Museveni’s real problem
When he spoke soon after he was declared winner on Jan. 16, Museveni sounded like he was searching for culprits for his loss. He blamed many MPs for the loss saying they are “useless” and interested only in earning high salaries.
Museveni also blamed foreigners who he accused of meddling in the election on the side of Bobi Wine.
“Shallow! Shallow! Shallow! Not serious but also undisciplined. Why do you go into people’s affairs?”
Then he blamed Bobi Wine and his team who he said had won by campaigning on sectarianism.
“Instead of looking to solve the social economic issues of the people, they now bring back sectarianism like you saw the voting, for instance in Buganda,” Museveni said.
Museveni then touted his achievements and advantages over other candidates. He said NRM emphasizes ideology not tribes, promotes unity, brought peace, has a big strong army, and has overcome shortages of goods and developed infrastructure such as roads. As an intervention to ensure better performance in future elections, Museveni pledged to throw more money at voters.
But Museveni has thrown bags of money at voters in the past. This time he gave cash, bicycles, motorcycles and promised cars and tractors. He appointed emissaries to carry bags of money into ghettos which he saw as Bobi Wine stronghold, bought over celebrities to eclipse Bobi Wine’s halo, and spoke street parlance to connect with the youth. But it appears everything failed.
Part of the problem is possibly because Museveni’s diagnosis of the problem is wrong and his prescriptions misconceived. Museveni thinks people who do not vote for him want money and prosperity. But that is a mistake. The Afrobarometer survey showed this clearly.
When respondents were asked whether their personal living condition were fairly or very good, up to 35% said they were, a 6 percentage point drop from 2019. When they were asked whether the country’s economic conditions were fairly or very good, 30% said they were which was a decline of 10 percentage points. Nobody is happy about the economy. But people feel they are in a better place than others.
It was the same when people were asked whether the country was going in the right or wrong direction. Up to 48% said it was going in the wrong direction. But those saying it is going in the right direction were more at 51%.
Yes, there was a general decline in those for right direction from 60% in 2019 and an increase of those for wrong direction from 37%. That means dissatisfaction is rising. But satisfaction is reducing at a lower rate.
Significantly, there was a time – in 2021 survey- when those who saw wrong direction were 73% and those who saw right direction were just 21%. So people feel better now about the direction of the country. So what is the problem?
According to the Afrobarometer survey, people want more democracy than the government is allowing. They reject one-man rule, military, and one-party rule. Only 36% think there is democracy in Uganda and are satisfied with how it works. In 2015 that was higher at 42%. The demand for democracy was also higher in 2011 at 63% but is now just 49% possibly a sign that many are losing hope in democracy.
In fact, according to the survey, support for multi-partism and elections as a means of changing the leaders has declined from 88% in 2011 to just 78% today. Up to 63% believed there would be violence at the polling station, 80% said losers would not accept results, and 73% said only the security agencies could prevent violence.
Few people trust the president, at 47%; but his party is trusted even less at 45% and opposition parties are least trusted at 44%. But the local and international observers who Museveni denounced in his Jan.16 speech are highly trusted at 59%. Silencing of the opposition has shot up from 36% in 2015 to 61% today and fear of political intimidation from 37% in 2011 to 51% today.
Perhaps those are the issues President Museveni should address instead of focusing solely on money, service delivery and infrastructure. Buganda where Museveni lost has more of those than any other region. So why did they vote against the President who has provided them? Possibly is it because people want respect? They want institutions and leaders they can trust. The corruption, impunity, and arrogance of some NRM leaders need to stop.