The failure of The Democratic Alliance (TDA) to rally behind a single presidential candidate was a missed opportunity. Notwithstanding the ruling regime’s track record of rigged elections, the collective will and focused energy and resources of all who want genuine change and transformation in Uganda would have markedly improved the chances of defeating Museveni in 2016.
Instead we ended the week with two opposition campaigns that, at the moment at least, seem to be focusing on defeating each other. Emotions have been running high, with many harsh words exchanged, complete with the usual abuse, slander and conspiracy allegations that betray intolerance for difference of opinion and choice.
This verbal civil war in the opposition has been greeted with glee by the Museveni regime. Already giddy with joy that they have been spared the dreaded Museveni/NRM versus Mbabazi/full TDA contest, the ruling party folks have seized the opportunity to stock the flames of discord.
For example, Ndugu Ofwono Opondo of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has now become a great defender and cheerleader for Dr. Besigye. Of course Opondo’s pro-Besigye pretense betrays a deep fear of a Mbabazi candidacy, something several Museveni courtiers had expressed to me before the TDA process stalled.
The regime’s operatives will double their efforts to create chaos in the opposition ranks. We have seen them do this during FDC campaigns, spreading lies about a candidate in order to discredit him among the voters.
A favorite line is to accuse a candidate they fear, of being a Museveni mole. Just as they have repeatedly used this false allegation against Mr. Mugisha Muntu, they will spread the same about Mr. Mbabazi.
They are already spreading one to the effect that Mbabazi and Museveni created the TDA in order to destroy the opposition once and for all. Anyone who buys that one is either struggling with serious lack of information or is a willing victim of deliberate disinformation.
The fact is that Mbabazi joined the TDA only a few weeks ago at the invitation of the TDA. The majority of the TDA members gladly welcomed him on board, probably aware that he offered a huge boost to the opposition forces.
Mbabazi is such a serious challenger to Museveni that the regime is fighting him with all legal and illegal means. Frankly the last time Museveni faced a challenge of similar magnitude was in 2006 when Dr. Besigye, at the head of the newly formed FDC, returned from exile in South Africa to stand for the national presidency.
Another line they have been merchandizing is that Mbabazi bought the TDA’s support with millions of dollars. Several people who attended TDA meetings at which Mbabazi was have told me that he did not tell them that he had money. He told them he had the capacity to raise significant sums of money. Few would argue with that.
One understands the disappointment and disillusionment that have gripped Ugandans at home and the Diaspora who had invested their hopes in the TDA. A joint candidate was the hope of many. The internecine war is their despair.
It is very tempting to throw up one’s arms with resigned indignation. Yet to give up is to play into Museveni’s hands and give him an easy ride back to State House. Every Ugandan who cares about our country should get involved in this election. Besides supporting their preferred candidate, they should offer material and moral support to the TDA.
It is an organization that needs to be nurtured and transformed into a credible forum for genuine democratic thought and practice. The men and women who have championed this idea deserve honour and salutation, even as we offer them constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.
With less than five months to go before the elections, the opposition leaders, the TDA members and activists should rise above the unproductive emotional reactions to the events of the last two weeks. This is not the time to throw mud at each other.
They should learn from what has happened, leave it behind and forge a coalition of the willing – with the Besigye and Mbabazi campaigns fixing their gaze on the removal of Museveni and his corrupt regime from power.
A two-pronged attack against the regime, not against each other, has the potential to punch holes in Museveni’s armor. Meticulously coordinated efforts in protecting the candidates, their supporters, the votes and the results are of critical importance.
To do so requires trust between the two presidential candidates and their campaign teams. Besigye needs Mbabazi and his team. Mbabazi needs Besigye and his team. There is an urgent need to join hands. There is urgent need to focus the campaign on the president.
The alternative is mutually assured destruction of the opposition campaigns, and a Museveni victory by default.
Letter to a Kampala Friend by Muniini K. Mulera
In Toronto [email@example.com]