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Ugandan Opposition stabs itself

By Tumusiime K. Deo | Sep 30th 2015 | 4 min read

Kampala, Uganda; 28/9/2015: The choice of former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi as the flag bearer for The Democratic Alliance (TDA) is quite problematic in many ways. Simply put, the Opposition has stabbed itself not in the foot, but in the forthcoming Presidential elections.

For starters, Mr. Mbabazi has repeatedly stated that he is NOT leaving the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which he has served diligently for over two decades. It’s therefore a huge risk by the opposition to expect an NRM-leaning candidate to effectively represent their agenda, in as much as he may appear to empathize with most of their concerns.

Right from the day Mr. Mbabazi was kicked out of his Prime Minister position, I personally did not believe the act being reflective of a natural split between him and his boss, the incumbent- I still doubt that his was a fall out. That said, of course Mbabazi, like any other member of the NRM, reserves the privilege to try out his chances of becoming the next President. However, Mr. Mbabazi certainly knows more than anyone else that the prowess of his own party is insurmountable especially so, given the limited options available. The question is: Does any NRM insider stand a chance whilst Mr. Museveni is still around?

In banking on Mr. Mbabazi, the opposition could have been excited by his recent show of popularity during his snapshot consultations that appeared to pull crowds. But who is in these crowds? Well, opposition supporters naturally will lean towards anyone against the incumbent; and ‘like Mr. Mbabazi’, there will be some members in the NRM that would like to see change. However, we’ve seen some inter alia rebel NRM MPs crawl back to the very status quo they so vehemently challenged not so long ago. This is the ugly bit of politics, and the reason why Mr. Mbabazi just cannot be trusted.

When the official election campaign programme gets underway, it will be majorly Mr. Mbabazi pitted against his former boss in Mr. Museveni. This does not appear in any way to be an organic opposition even if the former may want to bank on the latter’s loopholes known to him. Dare he attempt to fault the incumbent based on the old style approach of ‘spilling secrets’; that alone will finish him off because he will then be viewed as a mere whiner and it will backfire.

So what are the chances of an opposition led by Mbabazi?  Mr. Mbabazi will have to completely disassociate himself from the NRM in order to denounce the ideals that the party stands for as he tables a completely alternative agenda. This will require of him to return the party Identity card and get somewhat officially married to the opposition, but this marriage requires quite some gestation period for the man to even learn the language of the opposition.

If it turns out that the Forum for Democratic Change opts to field its own Flag Bearer in Dr. Kizza Besigye, it does not make things any better, for the English adage goes, ‘Once beaten, twice warned’. Certainly his campaign hinged on getting ‘the man’ [Museveni] out of his seat, has not been convincing on all previous occasions. Besides, hitting the field alongside Mr. Mbabazi simply means that the two will split the opposition electorate, giving the incumbent a win even before a single vote is cast.

For the neutrals though, the coming of Mr. Mbabazi into the fray, looks poised to present an action-packed election campaign. The renewed belief that change is possible will ignite a new form of excitement and a wave of wind to bank on for the future.


All said, it is Kudos to Mr. Museveni. Whether by coincidence or design, whatever has been transpiring within the TDA just worked in his favor. Could it be that Mr. Mbabazi was Mr. Museveni’s brainchild, a master card to hoodwink the electorate and cripple the traditional opposition status quo? I saw this with Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United Football Club in England. This guy would sometimes sell certain players to stubborn clubs like Sunderland, and when it mattered, and these very players delivered the points he needed either by lacklustre performance for their new team or they made their team lose by a late own goal. So should this by any chance be Mr. Museveni’s tactic, then this man is one of the smartest I have known, especially his ability to reinvent himself.

Politics, oh Politics! It is indeed a dirty game.


Tumusiime K. Deo is an International Communications Consultant

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