The failed opposition alliance (TDA) to form a coalition by fielding a joint candidate for the 2016 general elections has both negative and positive implications.
It failed to reach a consensus on either Dr. Kizza Besigye or Amama Mbabazi as a joint flag bearer.
The TDA summit faulted Mbabazi’s group for not having structures and his reluctance to denounce the ruling NRM.
The same summit did not state where they faulted Dr. Besigye and why they did not select him as the joint flag bearer.
The truth is that for some reasons, the majority in the TDA summit favoured Amama Mbabazi.
However, they feared that if they selected any of the two, the other one would still go ahead and contest thus discrediting the TDA and fomenting antagonism between the two camps.
Therefore, deliberate refusal to select a joint flag bearer was the best option since it leaves the TDA doors open to further dialogue.
The Mbabazi team has structures countrywide cutting across all political parties including the ruling NRM, religious groups, civil society, the security services, etc.
For fear of reprisals from the regime, Mbabazi’s structures operate in secrecy.
That is why the NRM party primaries are marred by widespread rigging and violence in order to neutralise suspected Mbabazi supporters.
It is for the same reasons that the TDA summit contends that most of the opposition parties like UPC, DP, UFA, and PPP are supporting Amama Mbabazi.
As had been the case in 1985 with the Okello junta, the DP is hoping to ride on Amama Mbabazi’s back to get closer to power.
DP President Mao in particular intends to kill two birds with one stone.
He decided not to contest for the presidency so that the northern region votes for NRM in return for “a fat position” in the next Museveni government.
On the other hand, he threatened to contest for the Presidency if Mbabazi would not be selected as the joint candidate so as to sway the northern Uganda vote from Besigye.
Dr. Besigye on the other hand remains the leading opposition leader and enjoys countrywide support though some top FDC leaders will rally behind Amama Mbabazi to the detriment of Dr. Beigye.
Dr. Besigye and Amama Mbabazi differ on approach; while the former insists on ‘No Electoral Reforms, No elections’, the later contends that the regime has achieved a lot and there is only the need to change its top leadership.
However, they both know very well that its not the electoral process that can dislodge Museveni from power but dismantling of his power base – the financial might and the personalized security apparatus.
If the two (Besigye and Mbabazi) could work together behind the curtains, they can be able to dismantle Museveni’s power base. Thereafter, they can forge the way forward through alliances and coalitions.
The regime knows the potential of the two politicians in shaking its hold on power. It is disappointed by the collapse of TDA’s failure to come up with a joint presidential candidate.
It had hoped that Dr. Besigye would either be eliminated from the ballot pepper or become the TDA flag bearer so that either way he abandons the most feared demand for electoral reforms and the eventual mass uprising.
At the same time selecting Mbabazi as flag bearer would have provided the regime with an opportunity to disqualify his candidature on flimsy legal grounds at a later stage when it would be late for the opposition to front an alternative flag bearer.
This would mark the end of any semblance of credible opposition. Now the regime will have to go back to the drawing board to lay fresh schemes.
Because of Mbabazi’s secret operational structures, the military regime is more worried of his candidature than it does with Dr. Besigye.
While Dr. Besigye operates in the open and his next move is easy to predict and counter, Mbabazi is secretive and unpredictable.
That is why Mbabazi’s candidature is set for tougher times ahead than does Dr. Besigye.
The two need to supplement each other and if they can get closer to outside the ‘overcrowded’ TDA, some tangible results can be scored.
The TDA was bound to fail but at least it has kept the regime guessing and eventually disappointed, it has marketed Mbabazi’s candidature, but left Dr. Besigye slightly bruised. He has unfairly been branded as being power hungry, unpatriotic and selfish.
Besigye has the uphill task of rejuvenating the vigour that had been generated during the countrywide consultation tour and victory in his party primaries.
The big question is whether the opposition will go into elections without reforms or elections after reforms!
Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political analyst