Initially RPF tried the strategy of relying on local elite intermediaries to create a bridge between itself and ordinary citizens. It failed. I will return to explain why this happened on another day. But it set it apart from other political parties not just in Africa but also in all poor countries including those in the West and Asia when they were at the same per capita income as African countries today.
Now, how has Museveniorganised and distributed power in Uganda? How does he exercise and reproduce it? Let us begin with his cabinet. The president is not required to select ministers from elected legislators. But over 90% of his cabinet is made up of MPs. This choice of ministers is largely based on their individual ability to mobilise electoral support in their areas rather than on their individual administrative competences or ideological and policy harmony as a collective. Museveni has other considerations of course – such as one’s historical role in the NRM struggle, his desire to please certain individuals and constituencies or to reward some historic favors. But these are secondary.
Therefore, in projecting the way Besigye would govern, we have to examine FDC’s social base and how it mobilises. Who makes up the leadership and followership of this party? At the top FDC is led by people who have no direct role in the productive sphere of the economy – industry, agriculture or services. Instead they are self-employed professionals who live by earning a salary or unemployed political operators whose only hope is salaried employment.
Increasingly, the more enlightened elements of this party have been sidelined in its power structure and the crude and semi educated faction taken control. So if Besigye became president today, the most influential people around him would be Ingrid Turinawe, Jack Sabiti, Wycliffe Bakandonda, Doreen Nyanjura, EriasLukwago, etc. You need to be high on weed to believe these are the women and men to democratise and industrialise Uganda.
At the grassroots the party is supported by an army of semi-educated, unemployed youths in urban and peri-urban areas and many professionals and students who look to the state for opportunities as salaried workers. Given this social base, FDC can only preside over a government of job seekers i.e. reproduce Museveni’s neo-patrimonial politics of corruption and patronage.
The FDC has not cultivated (or has failed to cultivate) a support-base among the productive social groups within Uganda’s economy – traders, manufacturers, agricultural investors and innovators, service providers, etc. Thus, if it won elections and came into power, an FDC government would, inevitably, be dominated by its social base – salaried professionals and their urban youth supporters.
The productive and innovative social forces in the economy would therefore seek policy favours by lobbying these people. Such a relationship would inevitably be based on exchange of material favors hence corruption. FDC leaders would also seek to enhance and consolidate power at the grassroots and would employ exactly the same methods as NRM functionaries hence corruption. This has less to do with their individual morals and/or principles but the logic and circumstances of democratic politics in a poor multi ethnic country.