With opposition threatening a boycott, Museveni needs an opponent at the national presidential elections
Some things require many words and rims of paper to explain. The consequences of Gen. David Sejusa’s and former Kampala Mayor, Nasser Ssebaggala’s recent political moves do not. ‘’It is elementary, my dear Watson,’’ Sherlock Holmes, that cerebral character in Sir A. Conan Doyle’s detective stories would have said.
This presentation does not require us going into Sejusa and Co’s antecedents and antics first. Whether Sejusa is being his maverick self yet again and Sebaggala is remaining whatever you think he is, their activities have an effect on the Ugandan voter.
The Ugandan voter looking at these two gentlemen is bound to come to one or several of these conclusions: all politicians are the same; they are all in it for themselves; why bother to vote? There is no alternative; gwewalabyeko ye mwaana, which means the same thing as the devil you know (President Yoweri Museveni) is better than the angel you don’t (any other presidential candidate); nothing is likely to change.
The result of any of those conclusions is a low voter turn-out during the expected elections, widespread acceptance of the status quo, resignation and the sapping of the will to resist what is going on. Only one person, Mr Museveni, benefits from any reaction of the voter set out above.
Then there is this little matter of the campaign for free and fair elections. Some credible potential presidential candidates have stated categorically that without major electoral reforms being introduced, their participation in the 2016 elections would be meaningless. Much as he appears to have succeeded in becoming the sole NRM candidate, for the international community Mr Museveni needs an opponent at the national presidential elections. In case the presently known opposition figures will not offer themselves for election in protest against a flawed electoral process, there will be need to create candidates ready to participate in the flawed process in order to lend it some credibility. And what better candidate than Sejusa or Sebaggala or both! And what better time to begin creating and propping up ‘’an opponent’’ than now!
It is not more complicated than that.
While still at simplifying matters, I may as well touch on the Amama Mbabazi saga. In quick succession Mbabazi punitively lost his positions as Uganda’s prime minister and NRM secretary general. The crime for which he was so punished? Putting in place mechanisms to enable him to be nominated NRM presidential candidate, yet Mr Museveni still wanted to be the one.
Let no one remain in any doubt: Amama Mbabazi would never even have dreamed of standing against Museveni as long as he believed Museveni still coveted the office of president. Mbabazi must have believed or was explicitly told by Museveni himself that he, Museveni, would not be standing for president come 2016.
Therefore, Mbabazi sought not to displace but to replace Museveni.
Mbabazi knew that Museveni made him and had the means to unmake him; that Museveni was his political prop without whom he could not stand; that such political clout as he had was derived from the perception that Museveni was behind him.
Above all he is smart enough to know that a stream cannot rise higher than its source.
The structures he put in place and the personnel he recruited were not meant to defeat Museveni but to manoeuvre an advantage over his possible competitors for the position, the most notable among them being former vice-president Dr Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya and Speaker of Parliament, Miss Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. On getting wind of Mbabazi’s exercise, Museveni didn’t care for whom it was meant, asked no questions but began planning counter-measures.
After realising that he had either been mistaken about Museveni’s intentions or been lied to, he was too shy to dismantle the structures he had put in place and send home the men and women he had recruited to support his candidature. For how could he look his team in the face and tell them he was dismissing them because, ‘’ Sorry, folks, the man has changed his mind. He is standing again!’’
As he was still thinking of a politically dignified way of getting out of the tight spot in which he now found himself, Museveni pounced with the sole candidate project. Museveni’s move caught Mbabazi completely off- guard and left him dazed, if not paralysed. His reticence cost him dearly. But as then-Bank of Uganda Governor, Charles Kikonyogo, used to say, ‘’Never write off a man as long as he remains alive.’’