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Why and how the opposition is playing right into Museveni’s hands

On Wednesday, Kampala went on fire after police arrested pop star turned politician/presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. The riots continued through yesterday (Nov.19). The partisans on either side are in overdrive. Critics of government post videos of police shooting at crowds where some people have, unfortunately, died.

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Government activists post videos showing street gangs mounting roadblocks, forcing anyone wearing yellow, the colour of the ruling party, to remove them. In one of these videos, a thug attacks a police lady hitting her with a hammer.

Clearly each side has enough evidence to demonize the other and seek to occupy the moral high ground. Yet elections in Uganda, like many parts of Sub Sahara Africa, tend to simulate violence threatening already weak states. But politicians, pundits and journalists are too transfixed in the emotions of the moment, and too ideologically committed to the current institutional arrangements to reflect on the implications of this persistent and troubling reality.

Museveni launched a war alleging electoral fraud. He has kept power by electoral violence and fraud. In Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan, elections are always accompanied by accusations of fraud and violence. Does Africa really need elections to select leaders especially in a winner-take-all electoral system? I shall return to this another day.

For now, Uganda is going through the COVID pandemic. Over 17,000 people have been infected and over 150 have died. To slow down the spread of the disease, government has restricted mass gatherings like rallies.

The Electoral Commission has put in place guidelines for political candidates to have no more than 200 people in a crowd. President Yoweri Museveni has adhered to these guidelines. Meanwhile Bobi Wine has been fragrantly violating these SOPs. Videos show him addressing or singing and dancing to huge crowds.

Secondly, opposition claims that Museveni has ruled through corruption, tribalism, violence and lies and that he doesn’t care about the public good. It follows, therefore, that the opposition must demonstrate that they are the change this country needs: that unlike Museveni, they will not place their political ambitions above the interests of the country. Yet Bobi Wine, like Donald Trump, is clearly impervious to the health risks he is exposing to his supporters with mass rallies. Sadly his followers don’t see this.

Given its own selfish obsession with power, the driving motive behind government’s arrest of Bobi Wine was not so much driven by the health risks as by the fear that he is gaining a lot of political traction.

Yet even with this malice in mind, I believe it was absolutely necessary to stop his mass rallies even by arresting and detaining him. It would be dangerous for the state to allow such a blatant disregard of the COVID SOPs. The fact that NRM supporters have done similar violations and police has not intervened is unfair but it doesn’t make Bobi Wine’s actions right. On the contrary, he should be the one to lead by example. Instead he gave government the rope with which to hang him.

Secondly, Bobi Wine was arrested in eastern Uganda. Immediately, people in Kampala went on rampage. Was this spontaneous? Hardly! The opposition, especially Dr. Kizza Besigye’s Defiance, which shares a common support-base with Bobi Wine’s People Power have been talking of a “Plan B”. This is based on the belief that elections cannot bring about change.

So they have been planning to use the campaigns to stir up a mass uprising to bring down government, and there is enough intelligence to show this. We have seen videos of a truck delivering tyres to set roadblocks. So the riots were not spontaneous but well planned acts to spread mayhem.

One thing should be clear: the primary role of the state is to ensure the security of person and property. As Max Weber said, the state can only do this by enjoying a monopoly over the use of violence.

This role is even more critical in fragile states like ours where state capabilities are limited and where emergent social forces such as urban lumpens, angry and unemployed youths, students and informal sector workers can cause serious disruption.


  1. I like this piece.

    • The videos related to the events in question, show peaceful individuals being shot by our security officers. One lady was in an office, overlooking a patrol before she was shot at. There was another group that was cheering, that lost their lives.
      We should NOT spin this. Our brothers and sisters died.
      There is no justification for killing cheering Ugandans.

  2. Copied from elsewhere about Bobi Wine:


    Firstly, the promises he made during his nomination speech were underwhelming… things like increasing coffee production and zoning the country according to agricultural production… nothing that will really move the country forward.

    Then, he talks about reducing taxes and increasing salaries of soldiers and police officers. That was one of the mistakes made by Mugabe which resulted in hyperinflation, economic collapse and worsened political instability. These economically unsound promises expose the fact that he is being poorly advised which is of even greater concern.

    Then, he calls his party National Unity Platform but many of his supporters routinely label fellow Ugandans from the west of the country as “Banyarwanda” in ways that would seem like it’s an insult or a bad thing to be a Munyarwanda, or from the west of the country… he has failed to reign in those xenophobic and tribalistic supporters, which doesn’t reflect the kind of leadership needed to unite the country and move it forward.

    Then, the blurry ideology is another cause for concern… a campaign based solely on “Museveni must go”, exaggerated criticisms, talking about oppression while in all honesty things are not perfect but we enjoy so many freedoms as Ugandans that others can only envy… routinely calling Museveni a dictator yet his supporters hurl all manner of abuses and insults at Museveni in ways that no dictator would ever allow.

    Then, in one of his recent speeches he kept repeating, “I am representing…” and then he lists certain groups of people. This again exposes that he is not ready for the job as being a president is not about mere representation, it’s about service and leadership for all citizens. Representation is the work of a parliamentarian, which he has done really well as an MP, but being a president is not about representing constituencies or certain sections of the population.

    Then, his decision to abruptly set up a political party and run for president is his democratic right. But in the process he exposed certain cracks in his candidacy such as not being subjected to democratic processes within his party, meaning he is no better than Museveni in terms of being declared the sole uncontested presidential candidate in his party. This might seem like a petty concern, but if that is his starting point, we all know that getting into power corrupts an individual. How many actual dictators started off as revolutionaries?

    Similarly, by entering the presidential race abruptly as a new entrant, even causing estrangement among politicians of different political parties who were previously aligned with his former pressure group People Power… even when they had asked him if he was going to start a party and run for president and according to them he denied having such intentions… that displays early stages of political dishonesty and untrustworthiness, which is really unfortunate. In the process, he also exposed lack of political awareness because entering the race the way he did without first discussing with other opposition presidential candidates on fielding one candidate so as to avoid the repeated issue of split votes. He would have been of greatest service to Uganda as an activist lobbying for change through his People Power pressure group.

    There are just so many concerns and question marks that show he is just not ready for the job of president. Which is all just really unfortunate. We love Bobi Wine the musician, and Bobi Wine the parliamentarian… but as a presidential candidate… I’m sorry to say, he may be very popular, but he is just not ready for the job and yet we need a very ready candidate to move Uganda forward.

  3. Andrew Mwenda never ceases to amuse me by his narrow view of things!! At anytime, any president that has ruled Uganda thought they had the best monopoly of imposing violence, until they were overpowered. What makes him think no one should try it on Museveni as he is by far the best is laughable. Or, if one is the best at something, does that’s mean no one should try him, or does it mean that he will forever remain the best? The naked fact is that Museveni has been (and is by far) the best collaborator of the West-especially on his assistance on his so called war on terror. America & UK for example find him a necessary ally. For example, instead of them deploying their sons and daughters to fight in some countries & die, Museveni is always quick to respond on their behalf whenever he is called to deploy on their behalf. This attributes personal benefits to him e.g it comes with the West supporting him or keeping a blind eye on his atrocities. Museveni understands the many Ugandans don’t support him. Any small assistance can cause things to change. With Bobi coming with just a perceived support from the west, it gives Museveni sleepless nights. This is among the main reasons he unleashes terror. My disappointment is that instead of the Bobi and the like approaching him militarily, they should target those officers who cause mayhem, the way Kale had started- hit those where it hurts most & silently spread the message. Don’t cause the death of innocent people. Do the main thieves of Uganda’s wealth and their ardent surrogates. Make Kampala ungovernable. This is exactly what Museveni did in his bush war. It takes time but such moves work in the long run.

  4. Mwenda, you should know as much as anyone else that Ugandans have just about had enough of mbaguta.. It really does not matter where the next president comes from or who he or she is, all the people want and need right now is change. and change they are going to get. We would rather have it done peacefully obviously but if that option is denied to us then we are going to look at other options. This is our country after all, we have no other..!!

  5. 1.Uganda’s level of freedom and democracy are too advanced compared to her level of development. In the first world; the level of freedom of speech and democracy corresponds with the level of development.
    2.The number and quality of presidential candidates in a normal Nation should be 3 in a race;The world is still in shock as to why Ugandans prefer an ex drug addict to lead her.even a decent woman should have had sex with at least 3 men.
    3.The choice of presidential candidates protrays the mindset of its citizens.
    4. Ugandans are a sitting duck.
    5.The youth in Africa today are in a transition era from primitivity to civilization thats why they need proper mentors like M7;they do not understand matters like geo politics,foreign policy and fiscal policy.
    6.Africa has a young population which is overwhelmed with adolescent behaviour thats why M7 excuses them when they insult him.
    7.What is so special about being a youth? How come the leaders in the first world are all 55 years and above?8.The current political trend in Uganda could be a plus for M7 coz its a sign that government has put in place good systems in that an clown can be a president.

  6. I tell you, once Bobi Wine enter Kampala for campaign, Uganda government will fall. Watch and see

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