By Odomaro Mubangizi
A political trinity made up of Dr Kiiza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi and Yoweri Museveni, the top runners in the current battle for Uganda’s State House, has emerged as Uganda goes to the polls on Thursday this week.
Some have talked of a “three horse race” but it is becoming clear by the day that it is going to be a “two horse race” – tight race between the incumbent President Museveni and Besigye, with Mbabazi playing a decisive role as a king maker. Close to one week to the polls one can hazard some scenarios and trajectories. What are the political dynamics at play in Uganda’s most intriguing elections? It is very exciting to see three of the main architects of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) tussling it out with the country split into three camps, even though some are playing the safe “independent” option. It was some time in 1996 when Dr Kiiza Besigye wrote a lengthy critique of the NRM under his boss President Yoweri Museveni, essentially challenging the way things had turned out, and pointing out that the system had diverted from the its original vision. NRM came to power in 1986 under a popular armed revolution that had started in 1981. The catch phrase under which NRM was ruling was the “Ten Point Program” that included, among others, strengthening democracy, promoting a diversified and integrated economy and promoting national unity.
Dr Besigye wanted reform so that the original noble goals of democracy and development could be realized and not mere rhetoric. He then decided he would offer himself as an alternative to lead Uganda towards reform. Some were skeptical of his motive but he still stood for the presidency in 2001, then in 2006 and also in 2011. In all these attempts his support kept increasing but amidst allegations of rigging, with futile legal redress. Gradually the reform agenda evolved into a formidable political party known as Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Reform Agenda and FDC attracted some of the senior NRM top brass like former Army Commander Major General Mugisha Muntu, Jack Sabiiti, Eriya Kategaya (former Deputy Prime Minister), Salamu Musumba, Amanya Mushega, Winnie Byanyima, and many others. This development became the most serious threat to President Museveni’s hold onto power. FDC in using “democratic change” was alluding to Uganda’s dark history of violent political changes.