How People Power plans to dodge police roadblocks
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | After the police’s pouncing on People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine at the start of his countrywide consultations on Jan. 6, his supporters tell The Independent that they are devising new ways to go past the police.
Bobi Wine, who has declared his intention to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the 2021 presidential elections, was arrested on Jan.06 as he headed to his first consultation meeting at the open grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel Gayaza in his Kyadondo East constituency near Kampala.
Bobi Wine, the area MP, was arrested together with People Power spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi and People Power leaning MPs; Latif Sebaggala (Kawempe North) and Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) and others. Senyonyi circulated a selfie he took with the People Power leaders and others detained from the prison cell at Kasangati police station.
They were later transferred to Naggalama police station, from where they were released later in the night. By press time, Bobi Wine and his team had cancelled their planned meeting in Gulu for Jan. 07 and were strategizing on how to consult in Lira on Jan.08.
The incidents confirmed what many had speculated on for some time; that the police – acting on orders by President Museveni – will not allow an inch of space for mobilisation to any of his challengers in the 2021 race to publicly canvass for support until the very last minute.
Earlier, there were raised eyebrows when in December the Electoral Commission (EC) cleared Bobi Wine for his countrywide consultations.
On Jan.3, Bobi Wine wrote to the Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth Ochola notifying him of his consultations. In the letter, the musician cum politician asked Ochola to appeal to the officers in charge in the areas of Kasangati and Lira to acknowledge receipt of his letters just like their colleagues in Gulu and other districts where he was set to consult.
Soon after, however, some hotels and other venues started writing to Bobi Wine that they could not host his consultation meetings.
People Power spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi told media a day before the consultations started that security agents had warned owners of these hotels of trouble if they host Bobi Wine and members of his People Power organisation.
Unable to hire indoor venues for his consultations because of police intimidation of owners and unable to hold the consultations in open public spaces because of police harassment, the People Power consultation caravan appeared stuck before it even started.
Meanwhile Museveni who is clocking 34 years in power in a few weeks is free to meet voters daily. Museveni’s latest campaign ruse is a grand 195km meet-the-people walk across seven districts in central Uganda. Along the way the President is holding impromptu baraazas, making pledges at public gatherings, and handing out cash envelops. The walk is officially a commemoration of the successful five-year guerrilla war he led from 1981-1986.
Therefore, if Bobi Wine thought that by writing to the elections body and notifying the police in accordance with the Public Order Management Act, he was going to be allowed to move freely with his supporters, he was mistaken.
The vagueness of the clearance by the EC alone should have given Bobi Wine a hint.
“When you consult, you convene a meeting in a secluded place. It does not mean you hold processions and public rallies,” the EC chairman Justice Simon Byabakama told Bobi Wine.
Consultations by politicians in Uganda have become a sticking issue in Uganda. Opponents of those consulting look at the exercise as a form of disobedience or being out of line.
Before the last election in 2016, presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi ran into similar trouble in September 2015 when he kicked off consultations in eastern Uganda apparently to test the ground for his presidential run.
The police arrested him and declared the consultations illegal with then Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, arguing that Mbabazi had not been cleared for the consultations by his party, the National Ruling Movement (NRM).
When Gen. Mugisha Muntu, leader of another opposition organisation; the Alliance for National Transformation, started consultations across Uganda at this time in 2018, after he had fallen out with Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), where he was defeated in the party presidential race, some FDC top brass like secretary general Nandala Mafabi lashed out at him for being divisive. Muntu said he wanted to sort out the contradictions afflicting the party.
This time Bobi Wine mapped out his consultations tour for the towns of Gulu, Lira, Adjumani, Yumbe, Arua, Zombo for the week ending Jan. 12. But Bobi Wine and his team also appear to have anticipated arrest which was obviously going to drum up publicity for their consultations.