Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Besigye Will Make M7 Sweat

An unnamed Red Pepper reporter gives his reasons as why Dr. Kizza Besigye will give Museveni a run for his money!

As the presidential elections gain momentum, all candidates are using every trick in the book to attract the attention of potential voters. When Museveni decided to recite an old Runyankole folk tale, no one knew that it would turn out to be a big hit during his campaign rallies. Later on, all other candidates have adopted the art of dancing their legs lame as if dancing is part and parcel of what affects Uganda. In today’s briefing, intelligence presents the current miscalculations that may cost Museveni and the NRM the required percentage in the forthcoming polls.

If one was to judge from the crowds that the incumbent has been pulling in Lira, Gulu and Kitgum districts, then it would be automatic that the President this time will win by the same margin he won in 1996 in the whole country. In the past elections when Joseph Kony was still active in northern Uganda, very few people, if any, would identify with Museveni and his government at a local level. Those who supported him were a few families who lived in Kampala and would only go back to northern Uganda and stay in hotels, but wouldn’t dare visit their homes in the villages. In addition, all their relatives were staying in Internally Displaced Peoples’ Camps (IDPs). So, for the last 25 years, the NRM never gained any political ground in northern Uganda.

With Kony defeated, Museveni and the NRM think now is the time to make inroads into the north and win the vote there which had been denied by the long LRA war. But to achieve this Museveni needs five more years in power, not just a few months of presidential campaigning. He has pulled the crowds, but some have never had a chance of seeing the President live because of the insecurity that has characterised the area. In addition, the majority of incumbent MPs from Lango and Acholi sub-regions are FDC and UPC. So the NRM has not yet got strong structures at the grassroots to help the party defeat these incumbents politically. Therefore, the new converts to Museveni’s camp will have an uphill task to consolidate short-term NRM support when Museveni leaves the region for other areas on his campaign trail. It should also be remembered that Dr. Kizza Besigye had been getting 80 per cent support from northern Uganda even when there was war. Now that people are settled, what if the percentage goes higher? Despite the presence of two candidates from northern Uganda in the race (Mao and Otunnu), it is only FDC which still has the majority of MPs on the ground in these two regions and, if they work hard, Besigye’s support may still remain high compared to other candidates’. Therefore Museveni’s taskforce has to work hard to convert the new found love in northern Uganda into actual votes; otherwise, if Museveni leaves the north, the crowds will wait for Besigye, Mao, Otunnu and others.

When DP’s Nobert Mao and UPC’s Olara Otunnu refused to join the Besigye- initiated IPC, many NRM diehards celebrated on the grounds that Besigye was politically finished. But this was a total miscalculation because the duo’s refusal to join Besigye has helped the opposition open many fronts against Museveni during the presidential campaigns.

First, the electorate has been perceiving Dr. Besigye as someone driven by personal anger against Museveni, but, as Mao attacks Museveni from the East, Otunnu is busy doing the same in Central; Betty Kamya is doing so on the northern front as Bidandi Ssali does the damage on the south-western. But if all these candidates had chosen just one amongst themselves, the Electoral Commission would have given them one campaign programme and time wouldn’t have been on their side to traverse the country for votes. This division of labour has boosted Besigye because people have come to realise that he is not alone in the struggle. So after listening to many voices calling for change, the electorate might choose the best alternative among the many options presented, and this is where Besigye will sweep up the undecided voters at the last hour.

Second, although the opposition failed to front a joint candidate, an alliance is more probable between Besigye, Mao and Otunnu if Museveni fails to get the required 51 per cent and there is a re-run. In the middle of all this, the issue of incumbency is working against Museveni’s camp. Much as he is traversing the countryside for votes, his main taskforce is just relaxing in Kampala hotels and all they do is wait around for television newscasts to see how their candidate is doing on the ground. This arrogance of incumbency will cost Museveni more votes if the taskforce doesn’t get on the ground to consolidate his supporters. The false confidence that Museveni has already won will backfire when those behind him wake up to realise that the number of votes they expected is not what they had hoped.

BUGANDA’S VOTE: Unlike in past elections, there is an anticipation of a protest vote against Museveni from Buganda because of the current disagreement between Mengo and the central government. Intelligence can confirm this by the fact that there was high voter registration turn-out in all districts of Buganda for next year’s elections. But despite this turn-up, there hasn’t been much momentum at rallies, meaning people are just waiting for the voting day to express their feelings. This protest voter strategy is aimed at denying Museveni the required percentage to win the election, so that he must negotiate for Buganda’s vote in case there is need for a re-run. The only miscalculation Museveni made on the Buganda region vote was the re-opening of CBS because it played very well into the hands of his archrival Dr. Besigye. Besigye had already promised that he would re-open the station unconditionally if Buganda elected him to power. His pledge had not been taken seriously because many peasants in Buganda region still hope Museveni and the Kabaka will come to terms - no matter how long it takes.

But the re-opening of the radio station has made Besigye more of a hero in Buganda. Political analysts had predicted that, whether or not CBS was re-opened, Museveni would still win another term in office. Intelligence can reveal that even the National Security Council had wanted the president to re-open the station after the elections. It is believed that a group of pro-Besigye Mengo officials infiltrated the circles of former PPS Amelia Kyambadde because she was a new entrant to politics as aspiring MP for Mawokota constituency. They put her under pressure that if she wanted to become an MP, then she should convince her former boss (Museveni) to re-open CBS. Much as the President endeavoured to avoid questions regarding the re-opening of the station publicly during his tour of Buganda on the Prosperity for All programme, Amelia and other NRM MPs from Buganda lobbied until the station was hesitantly re-opened. Ironically, it is the same station that the opposition is going to use to de-campaign all incumbent NRM MPs in the region. Much as NRM mobilisers from Buganda region have tried to praise Museveni for the re-opening of CBS radio, the population has not responded in the same way. This was evident during the Kabaka’s tour of Kampala markets where his subjects were saying “tukyabanja” meaning that, despite the re-opening of CBS, they still have some other demands from Museveni’s government. In short, Amelia Kyambadde might have succeeded in lobbying for the re-opening of CBS for the sake of just one constituency - Mawokota; little did she know that she had put other NRM MPs in Buganda in the line of fire. It has also again put Museveni’s negotiating team with Mengo against the wall. Why?

The team scored an own goal and now it is difficult to score at the opponents’ end because Mengo is playing defensively and looking for more goals on the government side. It is from this hide-and-seek game that Museveni’s strategists have opted to concentrate on winning other regions by a bigger margin, in order to balance what is anticipated from Buganda region. But, all things considered, Museveni still has an edge on the Buganda vote.

What is left of the Buganda block vote is expected in the districts of Masaka, Mpigi, Wakiso, Mukono and a few constituencies in the districts of Rakai, Mityana, Mubende, Luwero, Nakaseke, Nakasongola and Kiboga. In districts like Lyantonde, Gomba, Kiboga, Kibaale, Sembabule and other newly created ones, Museveni will win highly because of the dominance of immigrants who are the majority and have nothing to lose whether or not Mengo exists.

By virtue of the fact that Besigye comes from Western Uganda, supporters from other regions of the country have always criticised him for not giving Museveni a spirited fight in a region where the two come from. In fact, the western region has remained the life support for the ruling NRM for the last 25 years. For the last two presidential elections, Besigye had always recruited violent youths in townships and they would beat up any one they came across wearing a Museveni T-shirt. But since the campaigns started, it is evident things have changed and his supporters are more composed and calm. They don’t even attack those who attend their rallies in NRM T-shirts. Even after rallies, they go back to their homes peacefully. So allowing NRM supporters to listen to their candidate is a good development and may be the reason why they are getting defectors from NRM during their campaign trail.

Being an incumbent, President Museveni has always found it easy to get a winning team by picking the taskforce from the composition of cabinet. But in the recent party primaries, his own supporters made a reshuffle by denying a good number of them their votes. Those who survived, such as Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, Sam Kutesa, John Nasasira and Hope Mwesigye, have been struggling to blow away the CHOGM scandal report. Other veteran mobilisers like Jim Muhwezi and Capt. Mike Mukula have been demoralised by the way they were treated during the GAVI and Global fund probes. It is therefore evident that Museveni does not have a coordinated cabinet to deliver him victory until after the elections. And any attempt to make a reshuffle might swing some of the NRM bigwigs the wrong way.

Intelligence further confirms that the past Namboole election for the position of party secretary general has been another big thorn in the neck for the ruling NRM party. After beating his older rivals, Mbabazi and his group have tried to show that those who supported Otafire and Bukenya that “Big is Big.” Strategically, the secretary general has shifted from the official party offices on plot 10 Kyaddondo Road to plot 18 Akii Bua Road, where he officially sits as the Minister for Security. Any NRM mobiliser suspected of being from either the Otafire or Bukenya camps may not easily access these premises. The offices at Kyaddondo have been left for the NRM electoral commission to handle complaints from losers in the NRM primaries.

Amidst all this confusion, Museveni is busy consolidating his up-country votes, but it will be an uphill task for NRM as a party to help him win the required percentage if internal problems are not solved. Analysts say Museveni might be tempted to turn to most of his trusted young cadres in the UPDF and other security forces for assistance to put things in order. Though they are constitutionally prohibited from being partisan, there is a big role such cadres play behind the scenes during elections; otherwise a reshuffle after the NRM primaries could have helped Museveni organise a vote-winning cabinet. With the problem of sleeping icons in cabinet, the NRM has to think twice before early celebrations of victory in 2011.

In conclusion, Museveni’s main challenger, Dr. Besigye, has lost twice to the same man though he has always complained of vote rigging. The reality has been that he has never assembled an election team that can be seen as the next government. This is why his big crowds of supporters have never been the actual voters on counting day. This is likely to happen again because of cracks within his IPC. He will only be helped if other candidates perform well enough to deny Museveni the required 51 per cent of the count, so that he faces Museveni alone in the re-run. But with the new momentum the President Museveni has set, it is obvious that when all is said and done, he will get at least 56 per cent of the total vote and the other candidatess will share the rest of the spoils.

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