Tumukunde like many NRM turncoats who tried to sell himself as a political kingpin whereas not, has been thoroughly discounted.

Many analysts think that as 2026 approaches, political groups may seek to scare off potential rivals maneuvering ahead of their own possible jumping into the election fray as the so-far-sleepy opposition comes to full life. The trends of the past two years point towards a NUP that will employ threats and blackmail especially cyber bullying to stigmatize other opposition brands as not strong or credible enough as Kizza Besigye tried previously because he believed opposition was his personal home tuft.

As the political throat-clearing noises get louder, it’s going to be hard seeing how much thread each opposition group must needle carefully enough so as not to publicly antagonize the other as Serere by-election has demonstrated. With each group promising that 2026 will be tough or if not turbulent, the events that shaped 2021 show that Kyagulanyi won’t be prohibitively formidable because he has so far failed to master policy issues, and there’s no evidence he can improve in the remaining time. 

His bond with the so-called youths will be broken to repudiate him from his largest fan base of culture warriors driven mostly by raw emotions rather than interest in informed discourse or legitimate disagreements. But Kizza Besigye, Abed Bwanika, Mugisha Muntu, Henry Tumukunde, Norbert Mao, and even Amama Mbabazi, should they return in 2026, will all still face the same problem. They might be ambitious and don’t fear Yoweri Museveni, but they cannot defeat him and NRM.

Like FDC that has been asking for the so-called ‘international election audit’ and a ‘transitional government’ while cleverly participating in all the elections, Mao, a jolly-good fellow, now a minister in government, unless he steps back, could soon find himself in very untenable situations.

NRM has its own credible and legitimate agenda, with an overwhelmingly majority in and outside parliament previously rejected these insinuations because they are meant to degrade its agenda. It’s unlikely that NRM will concede to the cheap claptrap now that someone else is coming to deliver a ‘clean transition’.