On Saturday and Sunday last week, I joined Dr Kizza Besigye as he campaigned in Mityana and Mubende districts. On Monday, Besigye campaigned in the districts of Kyegegwa and Kyenjojo. He was in Kamwenge yesterday and will today traverse Bundibugyo and Ntoroko. Col Besigye will complete the Tooro sub-region tomorrow and return to Ankole through Rubirizi, up to Bushenyi.
The response in Mityana was overwhelming, but expected. It is Mubende that made a big statement. I travelled in the same vehicle with Kampala lord mayor Erias Lukwago and Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante. Because of the crowds along the main road, we occasionally stopped to at least greet them.
A senior NRM leader from Mubende later told me that “the MPs may win, but for Mzee, I don’t know”. Mubende has in the past overwhelmingly voted for Museveni, the reason it was nicknamed the Karamoja of Buganda. But this Karamoja of Buganda has significantly changed.
At Busimbi grounds, where we had the main rally, the crowd was as big as has been the case elsewhere, almost bigger than Mukono’s. The enthusiasm, especially among young people, was even more humbling. And there is no better person that illustrated the need for change than Mr Odrek Rwabwogo, husband to one of President Museveni’s daughters. While campaigning for the post of NRM vice chairman in charge of western Uganda, Rwabwogo noted that his father-in-law seized power when Uganda had 10 million people. Last year’s national census put the country’s total population at over 34 million people. This means that at least 24 million people have been born when Museveni is president. And to Rwabwogo, the new generation needed some “fresh air”.
That is what I saw in Mubende. Blue T-shirts bearing the FDC logo and Dr Besigye’s portrait were not being distributed but sold along streets. And of course Besigye continued receiving gifts, especially goats, everywhere he went. There is a gentleman who gave him Shs 400,000 at the Mubende rally. This one did it more dramatically by handing him a Shs 50,000 note at a time as the crowd ululated. The same man again pulled out a bundle of Shs 20,000 notes and started showering lord mayor Lukwago with a note at a time. This was followed by the offering of goats, some draped in Besigye posters.
The NRM leader I mentioned earlier told me “it will be difficult to resist the wave of change this time”.
I am sure Mr Museveni watches and analyses these images daily. He knows his days are numbered. It is the reason he has started attacking media organizations. The crime of NTV and Daily Monitor is to continue broadcasting and printing these images. At FDC, we actually think the media has not reported the full extent of this wave of change, but we are not editors to determine that. The truth is that Besigye has bigger crowds than all the other candidates combined. And these crowds are not ferried, because the FDC and all Besigye supporters don’t have enough resources.
You remember the talk of switching off NTV? Thank God it was a rumour. I have been told other TV proprietors, including those of NBS and WBS, have been summoned by State House and warned. Of course for Daily Monitor, it is routine. When the paper had just started, Museveni always complained against it and its founders were dismissed as Acholis who wanted to remove the new government. All people with names starting with letter O – Obbo, Oguttu, Ogen and Ouma – have since left the Monitor but Museveni’s hatred continues. I will, in a future article, revisit this relationship.
I want to concentrate more on the Sunday violence in Ntungamo. I saw images of young people wearing Museveni campaign T-shirts being battered by candidate Amama Mbabazi’s supporters. And this was also expected. There is no presidential candidate that has suffered at the hands of NRM hooligans like Amama. Television stations showed us NRM youths defacing Amama’s posters in Bushenyi in broad daylight. And Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde flew a Museveni campaign chopper to the venue of Mbabazi’s rally in Fort Portal, moments before his arrival! All these look like actions of a panicky dictator. I was happy when NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba condemned these actions and distanced the ruling party from them. But the fact that they have continued is a clear indicator that someone somewhere is encouraging and probably financing them. What the police should have done was to arrest Ronald Kibuule when he lined up NRM youths along Mukono town council streets to provoke Amama.
Again police should have arrested Ntungamo municipality MP Yona Musinguzi who was seen distributing Museveni T-shirts to youths that stormed the venue for a Mbabazi rally. The reason presidential candidates harmonized campaign programmes was to avoid such scenarios. What inspector general of police Kale Kayihura is forgetting is that when you unleash violence, you are actually teaching everybody to be violent. In fact, Amama’s supporters have tolerated this for too long. Instead of protecting a regime that has lost popularity, Gen Kale Kayihura should prepare and begin rehearsing how to lose and hand over power. This is inevitable.