Uganda Decides 2021: Different Paths, But Common Mission – To Replace Autocrat Museveni

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Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah believes it is possible to dislodge Museveni from within NRM.

“As longstanding friends and partners, we are troubled by the signs of closing political space, including the blocking of bank accounts of Uganda Civil Society Organizations working for the benefit of the Uganda people”

“He paused for about three minutes, then, he said: ‘when I am through with KANU then you will see’. Two months later, he walked out of KANU with new convictions. When I (Oulanyah) came back in 2011, I was unstoppable. My ground has never been solid as never before”

Analysis

Gulu –Uganda: Ugandans go to the polls to elect a new President and new Members of Parliaments who will govern this country for the next five years on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Uganda has had elections every five years since 1996 ten years after Museveni began to rule this troubled country on January 26, 1986 after a very bloody five-year rebellion/war, which conservatives say claimed over six hundred thousand lives.

To some Ugandans, including the President himself, this is a ‘do or die’ election, a fact, which has raised the stakes very high. There are eleven presidential candidates, including incumbent Museveni, who is officially 71 years old but believed to be over 80 years old – and the 24 year-old John Katumba.

This has been made possible because Mr. Museveni manipulated the 1995 Constitution and controversially removed the age limit cap, which barred anybody above 75 years and below 35 from being elected to this highest office of the country.

Since coming to the political scene by youthful Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who is popularly known by his musical stage name, simply known as Bobi Wine, in a parliamentary by-election in 2017, Uganda politics changed completely after he launched his ‘People Power’ pressure group.

We are witnessing a surge in youths, who represent over 70 per cent of the population, coming out to participate in this election; either as candidates themselves for the various offices like youthful John Katumba and Bobi Wine (for president) or as active voters.

On Saturday, January 09, 2021, the United States of America (USA) ambassador to Uganda, Ms. Natalie E. Brown, released a statement in which she expressed ‘serious concern over disturbing signs that civic space is closing with the presidential election on January 14, 2021.

She is particularly concerned about restrictions on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), delayed accreditation of domestic observers and interference with non-partisan voter education programming funded by Uganda International Democratic partners which puts into question Uganda’s preparedness for a transparent and inclusive election.

“As longstanding friends and partners, we are troubled by the signs of closing political space, including the blocking of bank accounts of Uganda Civil Society Organizations working for the benefit of the Uganda people”, penned Ms. Brown.

Government seems not to take the words of the ambassador seriously as Cabinet Minister in charge of General Duties, Ms. Mary Karooro Okurut quickly responded to the criticism/advice by saying that ‘America should not come here to teach us democracy and to disorganize our elections’.

In August 2019, the Financial Intelligent Authority (FIA) and the Bank of Uganda requested Equity Bank to provide details of 17 accounts of NGOs deemed to be ‘sponsoring an agenda for regime change’. Last month, government froze accounts of at least four NGOs, including the Uganda National NGO Forum, but all these NGOs have been intimidated into silence. A Human Rights Activist/lawyer, Mr. Nicolas Opiyo was arrested and the account of his NGO, ‘Chapter 4’, frozen. There is total media blackout on the fate of these NGOs and what will happen during this election.

There are two opposing camps in this election but they have a common mission: ‘to dislodge autocrat Museveni’. There are the likes of Bobi Wine, Norbert Mao and Katumba, who are banking on youth support to dislodge Museveni through competing against him in the presidential race.

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate, Mr. Patrick Oboi Amuriat, says as parties who want to dislodge Mr. Museveni, they went to face the ‘lion of Uganda’ from different fronts as a strategy to deny Mr. Museveni a ‘simple majority win’.

“We expect to deny him win in the first round of voting; and we shall definitely defeat him in the second round of voting when we shall all galvanize our votes behind the runner up in the first round. He has no escape route this time”, says Amuriat.

In the second camp are those youths and young adults who believe that it is extremely difficult and equally dangerous to dislodge Mr. Museveni by being in any opposition political parties. They want change from within NRM-O party.

On Friday, January 08, 2021, Rt. Hon. Jacob L. Oulanyah, the Deputy Speaker of Uganda Parliament and the new member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling NRM party addressed the media from their headquarters in Gulu, Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) during which he predicted that his party will win this election by about 67.1 per cent of total vote cast.

Mr. Oulanyah, an agricultural economist, lawyer and politician was a member of parliament on Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) party from 2001-2006, lost his re-election bid in the same year (2006). In July 2006, he left UPC for the ruling NRM-O party. In March 2011, he was elected to parliament on NRM ticket and on May 19, 2011 elected Deputy Speaker in the ninth parliament, a post he still holds to date.

On August 20, 2020, Mr. Oulanyah was elected to the ruling NRM CEC representing northern region. (NRM CEC is the highest decision making organ of Museveni’s government structure.) Out of the over a dozen representatives in CEC, only two are ‘original bush war veterans, Mr. Museveni himself and his National Vice Chairperson al- Haji Moses Kigongo. All the rest are new Turks in NRM block.

Mr. Oulanyah says he got the cue of joining your political opponent and to fight that opponent from within from former Kenyan Vice President Raila Odinga in 2001 who had just joined Kenya African National Union (KANU) from his own party which had jailed and tortured him for seven years.

“He paused for about three minutes, then, he said: ‘when I am through with KANU then you will see’. Two months later, he walked out of KANU with new convictions. When I (Oulanyah) came back in 2011, I was unstoppable. My ground has never been solid as never before”, says Oulanyah.

When Mr. Museveni took over power, several rebel groups emerged, especially in Acholi and Lango sub-regions and in eastern region, in Teso sub-region; the regions, he, Museveni, accuses of killing innocent civilians in Luweero; the epicenter of his National Resistance Army (NRA) rebellion in Central region.

Some of those new rebel groups included the Uganda Peoples’ Democratic Army (UPDA), the Holy Spirit Mobile Force (HSMF) of priestess, Alice Auma Lakwena, the Uganda Peoples’ Army (UPA), the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).the Former Uganda National Army (FUNA), the Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) in West Nile sub-region, Allied Democratic Front (ADF) in Western sub-region and Force Obote Back Again (FOBA) in eastern region.

UPDA, which was the first to be formed soon after Museveni was sworn in as Head of State in January 1986 signed Peace Agreement with Museveni on June 03, 1988 and many of their soldiers joined the NRA. However, all their senior commanders who became commanders in the national army have all died under very suspicious circumstances. Only the foot soldiers are still serving.

Only time will tell which of the two diametrically opposing groups will dislodge autocrat Museveni and stop short his lifelong project— to die in office. Campaigns end on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) 

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