By Saturday, December, 5, 2020, the incumbent and NRM presidential candidate, Yoweri Museveni, had spent 27 days canvassing votes that will enable him return to the highest office in the land.
Yet this has been unlike other campaigns he has conducted in the past thanks to Covid-19.
During the 27 days, Museveni, who recently signed a deed poll to rename himself Tibuhaburwa had attended over 70 meetings with regional NRM party leaders and youth leaders in the nine sub-regions of Greater Luweero, Acholi, Lango, West Nile, Karamoja, Teso, Bugisu, Sebei ,Bukedi and Busoga.
The NRM presidential candidate insisted on meetings with a selected number of party leaders not exceeding 200 people at ago.
“Whenever I am moving, I find groups of people but I just wave to them. I don’t move out to speak to them. I have surgical masks and shields but I don’t get out mixing with the people. The specialised masks I have can’t allow the virus go through. I can put it on and mix with people but those people will transmit the virus to themselves. I can’t do that because I am a leader," Museveni told NRM leaders in Nebbi.
He explained that holding mass rallies does not guarantee votes for any candidate and he has throughout his campaign meetings emphasized the same message of keeping safe from the deadly virus.
To ensure safety at the meetings, all the participants are first accredited and checked for Coronavirus.
Only those accredited with negative Coronavirus results are allowed access to the meetings but under strict guidelines of sanitising, their temperature measured at the entrance and they social distance.
Unlike in the past where government officials including ministers and party officials are allowed into the President’s tent, the arrangement has changed.
Only people on his security detail and his Principal Private Secretary, Dr.Kenneth Omona are allowed to sit in his tent or come closer to it for fear of the spread of the virus.
Inside the tent, all occupants wear masks at all times.
During the meetings, at most three people representing others are allowed to speak before Museveni addresses the group.
When it is time for his address, the president puts off his mask but immediately puts it back while joining other people in group photos.
For the gifts like spears, stools and other items handed to him by the leaders from the various sub-regions, they are first disinfected by his security before he handles them but on several occasions he has been stopped from handling some of them gifts handed to him.
President Museveni told NRM leaders the scientific campaigns have helped him move away from the campaign sloganeering to clearly explain the country’s problems and their medicine.
“This campaign is good in a way and better than other campaigns we did. This is because with other campaigns it was about mobilization where you excite people to follow something. I like this because it is educational. I get a chance to spend some hours with leaders from the various zones and discuss in detail the diagnosis of problems and prescription,” Museveni told Bukedi sub-region NRM leaders from the districts of Tororo, Butaleja and Budaka districts .
During the meetings, Museveni has emphasized the ideology of the ruling National Resistance Party that depicts the transformation journey Uganda has gone through since 1986.
“You heard about the difficult times of this country. How Uganda had failed and how even neighbouring countries like Sudan were in trouble. Before, during, and after colonialism, Uganda had problems like tribes fighting one another. After independence, everything broke down completely and many people died. The country was not governable. However, some of us were seeing the problems and later rectified them,” Museveni has often told the party leaders.
Castigating sectarianism, Museveni has emphasized the need for unity, failure of which he says will lead to problems in the country and Africa at large.
“If you divide people, how will you win elections? First of all you are misdefining the problem but secondly making it impossible to govern the country. UPC, DP and Kabaka Yekka failed to get enough seats to form government and nobody had majority seats. This was because they had divided the people and could not govern. Their solution was alliance of Kabaka Yekka and UPC but it lasted only 2 years and collapsed. By emphasising sectarianism they had totally disabled themselves," he said.
Keep it lively
Museveni has always peppered his speeches with words from the local dialects attracting wild cheers from the crowds.
“Somebody help me with my Ateso, he joked on Saturday while speaking to Bukedi NRM leaders in Tororo .
“Please, don’t remind me. I want to remember the word myself.”
This tactic has helped him not only keep his meetings lively but also drive home his points.
Kept out of local politics
The NRM presidential candidate has also kept out of local politics of the various areas wherever he has held his campaign meetings.
Whereas in the past Museveni canvassed votes for the party flag bearers, this time round, the meetings have been attended by the flag bearers and the losers in the NRM primaries but he has never mentioned anything in that direction, arguably because there are many who have come as independents.
In one incident in Bugisu, the NRM flag bearer for Sironko Woman MP position, Asha Nabulo tickled Museveni to consider deploying her nemesis and the incumbent, Florence Wamala Namboozo so she could leave the race.
“She is a good cadre we risk losing. You should get her a position,” Nabulo told Museveni.
Museveni ignored the request.
Museveni has also used the campaigns to hit out at the opposition politicians whom he says don’t have anything to show.
“There is no opposition in Uganda I can’t defeat because they have no logic. What are they opposing? There is no ground for opposition in any part of Uganda. They are discredited. They have no track record of what they have done on national issues,”Museveni said in Mbale.
“I think you need to engage these people. What are they opposing? If there are local issues like corruption, we also oppose them and we are sorting that. I see no group with a correction position in Uganda that could defeat the NRM.”
The issue of his age has been very pronounced in most of the speeches in the nine sub-regions he has so far campaigned in.
For example, he told NRM leaders from West Nile sub-region at Muni University grounds that the talk of him being too old to lead is nonsense .
“This is not about biology where you talk about young and old. We are talking about ideas where you are either right or wrong. For instance, I am a Christian. The Christian idea is very old. Are we going to abandon the Christian idea because it is very many years old? Are we going to abandon the law of Moses which is 4000 years old,” he said.
Boasts of peaceful country due to strong army
Museveni has told NRM leaders wherever he has gone that because of wise decisions that saw government ditch sectarianism in favour of unity, Uganda has been able to build a strong army that cannot be defeated by anyone.
“The other day when I was in Karamoja, I heard that some of the groups who have actually been talking about it [tribalism] for many months and how they are going to disturb the country. I told them no, it will be handled and you will see. I was sure we had the structure and capacity to stop any trouble in the country. We built that (capacity) because we didn’t take the other route of looking at people’s tribes and religions while recruiting," he said.
The NRM presidential candidate, who was now speaking as the country’s president used his campaigns to warn anyone planning to take part in protests not to dare do it.
Whereas it is time for campaign, the President has not abdicated his state duties as he has held a number of meetings at the various state lodges.
For example, while campaigning in the Acholi sub-region, Museveni took time off his busy campaign trail to meet with a delegation from Ethiopia led by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen to discuss the war in the Tigray region at Gulu State Lodge.
“Our discussion focused on the peace and security issues affecting Ethiopia currently. Being one of the oldest countries that was not colonised in Africa, Ethiopia is the pride of the continent. There should be negotiations and the conflict stopped, lest it leads to unnecessary loss of lives and cripples the economy. Africa’s problem is that we never discuss ideology, focusing so much on diplomacy,”Museveni said in a statement.
He also met victims of the Shs 4.5 billion scam involving self-styled Pastor Mondo Mugisha and singer Catherine Kusasira among other state duties.
Museveni, who has been accompanied either by the First Lady Janet Museveni or first daughter, Natasha Karugire has had time for his family amidst his hectic schedule.
During his meetings in Bugisu, Sebei and Bukedi, daughter Natasha Karugire was seen moving closer to his dad.
In one incident in Kapchorwa, Natasha, she realized it was too cold for her dad and offered him a jacket and scurf to bring him some warmth.
In gesture that shows the close bond between the two, Natasha was seen helping his dad put on the jacket as he addressed leaders.
In another incident while opening Tororo market, they were seen holding each other’s arm, just like a dad could do to his lovely daughter as they toured the newly constructed market.
Another photo posted on Museveni’s social media pages depicted him taking a stroll to view Mt. Kadama in Karamoja, Mt.Elgon and Lake Bisina, near the Kapchorwa state lodge.
“Uganda is the best country in the World. Incomparable beauty! I always marvel at some Ugandans that look so desperate to travel to other countries, almost all of them not as endowed and as beautiful as Uganda,” he posted.
The duo also took time off the president’s busy campaign schedule to visit the family of the late FRONASA veteran, Maumbe Mukhwana at Malukhu housing estate, House 49 in Mbale where he was almost killed when Amin soldiers raided the house while he was inside.
Museveni last week ended his day by juggling a ball gifted to him by NRM party leaders in Tororo.
On social media, he has released several videos showing him cracking jokes with his daughter, Natasha Karugire and these have attracted views from many people.
“In our conversations on the sidelines of the campaigns earlier, I was being "harassed" by my daughter Natasha (Karugire) of Mt St Mary's Namagunga school background about my Kyamate school English. Here we have tried to settle the debate,” Museveni posted on his social media accounts.