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The quagmire Uganda’s Opposition politicians are caught up in

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Added 7th May 2018 05:24 PM

Anywar's last-ditch attempt to get a hold on Amama-Mbabazi’s Go-Forward umbrella also came unstuck, leaving her looking like the ‘spy’ Mafabi talked about.

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Anywar's last-ditch attempt to get a hold on Amama-Mbabazi’s Go-Forward umbrella also came unstuck, leaving her looking like the ‘spy’ Mafabi talked about.


By Leonard Otekat Ekapu

POLITICS- When Beatrice Atim Anywar (BAA), recently hosted President Museveni in her constituency and declared before the media that she would henceforth work with him, she was only confirming what had been ‘feared’ and rumoured for a while.

‘Feared’, because BAA had  her long tenure as an Opposition figure in an NRM-dominated polity cultivated and earned respect as a fierce and dependable protagonist in the fight to disentangle what was viewed by the opposition as NRM’s undemocratic and militaristic hold onto power.

There are many who believe she justifiably earned the reverencing nickname ‘Mama Mabira’, in tribute to what was viewed country-wide as her bravery in taking on the authorities to save Mabira forest, known to be crucial in safeguarding Uganda’s ecological heritage. In the myriad demonstrations that she led to ‘Save Mabira’, the country watched in awe, as she defiantly suffered emotional and physical humiliation in the hands of the anti-riot Police.

Not so; say FDC Party President and Secretary General, Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Nathan Nandala Mafabi, respectIvely. ‘Anywar has been a spy from day one’, they declared following her newly-avowed love for Museveni.  One may contest this as sour grapes from embarrassed party leaders, but there had been uncomfortable pointers over the last few years to question the retained loyalty of not only Anywar but other opposition leaders as well. In the case of BAA, the opposition fraternity was shocked out of their wits when, some four years back, BAA who had been admitted at Case Clinic over a prolonged illness, was visited by President Museveni who offered to clear her medical bills. The patient attempted to explain it off as a case of a concerned ‘Fountain of Honour’, exercising a sense of responsibility and empathy for a needy citizen. 

In the wake of increased pressure from FDC’s Kiza Besigye’s walk to work protests amidst an equally increasing repressive counter response from the law-enforcement agencies - when real opposition stood out to be counted -  BAA’s silence was deafening! To stem off the criticism, BAA joined the many from the FDC especially from Acholi who argued Besigye was equally overstaying in power like the Museveni FDC was critical of and jumped onto Mugisha Muntu’S bandwagon seen as the anti-thesis of Besigye.

In the eyes of the opposition, this Muntu bandwagon did not help the likes of BAA as Muntu himself was labelled a ‘mole’ and hunted out of FDC leadership. Her last-ditch attempt to get a hold on Amama-Mbabazi’s  Go-Forward  umbrella also came unstuck, leaving her looking like the ‘spy’ Mafabi talked about. In the end she had to stand as an Independent and thenceforth started looking increasingly lonely.  

It is not clear when this loneliness actually begun and when it drove her to first, covertly, work for Museveni. Could it have kicked in after the Presidential visit as she lay on her sick bed and reminisced his kindness?

Therein lies the quagmire many in the Opposition find themselves.  All politicians will tell u they are in it for the service of the people and there are many on record like the recently fallen Winnie Madikizela Mandela and her husband who have distinguished themselves in the struggle for the common good. I dare observe, however, that these have been relatively in short supply in Uganda!  BAA in defense of her ‘defection’ says she needed to work with Museveni so as to attract services to her people. Now, whereas in normal democracies, the Government in power is expected to serve all citizens equally, on account of relative scarcity in fledgling economies, the powers that be often find the carrot method irresistible as a means to hire support. Thus when Museveni in his welcome remarks congratulated her for abandoning the ‘baren' Opposition, he was warning the people who court opposition that they would be coming to them bare-handed. And since Uganda’s deeply monetized electioneering has ‘taught’ our people that it is the politicians in their individual capacity who are meant to deliver services, opposition members find themselves under pressure to ‘cross’ so as to be appointed Minister and thus be able to ‘deliver’ services to your people. The present cabinet is full of notables of this category and BAA’s name has already reportedly been cited on an upcoming short list.

  But psychologists will know that active political participation is among the actualization needs, or a search for self-fulfilment and preservation before any claim to service to others on account of our hand-to mouth economy, there will be, among our political class, many job-seekers who will wish to maximize all available opportunities and so will want to catch the eye of the powers-that-be. For the Opposition, there are many ways of doing this. You could make direct contact with the many ‘brokers’ crawling around Parliament and tell them you have ‘seen the light’ and they will do the needful.  Trouble with this approach is that they will take you on their terms and therefore, on the cheap.

Another one – and known to be the more productive, is the one BAA employed - Shout yourself hoarse and hysterical against the establishment, insulting the leadership as crudely as you possibly can. You bet you will be noticed and ‘approached’ by the brokers. Here you can be sure you will get onto the famous ‘short list’. Indeed, so fruitful is this method that NRM originals often complain of being marginalized in favor of the opposition who ‘see the light’.

Whatever route an opposition politician might choose to light themselves up to the promised land, the establishment will be waiting. Any party in power will wish to consolidate its hold onto power and the less the opposition to deal with, the better. A belligerent opposition like Kizza Besigye’s element is costly, politically and resource wise, to keep at bay.

The more docile and ‘progressive’  element is approachable and susceptible to  a deal by carrot method or sheer ‘personal touch’.  It would appear, by all accounts that Museveni is a master at the ‘personal touch’ which he uses to reach out to personal needs, including, of course actualization ones!  Calling on an enigmatic and critical leader in her critical condition in hospital was a master stroke and I dare say, could have worked to turn BAA around.

The writer is a political analyst


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