The party has maintained an election strategy where it aspires to fill candidates for all elective posts in spite of what some observers have considered a totally unfair playing field as was seen with the Kayunga by-election for LCV last year. NUP fielded a candidate in the Guild Presidential race at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) Valentine Ogwang who came third in the election.
NUP is also gearing up for another potentially violent by-election in Mityana district. Joyce Bagala is the NUP candidate up for re-election after court nullified her victory in October last year. President Museveni waded into the election several times last year saying NUP had rigged the election against Judith Nabakooba, also minister for lands, to the consternation of many observers and voters in Mityana.
Museveni’s interest in the elections means the battle lines are already drawn in this critical district where NRM was overwhelmingly voted out last year.
In another show of defiance and attempt to re-assert the People Power brand, NUP President Bobi Wine said People Power supporters will keep donning the party’s flagship red beret. “This is not a military beret. It is a People Power beret. That is why you have not seen anyone convicted for wearing one.”
Meanwhile there were reports that MPs while at the retreat voiced their concern over party supporters who are irate at the lawmakers for abandoning the party goal of removing the NRM regime and equally abandoning supporters who have been disappeared and are held incommunicado.
MPs were reported to have expressed concern over their personal safety. The supporters accuse the MPs of getting too comfortable in their new lives with hefty salaries and other lofty perks that come with being lawmakers.
When two well-known NUP legislators; Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North), were arrested and detained on charges of terrorism and murder, attention appeared to shift away from the hundreds of party supporters who were still incarcerated and held incommunicado. The latter were part of those rounded up starting early last year as Uganda went to the polls.
A tenser environment with the recent abduction of novelist and activist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija by security operatives means NUP and the government will again lock horns on many grounds this year.
A 2022 Report by Human Rights Watch anticipates as much going by last year’s events. “There was a marked deterioration in Uganda’s human rights environment over the past year. President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected in January 2021 in a general election marred by widespread abuses. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and beat opposition supporters and journalists, killed protesters, and disrupted opposition rallies.”
During the Busabala retreat, it was said some MPs also wondered why the party did not take part in the Red Card campaign led by another opposition figure Dr. Kizza Besigye. The campaign is another mobilisation effort by Besigye and allies in FDC over the continued violation of human rights by the Museveni government, corruption, abuse of office, economic hardship and other ills.
NUP’s absence or snub from Besigye’s Red Card campaign has been used by Bobi Wine critics to state that the young politician has failed to craft a coherent post-election strategy that kept Besigye a thorn in the flesh of Museveni’s government for years in periods after elections have taken place.
Most cited is the Walk-to-Walk protests that Besigye led after the 2011 election to march against rising food and fuel prices. The protests caused paralysis in urban parts of Kampala whenever Besigye took part in the protests.
Some analysts have pointed out the mold of Bobi Wine’s political career: not being a career politician like Besigye who was groomed in revolutionary guerilla war politics at a much younger age than at the one Bobi joined politics.
On the other hand, Bobi Wine seems focused on building personal relationships with politicians across the African continent and beyond. He has established alliances with politicians in Kenya like Babu Owino in Kenya and Julius Malema of the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party in South Africa.