I will not be surprised if President Museveni summoned all opposition politicians to a grand conference with the offer to help them come together and mount a united bid against him in the forthcoming election.
[I want to assume he is not already meeting them clandestinely]. By the way, this is not a page out of Animal Farm. It is easy to graft this meeting under the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue wagon. During this meeting, in typical Musevenorian fashion, he will offer them bags of cash and instruct them to unite – on the promise of more cash [and assistance in constituencies for the lowly ones].
This might actually portray Mr Museveni as a true democrat promoting oppositional politics under a multiparty constitution. And many will believe him. In truth, however, like a professional boxer who insists on staging a fight in his home town, Museveni will be luring his challengers to a familiar turf – an election – where he is assured of beating them hands down.
I will repeat for the umpteenth time, Mr Museveni is a vintage elite autocrat. Unlike their unsophisticated predecessors, such as Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin or Siad Barre, who declared life presidency and governed by decree, elite autocrats organise elections.
But as long as their names are on the ballot, that is victory. The year 2017 showed us how much Museveni coveted the presidency. Aware that the only way he could have a legitimate claim to the seat again would be through changing the constitution, he did not only pay dearly, but also risked a dent on his democratic credentials when he rolled soldiers into parliament.
He would learn quickly that bribing the opposition was easier than clobbering them with iron sticks. He bought them as well. The beginning of 2019 has showed his unwavering intent further.
Two years early, to avoid any drama and anxiety within own ranks, he is the official sole candidate. Surely then, after hustling this far, it would be idiocy to countenance the idea that Museveni will then surrender the presidency via a mere election! This is nonsense.
If these were the 1960s or 1980s, surely there would be armed groups fighting Mr Museveni. But the times changed. Presently, even if any groups wanted and did so successfully, they would not govern.
The international community, which is the benefactors of Third World economies like Uganda, will never allow. The World Bank only lends money to governments with the mandate of the people. But the 21st century is an era of urban protests.
Under the language of human rights, and freedoms, street protests remain the only legitimate way through which governments fall – and many have fallen. Sitting presidents have to be simply stampeded out of office.
Strangely, some of our opposition junkies are genuinely united in their blindness to this rather simple analysis of contemporary history. Others – by far the majority – are content with the status quo.
Dragging their innocent compatriots along, they are now busy fighting each other in a silly pursuit of a united opposition. If they were to unite and front a single candidate, the winner would still be the incumbent. Thus, it makes a great deal of sense for Mr Museveni to mediate and finance a united opposition against him. This, however, will not only be too expensive to pull off, but also difficult to technically manage.
To this end, the ongoing confusion in the opposition surely bothers him. His victory is guaranteed if the opposition united so quickly – on their own resources – and challenge him in an election.
But besides the financial trauma of buying off a united opposition (which is easy but expensive), Uganda’s opposition politicians have done a great job numbing the riotous spirits of the masses.
By looking up to them, Ugandans masses have become passive onlookers awaiting the opposition to deliver them to the promised land. [This is why Bobi Wine’s campaign to have Ugandans pick their IDs – which, by extension, invites them to actively participate in their politics – ironically, bothers the state].
There are two ways of thinking about this: one, the more disorganised the opposition continues, the more the masses will be reminded of their own initiative, and power in their hands. Second, if opposition parties conflicted and started fighting violently within the streets, it is difficult to predict their end.
A mild scuffle at the compound of CBS radio in Mengo might turn violent and end as a major protest on the streets of Kampala and finally knock on the gates of Nakasero State Lodge.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.