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Putting Bobi Wine’s rise in historical context

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Putting Bobi Wine’s rise in historical context and why Museveni must be crafting Plan B

Tuesday September 11 2018

Bobi Wine

Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine (centre), and activists march in Kampala July 11, 2018 in a protest against a mobile money and social media tax. PHOTO | AFP 

In Summary

Kyagulanyi’s relative success in appearing to disturb the Establishment more than the first three forces -- Kaggwa, the Sixth Parliament or Besigye --can be attributed to at least two factors; the changing demographics and NRM inability to deal with a non-forceful opponent.

But Museveni is a strong fighter who spends “25 hours” a day working on strategy; The president is already aware that brute force against Mr Kyagulanyi may not work. And so, he must be working out a smart, non-violent response to Bobi Wine.

Putting Bobi Wine’s rise in historical context

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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Two movements captured world attention at the same time 33 years ago.

As Corazon Aquino was riding on the crest of the People Power wave that swept autocratic Ferdinand Marcos and his insensitively ostentatious wife Imelda from the Philippines, Yoweri Museveni’s guerrilla army was taking charge of Uganda after a short five years of locally grown insurgency.

Uganda’s case was interesting to the outside world because it had split two allies USA and the UK, with Washington insisting that the “elected” post-Idi Amin government of Milton Obote was as bad its predecessors while Britain swore that the regime whose army Her Majesty’s military was training was clean.

Uganda sighed with relief when the National Resistance Movement guerrillas took over and most of the country in 1986 gave Museveni 101 per cent leadership rating. He was for a while seen as the icon of a “new breed” of African leadership.

As Kampala gave Museveni an extended honeymoon, it is likely that few Uganda watchers had heard of a man called Michael Kaggwa. He was an elderly fellow who from day one opposed NRM’s suspension of political party activity. But he belonged to the Democratic Party, whose president general, Paulo Ssemogerere, had joined the NRM coalition government as Internal Affairs minister.

So whenever Kaggwa’s so-called DP Mobilisers tried to raise their heads and hold public gatherings, it was policemen working under their very own party leader who cracked down on them.

One Cardinal’s word

Once a relatively wealthy man, Kaggwa withered away, broke and dejected after several years of struggle at a time the public did not want anyone to disturb the new national “saviours.” His struggle came at the wrong time.

When NRM’s four years in power (to which they had committed) came to an end, they introduced a motion to extend their rule by another five years. The MP for Kampala Central, Joseph Wasswa Ziritwawula opposed the move and even resigned his seat.

As he was heckled out of the august House, Mr Ziritwawula glanced over his shoulder for support, but not a single person followed his lead. In fact, after revered Catholic prelate Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga “advised” the nation to give President Museveni the five-year extension to complete the work of returning the country to constitutionalism there were no further questions about the legitimacy of the extended rule.

The NRM’s interim legislature was expanded through nationwide elections in 1989, in a very clean election where money was not a factor; and as a result, several young idealists who had not fought in the NRM’s bush war became MPs. They included the late anti-corruption crusader Basoga Nsadhu, current Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and former VP Dr Specioza Kazibwe.

Following the first elections after enactment of the 1995 Constitution, the Sixth Parliament took office in 1996 and it was simply phenomenal.

It had more young fighters like current Oxfam International boss Winnie Byanyima and present DP president general Norbert Mao. Though political parties were still under suspension, the non-partisan Sixth Parliament became the most powerful and reformist in Ugandan history.

To the chagrin of President Museveni, they censured and forced several of his Cabinet ministers to resign over corruption allegations. The MPs were bent on enforcing the idealist constitution.

Collectively, the Sixth Parliament was on the verge of delivering a transparent, fully accountable government. But its term was limited to five years and by the 2001 elections, the executive had regrouped and clearly identified its opponents despite the country being under a non-party system.

Northerner tag

Individuals had to fight to retain their seats and some luminaries like Mr Mao retreated. Mr Mao suffered for hailing from the north, in a Uganda where the more populous and less poor South had not yet forgiven “those northerners” who had messed up the country since Independence.

Although they shook the Establishment, the Sixth Parliament simply lacked the cohesion and staying power to deliver democratic and governance reforms.

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