It must be a painful fact that it will take the collective work of Col Kizza Besigye, Bobi Wine, Asuman Basalirwa and other activists for NRM insiders to depose Museveni.
Yes, People Power, and all Defiance campaign activists can only inspire NRM insiders to see Museveni as a liability and end his reign. Dear reader, this hurts – and is surely difficult to imagine for these activists – that their only contribution can be forcing Museveni’s co-conspirators to take over from him.
But once this happens, the activists would have done their job. Again, it will be for their painstaking activism – not any electoral nonsense. Generals including Muhoozi, Salim Saleh, Wilson Mbadi, Charles Angina, Elly Tumwiine, merchants such as Moses Karangwa, Sudhir Ruparelia, Mohammad Alibhai (the man with 700 titles of land in Kampala), the Nyekundire group – have to be forced to see urgent need to cut ties with Museveni.
They will not hold onto power for as long as Museveni did, but a transition has to start with them. Ironically, it is their recognizable worst – their closeness and likeness to Museveni – that makes them suitable replacements. Then, it might take another 10 years, five or less to cross to someone straight from the opposition. Let me explain this undoubtedly unpopular position of mine:
If there are any lessons we can take from the Egyptian uprising that ended in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, it is that change under ‘electoral autocracies’ is not only internal, but is also forced and comes by way of street protests and increased activism. It is difficult to move from a fully established old autocrat to someone fresh from the opposition.
The reason is this: aged autocrats are often a conglomeration of selfish interests – local and international – that coalesce in them. The autocrat is the face of these interests.
See, it is not true that Museveni (replace him with Mugabe, Mubarak, Biya, Kagame, Keita, Barre or Ben Ali) has clung to power for his singular interest to govern, and individual genius. There is a great deal of his individuality, of course.
But mostly, Museveni has stayed on this long because both foreign and local interests see him as a credible guarantor of their infinite access to resources here and in the neighbourhoods: land, natural resources such as oil, timber and gold government tenders, among others, sustain Museveni in power.
He is the face all the hungry hyenas feasting on Uganda’s half-life body. And Museveni has so deftly made himself available for use. Please note, however, that although their – Museveni and those around him – interests are mutual, the most powerful shareholders in this affair are the local and international thieves.
These thieves do not exactly have guns in their hands, but they actually own all guns in the country. They also have money, a lot of it. Their declaration of support for Museveni is not because they really love the man, but they see him as the problematically self-interested ally who also guarantees their interests. [And Museveni knows well that all those chaps singing his praise do so for own self-interest].
Take for example, it is not possible for the United States to support Bobi Wine or Kizza Besigye if they are not sure about their positions on keeping Ugandan troops in Somalia, Central African Republic or South Sudan. Because here, the United States itself has selfish interests.
They would rather support Salim Saleh – who will sustain status quo in the short term – as they buy time to readjust themselves, and work to conscript the new fresher candidate from the opposition. This takes some time.
Morsi messed up this calculation after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, but it did not take long for these foreign interests to support a coup that took him out of office – and returned a Mubarak-ist! For they were not sure about where he stood on many issues including the Nile and Israel.
At home, there are fellows under Nyekundire, renowned for, among other things, importing and trading without paying taxes, and getting all the lucrative government tenders.
There are also local predators with their fangs deep in Bank of Uganda, NSSF, big deals in the oil industry, electricity and telecommunications. These cannot look on as Museveni collapses. They will hold their ground using their money and ammunitions to sustain the status quo. And the compromise is having a new face in either Saleh, Kataaha, Muhoozi or other. But the principle is one: the new face has to be one among them.
But let’s get this straight: these changes are not negotiated, but are rather forced through revolutionary uprising – not any election nonsense. And this will be the contribution of the present heroes of the opposition.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.