President Yoweri Museveni’s State of the Nation address for 2019 has forced many political watchers to look back on the state of the opposition in the country.
In fulfilment of the article 101 (1) Constitutional requirement , President Museveni delivered last year’s state of the nation address on 6th June. At the time, it looked like Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party was headed for tough times.
At the time Museveni delivered the 2018 State of the Nation Address, the country was preparing for two vital elections in July and August to take place in Bugiri and Arua respectively.
Despite calls for a united front, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) refused to rally behind JEEMA’s Asuman Basalirwa in Bugiri. As the FDC candidate was trounced, Bugiri seemed to announce the emergence of a new king maker in the form of Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi better known by his music moniker Bobi Wine. Bobi Wine threw all his weight behind that election’s winner Basalirwa.
The Arua by-election was more bitterly fought over as NRM chairman President Museveni joined in the fray to claim the seat for his party. The opposition, again, as it had been in Bugiri remained hopelessly divided with FDC fronting Bruce Musema. Bobi Wine, former FDC president Mugisha Muntu and several significant opposition politicians however broke party ranks to back former Terego county MP Kasiano Wadri for Arua.
The violence on the eve of the election saw most of the opposition politicians, including the candidate, spend voting day in custody. President Museveni claimed that one of Bobi Wine’s rowdy supporters had stoned his vehicle and for days the country was on edge on the whereabouts and health of the young legislator who was detained in military custody at Makindye barracks.
Bobi Wine, Kasiano Wadri and several others still face treason charges stemming from the incident.
The violence exhibited seems to have forced cooler heads to begin calling for a national dialogue. The call was spearheaded by the Inter-religious Council Uganda (IRCU) who urged for calm in the political arena whose temperature had reached boiling point.
All invited to the dialogue table stated conditions that needed to be fulfilled before talks could begin. To the surprise of many, NRM’s President Museveni gave the IRCU suggestion his blessing as the country waited on the opposition parties move.
A long awaited event many had begun to think would never come to pass did when former FDC president Mugisha Muntu announced he was quitting the party he had helped to start. Many anticipated that sizeable number of disgruntled FDC members would cross to Muntu’s then yet to be announced party, sparking more bitterness within FDC loyalists. For the time being Muntu contented identifying his like minded followers as part of The New Formation.
With 2018 looking to retire, the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) organised a summit under the stewardship of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) led by Jimmy Akena. As it had done all year, FDC opted not to attend the IPOD summit complaining that the right to associate was grossly abused by the government and it saw no reason to attend. FDC was also a no-show under the second IPOD summit organised by the Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao.
But FDC was not dormant. The Patrick Oboi Amuriat headed party kicked off 2019 with a bang by naming what it termed, “a People’s government.” Former FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye was named head of this government. Part time DP members Erias Lukwago and Mukono MP Betty Nambooze were named Vice President and spokesperson for the people’s government. Unsurprisingly, the absence of Kyadondo East MP Kyagulanyi’s name in the cabinet raised eyebrows.
Tensions between FDC and the nascent People Power movement led by Bobi Wine (Kyagulanyi) finally exploded into public view outside the studios of CBS radio where Dr Besigye was appearing on a show. The youth claiming to be People Power attempted to block Besigye’s appearance and a scuffle ensued. The principals Bobi Wine and Besigye condemned the confrontation and continued to claim cordial relations.
The Democratic Party announced it was reuniting all its diverse factions in 2019. The DP Bloc, a coalition of the Democratic Party led by Mr Norbert Mao, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by Dr Abed Bwanika and Mr Mike Mabike’s Social Democratic Party (SDP), signed a pact that binds them ahead of the 2021 general elections. In the meet, many of the speakers lashed out at FDC’s Kizza Besigye for what they called personalizing the struggle. Besigye hit back saying no one invited him to the struggle and none could force him out.
Mugisha Muntu’s New Formation finally morphed into a fully registered political party calling itself the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT). The newest opposition won rare plaudits from the Uganda Police Force who commended them for “cooperating well” by informing them of all their activities.
As 2019 hits the halfway mark with another State of the Nation Address, the opposition ranks do not seem to be in a better position than they were a year ago. The DP reunion caravan has repeatedly been blocked from congregating in various towns around the country. FDC’s mobilisation tour of the country has been met with teargas and live bullets from an unrepentant police that charges them with disregarding the Public Order and Management Act (POMA). People Power leader Bobi Wine has been continually blocked from holding any music concerts that government spokespersons claim are cover for political rallies.