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Neither Museveni nor Besigye is innocent

By Moses Asasira

Government is wrong for refusing to address the economic crisis but so is the opposition for exploiting the situation for political ends

The chaos and uncertainty sparked opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s Walk to Work and fanned by government is hurting the economy. Government through various officials is giving all sorts of excuses to justify its inaction on the soaring fuel and food prices. People did not elect the government to give them excuses for its failures but to solve their problems. What the opposition started as a campaign to compel government to solve the current economic challenges might end up worsening the situation. During the recent general elections, Besigye announced that the IPC had set up its own tally centre which would declare the results for their candidate. Bankers suspended some of their products pending the outcome of the presidential elections. They had feared that the IPC would declare Besigye winner alongside the Electoral Commission’s winner Yoweri Museveni and chaos would break out like the Kenya scenario in 2008. The banks stopped giving facilities like overdrafts fearing that in the looming uncertainty, it was risky to provide such short term facilities. Fortunately, the elections were concluded successfully. In the current economic crisis and the faceoff between the government and the opposition, each side of the divide needs to make some trade offs for the economy to move forward in every one’s interest.

Government must wake up to the reality that you cannot use undemocratic means to sustain power whose mandate was recently renewed using democratic means. The fresh mandate they have, recently came from the people who are now pleading for help. They want this help through economic interventions that will guarantee their survival. Mr President, they must be listened to because they listened to you at all rallies in the campaigns. We understand the government’s position of refusing to subsidise consumption and maintaining the high tax levy on every litre of fuel because that’s what keeps government functioning. However, when there is an economic crisis, sacrifices must be made. Failure to see this is where government is stubbornly getting it wrong. President Museveni will be the biggest loser if this chaos continues because it is slowly taking away his biggest credential- guarantor for peace and stability. This might soon run into jeopardy if street riots, closed businesses, people shot by police and cars going to western Uganda being stoned at Nyendo, Masaka continue to appear in the local media.

The opposition must also be told that it will be unacceptable to use undemocratic means to bring down a government whose mandate was recently renewed using democratic means. They participated in the recently concluded elections and the NRM got the current mandate it is trying to protect using all means. The Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura says the opposition is trying to overthrow the government. The reason for this is that Besigye promised to take his case to the court of public opinion if he did not win the election. Therefore his current actions portray him as someone hungry for power no matter how much he disguises his intentions. He strongly believes that by the time he walks from Kasangati to Najjanankumbi through Kampala road he will have gathered the same number of people as the ones that demanded the resignation of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt. The opposition must be informed that the massive demonstrations in North Africa were not led by political parties or leaders. They came spontaneously through popular political, social and economic discontent and when that time comes in Uganda, we shall not need Besigye to lead the demonstrations. The opposition must guide their supporters and promote a pragmatic approach for being an acceptable choice if the Movement leaves power. Their cause will be hard to support if they do not make certain guarantees like the ones Nelson Mandela, Mwai Kibaki and John Kufouh made in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana respectively. The opposition must make their programme on the economy, security, development projects, education and health well known. These are obviously not the only areas, there are many more. A few weeks ago, FDC officials called a press conference and destroyed their MTN SIM cards arguing that the telecommunication firm sabotaged their vote tally centre during the February elections. Couldn’t they have done this through other means like writing protest letters to MTN or meeting the company officials to air out their frustrations? What if rowdy youth had descended on MTN shops and kiosks and burnt them? Watch Video.

Uganda is a big country. There is space for opposition and government to operate if certain moves are calculated well. The most intriguing fact is that political players are judged by what they fail to do. This is the score card people are using to come to a conclusion that our political leaders are guilty of stifling our hope.

MOSES ASASIRA is a development economist

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