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Behind Museveni’s ‘Sectarianism’ talk


He should be harmonising and reconciling a divided country, say critics

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Why exactly did President Yoweri Museveni sound angry just hours after being announced winner of the Jan.14 presidential election? Museveni, 76, beat 10 other contestants including a 25 year old novice.

Museveni received 5,851,037 votes (58.64%) while his closest challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu of the National Unity Platform (NUP), got 3,475,298 (34.83%) of the total votes cast.

But just five hours after Simon Byabakama, the head of the Electoral Commission, declared the incumbent the winner of the polls on Jan.16, Museveni appeared particularly peeved by the huge loss he suffered in Buganda, an influential political bloc in the country.

Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine who comes from Gomba District in central Uganda garnered 62% of votes cast in Buganda compared to Museveni’s 35.91%.

But, while voters in western Uganda where Museveni comes from returned the favour by voting overwhelmingly for the incumbent (80.60% vs 14.03%), Museveni blamed his party’s poor showing in Buganda on Robert Kyagulanyi’s sectarian election campaign.

“In some of the voting, the pattern which we saw, for instance, in Buganda, very interesting; you can see some of that (sectarianism),” Museveni said.

“I have been following what has been going on. There is nothing I don’t know. I know who has been meeting who; who was giving money to who (sic); I know all that.”

“They were talking of a new Uganda. But actually they wanted to bring back the old Uganda that failed. That is what they wanted to bring back: the old way of sectarianism.”

Museveni likened the “NUP wave” in Buganda to the 1960s Baganda-dominated political party—Kabaka Yekka—a Ganda-centric political organization that rallied around Buganda causes.

Museveni also appeared to suggest that the loss in Buganda, which also saw close to a dozen Cabinet ministers from Buganda; including Vice President Edward Ssekandi, lose their parliamentary seats, could be attributed to the NRM members who do not want to solve people’s problems.

“The original problem is with the NRM people. Why don’t you solve those people’s problems which now are exploited by the opportunists? Of course the opportunists are also to blame because they appear not to learn from history,” he said.

‘Ungrateful’ Baganda

Speaking about the recent voting patterns on the On the Spot, a weekly current affairs segment on NTV Uganda on Jan.21, Evelyn Anite, an NRM member and minister of state for investment and privatization, echoed her boss’s and many of the senior NRM party members’ sectarian narrative. Anite described the Buganda voters as “ungrateful considering what President Museveni has done for the Baganda.”

But Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the FDC spokesperson who appeared on the same show, shot back and told Anite that he had taken comfort in the way Buganda voted. Ssemujju said although he does not want to be quick in passing judgment, Museveni has always prided in having a big following in Buganda and Busoga, a neighbouring sub-region to the east of the River Nile.

“The results are a big lesson,” he said.

Mathias Mpuuga, the NUP vice president for Buganda who was also a panelist on the same show with Anite said it was an insult to imagine that Buganda voted along sectarian lines.  Mpuuga said it was not the first time that Buganda has moved first than the rest of Uganda.

“Buganda moved first in the fight for Uganda’s independence,” Mpuuga said, “Buganda moved first to support Museveni to depose Obote. Should we apologize for that?”

Frederick Golooba Mutebi, a political analyst and researcher, told The Independent on Jan.20 that he understands what President Museveni is referring to. His reference to sectarianism is because of the way he and his MPs lost in Buganda.

“President Museveni is just angry because the people in Buganda voted for Bobi Wine.”

Golooba explains that it is not entirely true that the Baganda are even the majority in Buganda. Many other ethnic people have settled in Buganda over the years and if the Baganda are that many, they could be about 60% of the whole population in the region. “The people who voted for Kyagulanyi are not only Baganda,” Golooba-Mutebi told The Independent.

“But if the sectarian talk is true, then the same should apply to the people in Kiruhura District and the Cattle Corridor who voted overwhelmingly for President Museveni.”

Golooba-Mutebi says the people in these regions have always voted for Museveni in all the elections he has won in the past. “Does that imply that they are sectarian? It is nonsense.” He says Museveni had grown accustomed to Buganda voting for him and he thought they were a “captive electorate.” Golooba-Mutebi says there are many factors that led the Baganda to vote the way they voted.

“Look at how many young people in Buganda were killed. Look at how many young people in Buganda are in prisons on tramped-up charges. Did he think the Baganda are so idiotic that they would still vote for him?”

“You don’t go around shooting people and you even boast about it. If he thinks the people of Buganda are sectarian, then the people in the Cattle Corridor and Kiruhura are sectarian too. Why are the Baganda sectarian this time when they have always voted for him?”

Gerald Siranda, the Secretary General of the Democratic Party, told The Independent Museveni is being disingenuous with his sectarian talk.

“It is in Buganda where he brought the (liberation) war, not western Uganda after riding on Buganda sentiment of being cheated in an election (1980 general election). And over the years, Museveni has endeared himself to the Baganda by whipping up the history of Luweero.”

Siranda explains that when it comes to politics in Africa, there is no way you can separate people from their ethnic, religious and social affiliations. But even then, Siranda says, if this election was about tribal sentiment, then Nancy Kalembe would have wiped the Busoga region (where she comes from).

Siranda says while FDC’s Patrick Amuriat won some parts in Teso region where he comes from, he did not win it overwhelmingly.

“The same happened to Mao in northern Uganda and I doubt Mugisha won a single polling station in his home district.

Performance of President Museveni and Kyagulanyi in the regions they hail from:

Candidate Central Western
Yoweri Museveni 1,001,020 (35.91%) 2,247,637 (80.60%)
Robert Kyagulanyi 1,728,662 (62.01%) 391,129 (14.03%)

Source: Electoral Commission


  1. Kipto John Cheboriot

    Honestly speaking, the issue of secterianism hinted on by the President is correct and shouldn’t be just dismissed. If the discussants cared to listen to the tone, messages, body language used by some candidates, the near genocide messages on social media, the actual physical targetting by goons during November rioting of people due to their tribes, the sermons in some churches, the physical threats, all coupled by the voting pattern, the writing becomes clear on the wall. I don’t think that there has been ethnicity-targeted talks , threats, and attacks in the recent past anywhere in Uganda compared to here in Buganda. TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE. Without accepting that there is a problem, it may be difficult to find a solution for it.

    • Tribalism played arole in this election,, it is true that sentimentalism overpowered reason in this election to the extent that people from western region of the country became a target from Bobi Wine supporters! This is my humble prayer, we need an opposition that will liberate the country as a whole including the western region of the country.

      We must face the truth! Sectarianism took center stage and that is why Bobi Wine failed!

    • It’s disappointing to generalize Buganda or Baganda with regards to sectarianism in voting. This may imply that those that contributed to the 35.91% are not appreciated and are intentionally being pushed into hating to stand with Buganda to vote for Museveni, if they’re not Baganda, or hating to participate in voting, if they’re Baganda and Museveni supporters.
      Sectarianism should be questioned starting from the ministry of internal affairs who fail to recognize Ugandans as Ugandans but not Ugandans as Acholis, Baganda, Banyankole e.t.c (i.e. passport forms, police statements)
      Let a study be carried out to identify the most tribalistic region comparing rural to rural and urban to urban.

    • Everything in Uganda is happening majorly in buganda. The land fragmentation is happening here in buganda. When the baganda speak they are being tribalistic. If a muganda went and contested in arua, would he get any support there? It’s here in buganda that we see candidates who are not baganda contesting and some being voted. Which other region does that. Before we judge baganda for sentimentalism and tribal prejudice, we ought remember that we are all culprits. And actually for many years people of other regions have always cast a protest vote against any muganda presidential candidate because they have been made to think that if a muganda is president then the kabaka will be president. This is an absurd argument. There is a clear distinction. We shouldn’t pull the kabaka into this discussion. Being Ugandans we all have our own traditional leaders who we cherish as custodians of our cultural values. Why should the kabaka be victimized for that.
      If museveni had majority support in the west why’s it tribalistic for kyagulanyi to have majority votes in the central. My prayer is that we stop calling baganda tribalistic.

      • Kipto John Cheboriot

        I don’t think what you’re saying is entirely correct. There are a number of baganda in western Uganda in: Bushenyi, Itendero, Kaabwoohe, Nyamunuuka, Ntungamo, Kakoba in Mbarara. And in these areas, these people have been severally elected to political offices. For example, the Basajjabalaba family.

        What I find to be an extension of tribalism is that majority of these baganda that get elected to political offices in these areas of western Uganda are voted for by baganda majory, implying the same tribalism extended. Whether we like it or we don’t, tribalism is a cancer with us and among us. The other fact is that regions with cultural institutions tend to be more tribalistic than those that font have, because they have to preserve their strength, identity and influence.

    • Then sectarianism should also be thought of in WESTERN UG coz almost 80% went for M7.
      Why are we one-sided when describing “sectarianism politics ” we should be talking about all sides of the country

  2. “Why are the Baganda sectarian this time when they have always voted for him?” Previously, the Baganda voted together with other diverse ethnicities for just causes. But this time they formed their own party (NUP) and voted for themselves. Their sentiments have for nearly four years been sectarian. At least after Kyagulanyi’s loss for the presidency, they seem to recognize M7 by his ethnic identity as a Ugandan. Before that, they had sought to foreignize him and even suggested that all people from the Ankole sub-region were foreigners and not Ugandans. The sectarian voting pattern has effectively set the Baganda apart from other Ugandans. They plotted to exclude other Ugandans from working with them. They met in their inner circles and agreed not to work with those “foreign” to Buganda. At the same time, they went about trying to persuade the world that it was the country’s youth seeking to overtake the “regime” of old people. They even persuaded the world through social media that they had 80% of support in the country because Uganda has the world’s youngest population. The foreigners who did not know the voting culture believed their lie and promoted it as a done deal that Uganda was having a “youth revolution”. However, it has turned out that some backward ethnic chauvinistic ideas were the ones driving NUP. Kyagulanyi himself is only a singer. He knows more about nightclubs, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol especially when on the stage. Not many people can trust a man straight from the night club to lead the country. That would be political suicide for Uganda. Even the Baganda themselves have a leader in their Kabaka. Kyagulanyi was merely an instrument for many of the Baganda candidates to go to parliament. Parliament has become a money minting machinery for those who chance to get there. I talked to one Ugandan in a district in eastern region who said they could not vote for Kyagulanyi. When asked why she posed a question, “Can Bobi Wine rule over the Kabaka, knowing he’s his subject?” I was then speechless.

    • Kipto John Cheboriot

      By the way, Victor, a good number of nonbaganda that voted NUP did not realize that they were misled thinking they were voting for change via Kyagulanyi, until it became clear from the voting pattern that Kyagulanyi & NUP are simply a reincarnation of a baganda nationalism (KY). But some of us saw it earlier when annointing visits were made to religious and cultural institutions not in any other part of Uganda, but only in Buganda, yet this candidate was presumably contesting to be president for the entire Uganda. How can one explain this? I even think that after this realization by voters, if elections were to be held again now, some of the nonbaganda that voted Kyagulanyi/NUP would not vote it again.

    • Silly talk only you people when innocent masses are being massacred you mean you don’t mind coz they’re in Buganda.???
      Let me believe that you will get what to say say when your personal relative shall have died coz of police brutality. There you can speak about voting on marginalisation and say who is bad and who is good

  3. Whilst Kyagulanyi is married to a munyankore, Museveni is married to a fellow mulaalo. When his son Muhoozi wanted to marry, he actively encouraged him to at least marry his cousin but not from any other tribe of Uganda. In the whole of Museveni’s imediate family, you won’t find anybody from another tribe, all are balaalo. In the whole of Uganda it’s only in Buganda and a few parts of Bunyoro where you can find people being elected without being members of the local indigenous tribe. In all other areas it’s taboo; a Muhoozi or a Mosoke being elected in Moroto or Arua? A Sekandi being elected in Ankole? You find many clusters of Baganda in Ankole; in Mbarara, Kabwohe, Bushenyi, Rugaaga, Isingiro but no muganda can be elected in these places yet Buganda has elected many non Baganda for a long time, including the Acholi, Banyankole, banyarwanda etc. Museveni, because of selfishness won’t see this; he is only interested in himself!

    • Kipto John Cheboriot

      Lies. Who was there when Museveni was allegedly ‘encouraging’ his son to marry his cousin? Are you wear that Gen Waley recently lost his wife, who was from Gulu?

    • You are just a Muganda chauvinist and extremist. If Muhoozi married his “cousin” their culture perhaps allows it. Don’t include Banyoro in your tribal nonsense. The Baganda had even snatched some counties of Bunyoro to impose their language, culture, and names there. The tribalists have now officially been identified by how they voted and they should be left alone to do their thing. Let’s imagine if oil had been discovered in Buganda, they would have said, this is “ebyaffe”. Stop defending tribal bigotry. Stop being defensive. You guys have shown your true colours that you don’t vote share what you have with others, in that you have a tribal party that was masquerading as a national one, “National Unity Party”. Rename it “Buganda/Baganda Unity Party, BUP”. Officially make it BUP and register it afresh instead of the false picture of NUP.

      • Victor u seem annoyed . How come it was fine when Baganda voted m7 all the time now they are tribalistic when they voted Bobi

        West has always M7 and they are not tribal really.?

  4. What Museveni wants you to believe is what makes him stay in power but remember these ststements and ugandas dare to read and these references can shape your talk.
    1.He said we cannot give up power to by just ballot papers meaning he will do anything with the incumbency and state machinery to rig,to bully opposition and smeer them with all unproductive sentiments to make people believe he is the right candidate for the high office.
    2.Ugandans if you read his doctored book the mustard seed you find that Museveni came in power with war monger tactics of the bush with scanty knowledge to govern this ciuntry and was seeking that knowledge from then Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and a certain aide to help him to steer the country Uganda.You can atleast remember we had wars with neighbours and he even invaded Congo for his own gain and afew of his military inner circle to gain from the loot but at the expense of the country.
    3.Ugandans if you know you geography and history well and a someone comes up with a statement saying Kampala is not part of Buganda kingdom ;is that a lie ,fact or that someone is trying to insult your intelligence or fooling you to believe what he wants you to believe.Top leaders who stay in power unwarranted by the people they lead always using the helm to paint lies because he being at the top he can be listened to the more or can misguide the people into something for his own benefit.e.g People in America have died of covid because of Trump’s lies so the power of a leader’s tongue who wants to cling on power the more just like our general here who seeks to have his death bed while in state house can have a devastating effect costing life in numbers .People are shot dead in uganda because they protested their candidate is arrested even when they have a right to protest the constition has it ;they are painted to be terrorists are shot in their own country.with the quote”orders from above”.
    4.Ugandans we should give credit to central original dwellers (Baganda)who have stood with all walks of life from other parts of uganda and have given refuge withstanding all concequences but with good will to make you stand in brotherhood and sisterhood to carry on with your lives abundantly ;those people are not here by mistake but God had all the answers why so Museveni DONT TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED they have their own say they can choose they own leaders you cannot hate them for that but for comparison purposes you in Nrm you have crashed democracy in your own camp come sunshine;come rain no one can stand against as a flag bearer for the party .WHEN CAN IT HAPPEN?WHEN YOU ARE DEAD?I THINK YOU CONTEMPLATED IT HAPPEN WHEN YOU HAVE COME FOOD FOR THE WORMS .THINK HARD BECAUSE WHAT I FORESEE THIS US THE LOST YOU HAVE ENDURED

    • Kipto John Cheboriot

      This is stuff that has repeatedly been spewed out by Dr Kiyingi, the doctor that murdered her wife Robinah in cold blood. Contemptible.

      You claim rioters were shot for rightfully and peacefully protesting the detention of their leader Bobi. Are equally aware that these same ‘peaceful’ demonstrators ransacked shops, undressed women, robbed people on their illegal blocks of money, burnt down Nakaseke High Court building, shattered and burnt down vehicles carrying passengers just bcz they were coming from the west, sexually molested women, attacked security personnel on duty including clobbering a lady police officer with a hammer etc?? What would such goons deserve? Do you think that when you get to power (God forbid), you’re going to close down prisons, disband police, prisons, and army, because your regime will be one without laws?? Better wait for that time. But for the present, govt won’t allow goons to endanger lives of Ugandans.

  5. Then sectarianism should also be thought of in WESTERN UG coz almost 80% went for M7.
    Why are we one-sided when describing “sectarianism politics ” we should be talking about all sides of the country

  6. Sometimes I wonder these sectionalism talk, let us look at issues that is why I don’t vote NRM, because look at public expenditure is so high for God sake why this big parliament, let us compare to Tanzania which is almost five times bigger than Uganda, its members of parliament are 393, Uganda we are going 500, look at these RDCs, looking big V8 vehicles ministers driving worth 600M , and yet external debt is increasing so at end of the day revenue collected will pay interest on burrowed money and cater for public expenditure which is useless hence population we lack good services such as good Medical care or put this money to innovators such we build local knowledge and start our own factories . Look at failed government institutions which are not independent and look at corruptions on increase case global fund, army junk helicopters and many forms of Corruption

  7. Indeed elections in buganda wasn’t sectarian but revealed the pain they have endured over the years. Massacring of over 50 innocent baganda who were in support of Bobi, polarisation of the country i.e the Western Uganda 🇺🇬 against the rest of the nation. The west is treated as superior in all aspects, look at resource allocation, heads of major government departments and agencies, the army, police, education,

    • Wait until the people you are defending revert to calling you the Badokolo, badudugu! Then you’ll have a glimpse of their tribal bigotry.

  8. Can a Muganda be president. Am a Muganda. How best can I be Muganda president.

  9. I believe who ever becomes president, will surround them self with fellow tribes men that’s the trend in African politics there is no doubt about that. Cultural institutions will most probably come to play in such administrations at the cost of others. The big man never thought of the repercussions of restoring some institutions, now he has to deal with it. We have more dividing factors than unifying. Which is a weak point for a small country like ours.

  10. I just doubt the DP defectors would’ve joined NUP if Mr Wine was a Langi.

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