DP bloc that joined Bobi Wine might be opportunistic, but not tribal
- Written by Yusuf Serunkuma
I had often wondered why arguably smart people – sometimes, hitherto vocal in their opposition of the state of affairs – joined the NRM when standing for political office in village constituencies.
It looked like contradiction. [Well, dear reader, I do not regard our NRM friends any highly. But while I do not regard opposition politicians any highly either, at least, I have questions for them].
Not too long ago, a friend who recently joined parliament – on a countryside ticket – educated me that progressive political positions are suspended for electoral victory in the countryside: you have to be with the government; otherwise you risk standing against the RDC, the CAO, the police officers, who despite being public servants are outright extensions of the NRM. [This partly explains why the so-called rebels in the NRM recently sought amnesty so as to be embraced as members of the party].
This sensibility struck me even more powerfully when I visited Mitooma district recently. Right after Masaka, all roadside towns are covered in yellow.
You might find some blue or red in Mbarara. But as soon as you hit the Bushenyi highway, everything else turns yellow. In fact, in Mitooma, I was told that even FDC-identifying politicians vote in the NRM primaries since winning this primary is guaranteed victory in the general election.
Indeed, primaries in the countryside are the real deal. I want to use these rural-electoral dynamics to reflect on Kampala, and put the DP bloc that joined NUP in context.
There are dynamics that are unique about Kampala that influence the behavior of politicians operating in this space.
The Kampala politician responds to a set of questions diametrically different from their colleagues in village constituencies. Stated differently, for being what it is – the center of cultural, economic and political production in the country – Kampala’s politics is significantly different from politics in the countryside.
To this end, even the Kampala politician is conditioned to an entirely different set of dynamics. While the politician in Mitooma is responding to smaller or simpler questions of food and water, the Kampala politician is negotiating matters more complex and terribly abstract: democracy, human rights, justice, constitutionalism, etc.
See, with general stability, and before state-protected land grabbers come to threaten their livelihoods, the village voter is happy with any government.
Since they get their sustenance from mostly tilling the land, this voter sees no connection between his/her sustenance and the nature of or the people in government. As long as the rains keep coming down.
For about the past 15 years now, the people in Kampala – or the central region more generally – reduced their governance questions into one: Museveni.
Whilst they are aware that their governance challenges ought to be articulated in a grammar that captures terms such as corruption, over-taxation, poor public services in especially health and education, state brutality, abuse of human rights, traffic congestion, etc., they have convinced themselves that Museveni is the problem.
See, if you borrowed the adage about fish common in African tradition – fish rotting starting from the head – you would side with these blighted wananchi.
Sadly, many half-educated but resource-enabled analysts [they are not rich] love to insist – so as to appear sophisticated – that reducing Uganda’s problem to Museveni is a misdiagnosis of the problem. But this is actually a misdiagnosis of these analysts.
The analyst thinks Uganda’s problems are technical, and that once you have the right personnel, policy and equipment, Uganda will be cruising to First World status. What a bunch of malarkey! In truth, Uganda’s problems are political in every hue, and responses have to be political. Or they are a major part in these times.
There is one more theoretical handicap that afflicts our ragtag analysts: the old political science that for regime change, the rural and urban have to connect has actually become obsolete.
Times have changed. Major capitals have proved to be sufficient spaces for regime change: Mubarak, Bashir, Mugabe, Kabila, Ben Ali, etc. were all chased by people in the capitals. Their rural compatriots only watched on TV. The point I want to make here is that Kampala occupies not just a special but a unique place in the political dynamics of the country.
If that is the background against which Kampala is read and understood, it is then ignorant to accuse the DP members who recently joined Bobi Wine of exhibiting Buganda nationalism, or tribalism against DP president general, Nobert Mao. Rather, they are moved by the desire to respond to the Museveni question.
They will, therefore, seek to align with the movement or party that is closest or at least appears to be answering this question. Does this mean they are all moved by the grand desire to kick Museveni out of office? Maybe not. It is arguable many are simply opportunistic. But they have to be seen by their voters as espousing this goal.
Any smart politician operating in Kampala – including NRM’s Muhammad Nsereko – have to cut this hue. Indeed, before Bobi Wine dominated the chats, majority of these fellows openly supported Dr Kizza Besigye who embodied this desire.
Should I add that politicians joining NUP do not see it as a party but, rather, a movement?!
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.
It is the type of behavior common among very young children. Opolot, although he is grown, retains the sensibilities of a young child.
I would have liked to respond to his ideas, but, he has none. His presence here is "social" not academic. How sad is it, to have to go to Observer website to make friends? Did facebook stop working?