Uganda: Museveni up against ‘regional’ candidates

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President Museveni with other leaders in Luweero where he held his first campaigns on November 9, 2020. PHOTO/PPU

By Isaac Mufumba

A  day after Mr Patrick Oboi  Amuriat launched his campaign in Soroti  City amid live bullets and tear gas on Monday, he addressed the press and pitched himself as the presidential candidate of the east and greater north of Uganda.

“Just talking about my candidature in relation to Teso is reducing my space because it is also true that the first most serious candidate coming from the eastern region or even from the greater north since Mr Museveni came to power is here speaking to you today. So I could easily represent that eastern candidate seeking an eastern vote as well as votes from elsewhere,” Mr Amuriat said.

At the time he was speaking, the leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP), Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine was campaigning in West Nile where he attracted decent crowds.
In Kampala, the president of the Democratic Party (DP), Mr Norbert Mao, was unveiling his official campaign posters.

The two former top army officers, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu and Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, were campaigning downtown Kampala and Western Uganda, respectively.

Expert view

Mr Patrick Wakida, the head of Research World International, a social research firm that has conducted several opinion polls in the run up to previous elections in Uganda, does not rate the two generals highly.  Advertisement

Whereas he is noncommittal about Gen Tumukunde, he believes that Gen Mugisha Muntu is a man to watch out for in the future.
If his words are anything to go by, that would leave the race between Mr Museveni, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, Mr Amuriat and Mr Mao.

This is the first time that we have a scenario where Mr Museveni is not faced with one major challenger but a couple or more.

In 1996, Mr Museveni  faced off with Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, who was the candidate of the Inter Party Cooperation (IPC), before Col Dr Kizza Besigye took over in 2001 and the three elections that followed.

In this election, the voters who want change may not coalesce around one candidate like they did before, which could make the exercise more competitive as there will be no certainty of victory on either side of the divide. As for now, it appears advantage National Resistance Movement party (NRM).

Prof Sabiiti Makara,  a lecturer of  political science at Makerere University, says it is now not possible for the Opposition to mount a serious challenge.

He adds that the NRM will win in all regions of the country, including the east, the north and Buganda, where the main Opposition figures come from.

“The Opposition campaign is not effective on the ground because of the circumstances under which they are campaigning. Mr Museveni always uses the State to frustrate the Opposition. That is why their rallies are broken up and gatherings scattered using teargas and live ammunition,” Prof Makara says.

With such odds against them, it would appear logical that each of the candidates concentrates on where they are strongest.

That would suggest that Mr Amuriat concentrates in the East, Mr Mao in the north and Mr Kyagulanyi in the central region. 

The three of them would have had control over more than 10,255,816 votes, leaving Mr Museveni with only the vote in Ankole to boss over.

With Dr Besigye probably being deployed as a special envoy to help the Opposition penetrate Rwenzori and Kigezi regions, it would be highly unlikely that Mr Museveni would end up with the 50 per cent plus one vote required for an outright victory. But this is a big ‘but’.

Buganda
Mr Kyagulanyi would be expected to concentrate in Buganda/central region, which as of February 2016 had over 4.8 million registered voters.

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Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, the NUP presidential candiadate, heads for nomination on November 3. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA


In the 2016 election, just more than 10.3 million votes were cast for all candidates, with President Museveni declared winner with 5.97 million votes and Dr Besigye coming second with 3.5 million votes. 

The total registered voters were close to 15.3 million, meaning that the registered voters in Buganda region were more than a quarter of the total. The battle for this vote will inevitably be fierce, as always.    In 1996, Dr Ssemogerere laid claim to the region’s vote, but Mr Museveni’s campaign team falsely claimed he was planning on returning former late President Milton Obote, who was considered a pariah in most of Buganda, to hand over power to him.

In the election cycles that followed, the fight for Buganda’s vote was mainly between Dr Besigye and Mr Museveni. 

Although Besigye always took Kampala and Wakiso, he always lost the region to Mr Museveni. It is now Mr Kyagulanyi’s turn, but can he achieve what Dr Besigye did not?

“Mr Kyagulanyi will defeat Mr Museveni in Kampala, most urban centres and central region. Bobi has been on the music scene for a long time and he appeals to the young people. Young people want to be like him – the young muzukulu who is challenging the grandfather,” Mr Wakida says.

Prof Makara, however, views things quite different. He argues that Mr Museveni will still win in Buganda because National Unity Platform (NUP) has not got the kind of infrastructure to mobilise, guard, protect its gains and votes.

“Museveni will still win in Buganda because he still has very strong structures at both the party and local government structures. He has LCs, NRM chairpersons and civil servants. During the NRM Central Executive Committee elections, the party opted to dump Nadduli in favour of Mr Kiwanda exactly because they need a young man with almost the same levels of energy as Bobi Wine to campaign for the presidency and rally the youth around him,” Prof Makara argues.

Mr Crispin Kaheru, the former Coordinator of the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), agrees with Mr Wakida, insisting that the demographics suggest that Buganda will overwhelmingly vote Kyagulanyi. 

“It is not necessarily because he is originally from Buganda, but because Buganda hosts the biggest population of young voters.  Kyagulanyi has adopted a message that seems to resonate with the young generation,” Mr Kaheru argues.

Teso/eastern region
Mr Amuriat has high hopes that Teso, which according to the 2016 election register had 755,633 registered voters, will overwhelmingly vote against the NRM.

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FDC presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat after nomination on November 3, 2020. PHOTO/ ALEX ESAGALA

“In my estimation, 2021 will see a POA wave happening in this (Teso) region. And I believe that in the minds of the NRM, they want to put their everything in this region. I am also confident that my people, the Teso people, can be very firm when it comes to taking the right decision,” Mr Amuriat said.

NRM’s vice chairman for Eastern Uganda, Mr Mike Mukula, however, laughs off Mr Amuriat, saying that FDC in Teso is dead.

“In 2006, FDC got 16 MPs, but the number fell to 6 in 2011 before dropping to 3 in 2016 even now there is no single FDC MP with them. Angeline Osege, Elijah Okupa and Herbert Ariko, are not with FDC anymore. They are contesting as Independent candidates. FDC has no single LC5 chairman in Teso. You cannot have a wave when there is no infrastructure. It doesn’t matter whether it is Dr Besigye, Mr Biriggwa or Amuriat, FDC is no more in Teso,” Mr Mukula insists. He argues that the NRM boasts of a sterling record in the region having done among others disarmed the Karamojong warriors who used to terrrorise the region; embarked on a restocking programme; worked on desilting and constructing new valley dams and worked on major roads like Kumi-Ngora, Tororo-Mbale-Soroti, Tirinyi-Pallisa-Kumi, as some of the NRM’s vote winners.

Whereas Mr Mukula exudes confidence, actions elsewhere suggest unease with Mr Amuriat’s emergence.

Before October 8 when FDC chairman Wasswa Biriggwa, stepped down for Mr Amuriat, paving way for his emergence unopposed, as the party’s presidential candidate, frantic efforts were made to convince FDC delegates from Teso to vote against him. 

The purpose was most probably to portray him as a weakling who could not win the support of delegates from his home region.

Earlier in April, some 500 people who claimed to be FDC supporters from Ajuket village, in Kanyum Sub-county in Amuriat’s home district of Kumi were paraded before the media and announced that they had defected to the ruling NRM. 
The group claimed they had been “misled by Mr Amuriat to hate the NRM”.

Then on October 20, government presented before  Parliament a request for a supplementary budget in which it had sought to get Shs30b to pay compensation for cattle stolen from Teso, Lango and Acholi regions during the years of insurgency.

The MPs, however, threw out the request on grounds that the money was too little. Compensation for animals lost in Teso has been a major talking point in the region for more than two decades now.

On Tuesday, Mr Amuriat revealed that lots of resources have been flowing into the region ever since he became president of FDC.

“I already see a lot of money coming in here. I already see unfulfilled promises that have taken ages now being fulfilled. A lot of institutional buildings have been put up. Even when I just became President of the FDC they tried to cancel out that influence. If my people are to benefit because I am a presidential candidate, what is wrong with that?” Mr Amuriat asked.

Mr Kaheru, however, warns that it might be a fatal error in judgment on the part of Mr Amuriat to think that Teso will as a block gravitate from the NRM simply because he comes from there.

Besides, having his work cut out for him in Teso, Mr Amuriat has the unenviable task of convincing Busoga, the rest of Bukedi region (Bugwere, Budaama and Bunyole), Elgon region (Bugisu and Sebei) and Karamoja to back him . 

That swatch which stretches from the Source of the Nile to Karamoja has at least   3,126,775 registered voters with 1,343,054 in Busoga alone.

Will Mao be a factor in the north?

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Democratic Party presidential candidate Norbert Mao (right) during the launch of the green barrettes for campaigns at the party offices in Kampala on October 28. PHOTO/SHABIBAH NAKIRIGYA

The end of the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) led insurgency and implementation of major infrastructure projects like the 108km road from Gulu to Nimule at the border with South Sudan via Pabbo, Atiak, Bibia and Elegu have seen Mr Museveni lay a huge claim to the north from where the DP Presidential candidate, Mr Norbert Mao, comes from.

Mr Mao, who prefers to look at himself as a “national” candidate and not a candidate from Acholi or the north, is perhaps the best suited person to halt the Museveni and NRM onslaught here.

When he first contested for president in 2011, Mr Mao picked up 147,917 votes representing just under 2 percent of the 8,272,760 cast. Back then Mr Olara Otunnu, who had earlier been elected President of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), served to further divide the opposition vote in Acholi among him, Mr Mao and Dr Besigye. Mr Mao, however put in a decent showing and even won in Gulu district with 36,225 votes, beating Mr Museveni to second place with 24,590 votes and Dr Besigye into third with 17,467 votes.

Back then, the Acholi sub-region had 594,417 registered voters out of which Mr Mao took 126,322 votes. In 2011, the number of registered voters in Acholi had risen to 604,076.

Supposing Mr Mao is working around galvanizing the North around him and DP, the combined vote of Acholi, Lango and West Nile would be at least 2,316,248.

Swing districts 
With Mr Museveni looking like he will be fighting Mr Kyagulanyi for a share of the Buganda vote, Mr Amuriat for the vote in the east and Mr Mao in the north, it would appear that those three will not really be battleground regions. So which are?

Mr Crispin Kaheru, the former Coordinator of CCEDU,  says the battle ground districts are the 16 districts  with the highest numbers of registered voters. These include Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Luweero and Buikwe in Buganda; Kasese in Rwenzori; Arua in West Nile; Jinja, Kamuli, Mayuge in Busoga; Tororo, Mbale in the East; Ntungamo, Isingiro and Kyenjojo in the west and; Lira in the north
“Those 16 districts are the ones to die for. They account for about 35 per cent of the country’s entire voting population. They could swing the national election in whichever direction they choose to (if they vote homogeneously). They will determine who leads the country next,” Mr Kaheru argues.

Source Daily Monitor.

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