The Traditional Democratic Alliance (TDA) was formed in June 2015 as a coalition of opposition political parties, civil society organisations and pressure groups in Uganda with the aim of establishing a credible electoral management system.
This umbrella body intends to select and nominate joint presidential and parliamentary candidates for the 2016 general elections.
The alliance is another desperate move by Ugandans to rescue their country from the 30 years of President Yoweri Museveni rule.
This development comes amidst strong debates on whether or not the opposition should take part in an electoral exercise that is organised by Museveni.
Basing on past experience, opposition says Museveni has always taken advantage of his incumbency but more so the fusing of the state institutions and his regime.
He has on several occasions made it very clear that he has the personal control of security forces and the national treasury.
He has also stated that he does not see any other Ugandan with a vision to lead the country and that he will never hand over power to leaders of opposition whom he repeatedly describes as ‘wolves’.
The regime regards political opposition as enemies of the state.
It is against this background that some leaders of the opposition are advocating for making sure that the forthcoming elections don’t take place unless meaningful electoral reforms are put in place.
In particular, Dr. Kizza Besigye has unequivocally starred thus: “We shall do everything in our power to stop any election that does not conform to the principle of free and fair elections. Along this line he has a big following from both the elites and the majority of desperate Ugandans. They plan to mobilize Ugandans for mass action that will reclaim their country”.
The push for electoral reforms has always been there only that its advocates have not come to terms with the obvious fact that military leaders don’t subscribe to democratic reforms.
Such leaders thrive on violence, intimidation, political bribery and manipulation.
During past sham elections the country has witnessed a number of opposition coalitions but owing to the military regime’s use of violence by security forces and voter bribery that even extends to opposition polling agents.
However, unlike in the past, this time he is preparing to counter the mass action dubbed peoples’ power.
Towards the 2011 general elections opposition political parties and civil society activists carried out street protests demanding for the disbandment of Museveni appointed Electoral Commission.
They wanted the Chairman to be replaced by someone who would uphold the independence of the Commission and defend it from influence and interference from the regime.
The protests were quelled by the Police but the regime claimed that it could not work on the proposals since they had been presented barely five months to the elections.
After the 2011 elections, the regime was not bothered by electoral reforms prompting the activists to undertake nationwide consultations to collect proposals on electoral reforms.
They came up with proposals in a document which they dubbed Uganda Citizens Compact on Electoral Reforms.
In December 2014 the proposals were presented to government through the speaker of parliament.
Of course to Museveni those proposals amounted to treason; he played a delaying tactic by claiming that cabinet was still discussing the same.
In the meantime unsuspecting activists suspended their street protests.
In April 2015, the regime presented to parliament the long awaited Constitutional Amendment Bill that contained six amendments of which only one slightly touched on what had been proposed by the Citizens Compact.
In mid-August 2015, the regime used its numbers in parliament to pass its proposed cosmetic amendments among them just changing the name of the electoral body from Electoral Commission (EC) to Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Since 2008 six donor community members from the European Union have been partnering with both the regime and the opposition parties to promote the culture of dialogue.
This is what gave rise to Inter-party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) that was composed of the regime’s NRM and the opposition parties that are represented in parliament and a secretariat hosted in the Electoral Commission head office.
Like the Citizens Compact, IPOD too with the aid of the donor community presented electoral proposals that among others advocated for the restoration of term limits.
The recent passing of the cosmetic constitutional amendments ignored all its proposals prompting all the opposition parties to withdraw from IPOD.
Maj. Kakooza Mutale
In the run up to the 2001 general elections, the military regime founded a militia group under Maj. Kakooza Mutable that was dubbed Kalangala Action Plan.
With its head office at Sure House along Bombo Road, the group caused mayhem more especially in Kampala City. Its stick and AK 47 wielding militia group terrorised opposition voters.
The group was composed of among others rogue military intelligence officers notably a one Sadaam who had earlier been attached to the NRA 1st Division in Lubiri.
Since then, whenever there is an election the military regime always reactivates the militia group under Major Kakooza Mutale.
In several recent interviews, Maj Mutale has made it clear that his militia group has the task of ensuring that Museveni wins the forthcoming elections. He has vowed to crush whoever stands in the way for the ‘Omulaalo’ – a term commonly used in Uganda to refer to nomadic ethnic Hima and their Rwandese Tutsi cousins.
It is wrong for Ugandans to tag the group to Maj Mutable because this group is being organised by the army although they have on several occasions denied such.
Kakooza Mutale joined Museveni’s guerilla war in 1983 after his group called Vumbula was incorporated into Museveni’s NRA.
Immediately after the takeover of power in 1986 Mutale step up a camp in a forest around Wakiso to recruit and train NRM cadres.
Since he had not properly informed other security players, his camp was mistaken for an enemy and attacked leaving several dead and others injured.
Among the victims was a son to Mzee Gureme who was later compensated with the rapid promotion of his other son now Brig Mathew Gureme.
Instead of being reprimanded, Mutale continued to recruit and train party cadres at Namugongo before the school of political instruction was relocated to its present home of Kyankwanzi and re-branded the National Leadership Institute.
Over the years, Museveni has accorded Maj. Mutale a special status.
In September 2009, he was investigated by Gen David Ssejusa after the former had arrested, tortured and detained at his KAP head office a one Benjamin Ssembegeya.
Maj. Mutale plainly told Gen Ssejusa that he was a Senior Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs and a Director of Special Operations under State House.
Brig. Elly Kayanja
Brig Elly Kayanja who once headed the notorious Operation Wembley to counter those suspected to join armed rebellion following the 2001 elections has vowed to defy all the army regulations and campaign for Museveni’s re-election.
His public statement prompted the Army Chief Gen Katumba Wamala to issue a smoke screen warning to all army officers to desist from partisan politics.
This warning was targeting those officers who may sympathetic to the opposition.
Otherwise, Gen Katumba Wamala, the Army Chief, has no control of the political engagements of army officers when such engagements are aligned to the regime.
Brig. Henry Tumukunde
Brig Henry Tumukunde is reportedly mobilising militant youth to stifle the opposition as already witnessed during the recent daylight raid of presidential aspirant Mbabazi’s residence by militant youth donning Museveni T-shirts.
The Police simply looked on as it pretended to arrest them yet the country has not been told the identity and motive of those attackers.
Earlier on another regime militant youth group dubbed Youth Coalition for NRM Mobilization donning Museveni T-shirts and led by its National Coordinator, a one Justus Tugume and the RDC of Gulu carried out a procession while carrying a coffin in a mock burial of presidential aspirant Mbabazi.
In approval, the regime’s Police simply provided escort services to procession.
Just last week another militant youth group donning Museveni T-shirts demonstrated in Kitgum vowing not to allow presidential aspirant Mbabazi to ever step in their area.
Around the same time another pro regime youth group dubbed NRM National Youth High Command led by Ibrahim Ssewanyana was launched in Kampala with the task of campaigning for the re-election of Museveni.
From the 2007 Mabira Forest riots, the 2009 Kayunga riots coupled by the post 2011 elections street protests, the military regime realized that if the masses are well mobilized they can pose a formidable challenge to its hold on power.
Since then it has been building capacity to deal with such an event. Among the other measures has been the chasing of market vendors, bodaboda riders, street hawkers, taxi operators etc from the city center.
Such measures also saw the introduction of militant youth group dubbed the Kiboko Squad that was headed by Abdu Kitata and comprised of youths from the public transport sector, market vendors, Bodabodas, etc and those who were opposed to the scheme were harassed from business.
They were given police uniforms and some of them were later taken on as Police Constables while others simply deserted with Police property prompting the Police to issue a public warning.
In the same respect, the concept of Crime Preventers was coined following the gruesome murder of a female student at Makerere University in 2014.
The Police Chief mobilized 700 university students for a two weeks military drills in self-defence, weapon handling and political indoctrination.
The arrangement was expanded to include all institutions of higher learning and the venue of the training shifted to the Police training school in Masindi.
The concept of Crime Preventers has been transformed into a National Crime Prevention Forum (NCPF).
It was initiated by Gen. Kale Kayihura and inaugurated by Museveni during the recently celebrated Police centenary.
It is headed by a one Blaise Kamugisha who is the National Director and Sylvia Ampumuza who is the form’s Spokesperson.
It has its head office in the Wandegeya suburbs of Kampala. Since then the scheme has been extended to all corners of Uganda where almost every week Museveni is seen passing out thousands of militant youths as they don his party T-shirts bearing his portrait.
Their training is conducted by the Police and the RDCs. The regime has tirelessly attempted to hoodwink Ugandans that the concept of crime preventers is part of its community policing programme.
Community policing in the Uganda Police was started in 1994with a pilot scheme at Katwe Police Station in Kampala. Community Liaison Officers were put in place for all Police Stations.
It did not take root because it lacked the political blessing since at the time the regime regarded the Police as being hostile to its political machinations.
However, later it was piloted in the posh suburb of Muyenga and it has never gone beyond that.
The original concept was abandoned and instead the political policing scheme that prioritizes regime survival.
The regime targets to have a minimum of 30 crime preventers per village throughout the country and so far they boost of having 5,000 already in place.
Burundi has Imbonerakure, Kenya had Mungiki, Rwanda had Interahamwe while in Tanzania Police has banned all partisan militant groups i.e CHADEMA’s Red Brigade, CCM’s Green Guards and CUF’s Blue Guards.
TJ – SOLIDA
The embattled Lord Mayor Eliasi Lukwago and other opposition activists have responded to the regime’s preparation of militias by also putting in place a youth group supposedly to counter those of the regime.
This has tickled the regime who all along believed that they had the monopoly of organising.
All along Museveni had been buying time and had no intention of putting in place any meaningful electoral reforms simply because those sham elections renew his life presidency scheme.
The political oppositions, civil society and Ugandans in general had as usual been duped. Instead, he has been busy putting in place measures to counter the mass agitation for reforms.
In June 2013 during a Hero’s Day celebration at Nakaseke he stated thus: “No one can destabilize the country. Besigye tried to disorganise Kampala. the capital city. We teargassed him until he cooled off. He doesn’t need bullets just teargas is enough for him.”
In May 2015 Museveni wrote a letter to the Joint operations Command Center instructing them to selectively train and arm civilians in markets, universities, Mosques, banks, churches, etc to fight terrorism.
On 18th July 2015, the Police Chief Gen Kayihura gave an interview where he was asked about his secret meetings with those militant youths at a certain hotel.
He clearly stated that those youth groups give him political intelligence on disruption of political order.
Indeed according to Museveni, demanding for electoral reforms amounts to disrupting political order.
Museveni’s prayer is that Dr. Besigye wins both the FDC and the TDA flag bearership thus abandoning the ‘No Reforms, No Election’ school of thought.
Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political analyst