NRM in uncertainty up for the taking but Opposition tearing itself up


By 2026 polls, the Opposition will look back and wonder if they missed a golden chance akin to what was missed in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential vote.

KAMPALA | It is only 2024 and the race to the 2026 general elections looks ugly, very ugly.

From the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM ) to the main Opposition party, the National Unity Platform, there is no shame in dragging Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) into the glass jar of grasshoppers.

The Opposition has called President Museveni all sorts of names over the years and if it was sadism, the thought of the grand master of politics in the region leaning back in a swivel chair and observing grasshoppers in a glass jar would be surreal.

Yet a sneak peek into FDC's 'One-Uganda, Divided-People' current state of affairs or the volcano threatening to erupt in the NUP creates a picture of grasshoppers in a bottle biting each other to doom.

Kimanya-Kabonera MP Abed Bwanika on Wednesday touched the dial to play out what has been boiling in the NUP pot, picking issues with Kunga campaign that he suggested was a means to entrenching a selfish agenda.

"We have some areas that needed Kunga but they chose Masaka yet we're strong there," Bwanika, who was appearing on the NBS Morning Breeze show, said.

"The messaging was against the incumbent."

By incumbent, Bwanika appears to suggest Mathias Mpuuga, the Nyendo-Mukungwe Division MP and NUP Deputy President for Buganda region.

Mpuuga's loyalists have been uneasy within the party since the launch of Kunga, which is a Luganda word for mobilisation, in 2022.

NUP's Kunga campaign generated massive interest across the nation

They believe that the campaign that is led by NUP supremo Robert 'Bobi Wine' Kyagulanyi's elder brother Fred Nyanzi, is no different from the infamous Drone - only that in their context, it is a vehicle for fomenting intrigue.

NUP leaders like Joseph Kasirye of Masaka have long suggested that Kunga was being used to target certain party members whilst confining powers around Bobi Wine.

At the heart of their suspicion is that Nyanzi is working to bring down Mpuuga, who last December lost his Leader of Opposition in Parliament seat to Joel Ssenyonyi.

"Kunga is not useful in Masaka, it's unnecessary," Bwanika said.

"In Masaka, NUP is already entrenched. Kunga is just spreading negativity in Masaka. We need to use this campaigns in places where we are weak."

He accused NUP leadership of working to ringfence power within families, saying it more like Museveni’s government where some people are bigger than ministers.

"That's how dynasty politics works and that is what they are trying to copy in NUP," Bwanika said. "Decisions are made in small groups and family meetings."

By 2026 polls, the Opposition will look back and wonder if they missed a golden chance akin to what was missed in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential vote.

The contested vote was followed by an eerie silence across major towns, with the events in Kampala in particular leaving many confused on how to react.

On February 20, 2016, Eng Badru Kiggundu declared incumbent Yoweri Museveni as the winner of the presidential election with 60.7 percent (5,617,593 votes).

FDC's Kizza Besigye placed second with 35.37 percent (3,270,290 votes) in a race that had eight candidates.

With social media shut down and Besigye under "preventive house arrest", there was only mournful silence.

One day, two days, three days, and finally Evelyn Anite and company led a group of NRM supporters into a semblance victory jubilation.

It could have passed for the most awkward celebration in the history of happiness but a celebration it was nonetheless.

"In those two days of uncertainty, if the people had taken to the streets, the President would have fled," a former State House employee told this reporter at the time.

Muhoozi hands over files to Museveni during a May meeting

Apparently, during that eerie silence, the President and his team were as uncertain of what would happen next. A spontaneous reaction by Opposition supporters would have pushed the buttons.

They say opportunities knock once and that chance was gone the moment Anite and co. took to the streets. Yet there is another chance that is dancing seductively with "come-get-me" eyes for the Opposition.

But they are too engrossed in self-destruction to notice the damsel in the mood.

The "transition" going on in NRM has the ruling party too busy putting its own house to order to care about what Kunga is and whether it can affect the price of grasshoppers in Masaka City.

Museveni and his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, they have the luck of the skies. They can afford to reel out a Cabinet reshuffle tomorrow with Balaam Byarugahare as a minister and it will be days before the Opposition realise what has happened.

At a time they could be united in paying attention to the movements inside at Plot 1 Nakasero, Wasswa Birigwa is still too haunted by the perimeter wall-scaling in Najjanankumbi to care.

That NRM top brass are confidently drumming up support for Gen Muhoozi against their own appointing authority is something that has not been a subject of the Opposition news briefing.

Instead, NUP leadership in Masaka are busy claiming credit for the 62 percent voter haul in Buganda in the 2021 polls and thinking of whether Alice Nanungi and Florence Namayanja can floor Mpuuga in Masaka and Buganda.

Patrick Wakida, chief executive of Research World International, feels the goings-on in NRM merits attention but he is baffled that even within the ruling party, there is a very an unusual nonchalance.

"When you see senior leaders of a party like National Resistance Movement not sure what to say about that movement, it causes a very serious debate within the country," Wakida said.

Both Besigye and Bobi Wine have in the recent past challenged Opposition politicians to focus on the primary goal of challenging Museveni's 40-year stronghold on power.

But their worries that the majority are intead clamouring for positions in the parties keeps slapping them hard.

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