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Who should lead the opposition coalition? A psychological analysis

By Joan Akello

Aggressive Besigye, diplomatic Otunnu, ambitious Mao

Since the main opposition parties in Uganda formed a joint platform, fielding a joint candidate in the 2011 presidential candidate has been top of their agenda.

The leaders of the parties are supposed to unanimously agree on a leader from among themselves but psychologists who have scrutinised its members, the success of the IPC is doubtful due to the diversity of characters involved.

‘Its leaders are proud and ambitious. It is difficult to predict who will standout to lead the cooperation,’ says Dr. Peter Baguma, the head of department of Psychology at Makerere University.

Simon Nantamu, an organisational psychologist at Makerere University says, ‘Everybody has patterns of enduring behaviour and certain predictions can be made regarding their personality.’

These are a product of their individuality, political views, ideology, and level of political participation. They may conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, voluntary or involuntary.

Currently, the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) comprises the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Conservative Party (CP) and JEEMA.

FDC is led by Kizza Besigye, UPC by Olara Otunnu, CP Ken Lukyamuzi and JEEMA Kibirige Mayanja.

Democratic Party president Mao Norbert is also likely to join the grouping. Other non-IPC opposition party leaders like Bidandi Ssali of the People’s Progressive Party and Abed Bwanika of the People’s Development Party are also expected to influence events.

Dr. Baguma says politicians are usually emotionally unstable and have personality maladjustments. They use defence mechanisms a lot and have anger displacement.

This assessment of the leaders is based on the DISC system. It aims to classify four aspects of their behaviour by testing each one’s preferences. DISC is an acronym for: Dominance (relating to control, power and assertiveness), Influence (relating to social situations and communication), Steadiness (relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness, and Conscientiousness (relating to structure and organisation).

Col (Rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye is bold, intelligent, and assertive. He is well read, enjoys expanding his knowledge, and passing it on to others. His persistent opposition against the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of President Yoweri Museveni shows his boldness.

Besigye has a high’ D’ and ‘I’ low ‘S’and’C’ thus, persuasive, aggressive, pioneering, magnetic, political, self-willed, stubborn, opinionated and convincing. He has a choleric temperament characterised by quick expressions of anger. Besigye’s anger manifests in his facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression. He is forceful in presenting his ideas, makes loud sounds (shouts), attempts to look physically larger, bares his teeth, and stares.

Besigye’s aggression may be an automatic response to pain or danger. But it could also be deliberate and designed to win him power, money, prestige, or pleasure.

This may attract people like Ken Lukyamuzi, who think that only coercive and vigorous person can counteract and unseat the current the ruling party. With his spontaneous and uncontrolled fits of anger, Besigye is prone to getting involved in fights, and engineering conflicts.

A choleric person’s ability to make or keep friends or relationships such as political cooperation or marriage is questionable.

Olara Otunnu is contained, cautious, and diplomatic. He has a low `D’ and `I’, and high `S’ and `C’ hence reflective, sceptical, logical, and critical. His diplomacy was reflected when he was insulted and stoned at recently burnt Kasubi tombs. He still went on to meet the Katikiro of Buganda and stayed composed.

Otunnu is critical, always analytical and has an unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in his area of interest. For instance, he is the President of LBL Foundation for Children, a New York-based independent international organization devoted to promoting education and hope for children, particularly in poor, disadvantaged, and post-conflict communities. He is analytical even about everyday things like marriage because, in his opinion, it is not one of the requisites of a good leader. ‘Marriage has seen some leaders being corrupted by their wives,’ he says. His peaceful nature enamours him for negotiator roles in other people’s conflicts. Having the least problems with anger management and other negative emotions, his phlegmatic temperament could see him become a conciliating factor in the IPC.

Mohammed Kibirige Mayanja is calm, and passionate about governance, education and financial management. He is persistent, optimistic, and a poker faced strategist. He has persistently run for the presidency even when all odds were against him. The question is why?

Like Otunnu, Mayanja has a low `D’ and `I’ and high `S’ and `C’. These two are similar in temperament and could easily forge a strong bond than with both Besigye and Lukyamuzi.

An idealistic politician, Ken Lukyamuzi values loyalty. He is dramatic and wants an external life that is congruent with his values and can be a catalyst for implementing ideas especially on environment conservation. He has a high `D’ and `I’ and low `S’ and `C’. He can be egocentric, ambitious, and pioneering, demonstrative, and stubborn. Lukyamuzi is a sanguine thereby an extrovert who has a high need to include and be close to others. He is quick to see possibilities and to express his opinions. His party joined IPC exposing his adaptability, flexibility and acceptance unless a value is threatened. He is more compatible with Besigye than Otunnu. The duo is almost opposites behaviourally and this could mar understanding and decision-making.

Norbert Mao is an eloquent, confident, and original-minded. With a high `D’ and `I’ and low `S’ and `C’, he is convincing, magnetic, self-willed and optimistic. He is choleric like Besigye. He is an extroverted leader who has a high need to control others, but a low tolerance of others controlling him. He also has a high need to include or be close to others, but a low level of ‘responsiveness’ to them. Choleric people tend to be ‘users’, and only relate to people according to their own terms, which are usually goal oriented. Mao also makes connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceeds based on the patterns he sees and has a great drive for implementing his ideas and achieving his goals. He says, ‘the politics of us versus them is the politics that I need to challenge. And I am in a good position to challenge it because I am probably the only one who can go to the west and say am going home, go to Mukono and Njeru and say am going home or go to Gulu and say am going home’. This was during an interview by Sunday Monitor of Feb.21. He is undoubtedly an independent, committed and social man. A lawyer and Local Council V Chairman for Gulu district, he relies on his verbal fluency in Luo, Luganda, Runyankole and English that could win him support across the nation. His strong commitment to DP will determine his decision on joining a coalition or not. He can only join the IPC if he thinks his chances of being its flag-bearer are high.

Bidandi Sali, founder and president of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is described as a calm, friendly and cautious man. He thinks carefully before he speaks or acts. He dislikes confrontations and conflicts and does not force his opinions or values on others. He prefers dialogue to arguments. His loyalty is however questionable because he fell out with NRM. There is a small possibility that he can join the IPC. This is because his calmness and cautiousness is opposed to Besigye’s aggression though Otunnu’s diplomacy could attract him.

Nantamu says Bidandi has a small political base and his party is insignificant. Dr. Baguma adds that Bidandi’s time is over and that he is ‘a spent force’. He has participated in many key leadership positions but he has failed to stand out. Baguma says confidently, ‘Bidandi will never win an election!’ According to him, politics is like a hobby to Bidandi. It occupies him.

Dr. Baguma says leaders should understand their personalities to avoid causing havoc. This is because personality is very vital in the leadership question. He says IPC is a ‘marriage of convenience where each party is exploiting the other’. He is skeptical that it can stand the test of time because forming a coalition is easier than its operation.

‘There will be infighting in IPC because each person will feel more superior to others,’ he says.

Dr Salim.K. Simba who heads the Political Science department at Makerere University says people are waiting to see who will be IPC’s flag bearer but it is a ‘farfetched dream that Ken Lukyamuzi or Kibirige Mayanja will be chosen.’

Kiiza Besigye still has to face Mugisha Muntu in the FDC party presidential elections. That adds to the uncertainty over who will step down for the other.

Simba says he does not expect less than four candidates in 2011 presidential elections because the opposition is not united.

‘Norbert Mao, Bidandi Sali, Abed Bwanika are opposed to the IPC. They are not in support of one candidate .This is an inhibitor to their victory over National Resistance Movement (NRM).’

He says the inter-party cooperation will only stand the test of time when each party builds its own structure and ensures that it is strong. ‘Any alliance before elections is invalid because fielding one candidate is impossible for the opposition,’ he says, ‘Opposition parties can form a post-election coalition after strengthening their inner structure.’

Nantamu says picking a person who is acceptable to all regardless of the party cannot be over ruled.

He says that defeating NRM without a coalition is difficult and those opposed to IPC have put party and individual ambitions way above the collective motive of unseating NRM.

‘A politician’s behaviour reflects their mindset and their motives vary. Some want power to influence things, obtain resources and promote positive social transformation.There are more politicians than statesmen.’ That is the problem the IPC must overcome and the outcome will depend on the personalities of the individuals.

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