Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winnie threatens to spill the beans

In this interesting article published in Daily Monitor yesterday, Emmanuel Mulondo takes us down memory lane with a dose of what made the previous election even more colourful.

aWho is exactly responsible for sanity and decency during campaigns? Looking back at the 2006 presidential race, one would think that the country was on the brink of collapse. Mostly state-inspired violence was spreading like a wildfire and candidates were shooting from the hip.

Dr Kizza Besigye had been nominated from prison, having been arraigned on treason and rape charges. He was released on orders of the court deep into campaign time but even after that court order, the word on some campaign podiums continued that he was a “criminal, supporting some terrorist organisations” who should not be elected.

It took Ms Winnie Byanyima, a key mobiliser and wife to Dr Besigye to give the ultimatum that “this mudslinging has to stop or else...” “I am giving President Museveni two days to clean up his act. Let him play fair in his campaign or I will have no choice but to come out even with documentary evidence to show what a traitor he is to his family and to the whole country,” Ms Byanyima roared.

“… we will bring Museveni the man and all his secrets and his dirt before the population to judge for themselves,” Byanyima added. With threats by Byanyima to go personal, Mr Museveni’s fiery and maverick lieutenant in the names of O.O. (Ofwono Opondo), answered fire with fire. “Byanyima herself is not an angel. She has so many secrets in her past and if we are to fire back she can live to regret,” O.O. responded. But with the events at Uchumi supermarket where O.O. was accused of pant-lifting, Ms Byanyima pressed on:

“My message was not about Ofwono Opondo because I don’t deal with thieves of underpants. My message was direct to Yoweri Museveni to stop hounding and maligning Dr Kizza Besigye who is our candidate and to stick to issues of concern to Ugandans.”

Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo quickly joined the fray, positing that: “For Winnie to threaten to go personal is a thing the majority of decent Ugandans will not buy … We don’t think that Ugandans deserve the kind of menu that she is promising. We do not intend to waste time on what Winnie is promising to do at all.” Such was the campaign of the time. Was this really material worth the pages of the print media or the airwaves?

The race was neither devoid of soothsayers nor doomsday prophets. One pastor promised that one of the candidates would die a few days to the voting day? And then commissioning the newly built Kagadi Town Council headquarters, then state for environment minister, Mr Baguma Isoke, told the gathering that “If you read in newspapers and analyse what is happening in many parts of the country, you realise a disaster for NRM,” Mr Isoke said. His analysis was based on the fact that the NRM was torn apart due to in-fighting in Museveni’s campaign task force. This, he said, coupled with the relentless onslaught by the opposition FDC campaign machine worried him. “The President might lose,” he worried.

With things threatening to unravel further, Moses Kizige, chairman of the ruling NRM party caucus in Parliament, petitioned the Electoral Commission arguing that Dr Besigye was unqualified for nomination. Mr Kizige claimed Dr Besigye joined secondary school using “forged papers.” The discrepancies in the names Kizza Besigye W.S., Warren S. Kiiza and Kizza Besigye Warren Smith Chifefe were the proof of forgery, Mr Kizige presented.

The FDC took the MP head on. The party paraded Stanley Kiiza whose papers Kizige alleged Dr Besigye used to join senior secondary. The man denied ever going through the full primary cycle, bringing an end to the inflammatory Kizige allegation.

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