How Museveni escaped being bitten by Bobi Wine
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The loose coalition of opposition politicians, activists, and campaign strategists under the People Power umbrella entered Hoima district early to canvass support for the Forum for Deomcratic Change (FDC) candidate. They appeared in force and determined even as they literally walked into their opponent, the ruling NRM’s killing field. It was an ambitious mission.
Hoima has for years been a 100% yellow region, the colour of the ruling NRM party with five out of five area MPs belonging to the ruling party. The FDC winning the Hoima District Woman seat would have blotched they yellow with unwanted red (the colour of the People Power group). It was not surprising that the local politicians and government officials led by President Yoweri Museveni came out in force to ensure Hoima remained pure yellow. In the end, the opposition lost.
According to many election observers and politicians that The Independent spoke to, the opposition loss in Hoima was largely down to some well-known campaign issues; including that a charismatic campaign amounts to nothing if it cannot get voters into the voting booth. And it does not matter what blocks the voter’s path.
During the campaign, it had become clear that although Harriet Businge; the flag-bearer of the ruling NRM and Asinansi Nyakato of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were the candidates in Hoima, they were inconsequential. The contest was clearly between the red of People Power and yellow of NRM. The main prize would not be winning the Hoima race. The race was about winning the right to claim national popularity.
In the NRM camp, local politicians attempted to raise local issues but they were quickly quashed. President Museveni took charge. Hoima even got a new police boss to oversee the election.
And in the other camp, the FDC which was fielding a candidate played second-fiddle to music star turned Kyadondo East MP Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi who was the de facto leader of the opposition campaign in Hoima because he is believed to have a winning talisman.
But the opposition strategists must have realised that they were losing even before the official results were announced. Many of them, perhaps fully aware that low voter turnout usually shows that voters believe their vote does not matter tried to rally voters to the booth.
Many opposition politicians and election observers asked why the military and police in anti-riot gear, riding Armoured Personel Carriers and backed by water canon trucks were patrolling the few Hoima town streets and the many village paths.
As the soldiers mounted road blocks along major roads and frisked travellers in and out of Hoima, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mugenyi Byabakama defended them saying they were there to protect the voters.
To counter the heavy deployment, at campaign rally, after rally, clad in red berets, head-kerchiefs and scarfs, opposition politician lured the voters with music, star studded speakers on the podium, and fiery speeches. They emphasized the importance of each voter coming out to vote.
Opposition stalwarts Kizza Besigye and Amuriate of FDC, and Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Mugisha Muntu jostled for space on the podium ruled by musicians, Jose Chameleone, Ronald Mayinja.
Bobi Wine led them as they pleaded with the voters to defy the heavy security deployment and turnout to vote. They attempted to bring to Hoima the tricks they had deployed elsewhere, including heavy reliance on youthful and excitable boda boda riders.
“How will you guard the vote?” Bobi Wine challenged the crowds that thronged the rallies. His advice was for the boda boda youth to deploy at each polling station to guard the vote.
“That is how we did it in Kyadondo East, Jinja Municipality East, Bugiri Municipality and Arua Municipality,” he told them. But Hoima does not have as many boda boda as Jinja, Bugiri, or Arua.
Then videos circulated of a few voters who dared go out to protect the vote being beaten up and bundled onto police cars to be detained, especially in Kabaale sub-county. The FDC Deputy Secretary General, Harold Kaija, was among those arrested and beaten up. His boss, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, was equally roughed up.
In one of the videos, an assistant RDC Richard Tabaro was captured whipping a woman who later was identified as a sister to the opposition candidate, Asinansi Nyakato.