Friction between the contested January 14 presidential poll winner Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and runner up Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine continues with both parties yet again engaged in dueling “national addresses”, Sunday prime time.
President Museveni used his address on the night to address issues of Covid-19, political and security discipline as well as regional and international trade- while his political foe Bobi Wine used his Sunday night address to drum up enthusiasm for planned “constitutionally provided for peaceful protests” against Mr Museveni’s victory ahead of his May 2021 inauguration.
“We’re tired, hungry, angry and oppressed; but we still have brains and are non-violent. We chose not to use violence and we are innocent. They cannot outnumber us. I ask you to demonstrate peacefully,” Bobi Wine roared.
In a veiled response, President Museveni scoffed at the calls for demonstration, saying: “They have been planning that they will stop swearing in of the president. They won’t. They plan all sorts of crazy things including killing their own Opposition people to say it is the government.”
Notable in Bobi Wine’s address was when he quoted Mr Museveni’s biography and his past addresses on what compelled him (Mr Museveni) to become a guerrilla fighter.
“In the 1980s, Mr Museveni said what else can one do when the government has closed all ways of peaceful change? That’s how he ended up in the bush,” Bobi said.
Singing four-star army General and security minister Elly Tumwine had on March 12 written off as mere threats-the slimmest of possibilities that Bobi Wine could champion nationwide protests against a ‘popular regime.’
“They are using the word peaceful demonstrations as a cover up. Leaflets with hate speech are being dumped and lethal weapons such as knives, machetes have been withdrawn from some protesters,” Gen Tumwine said while reaffirming that the ruling government will steamroll any demonstrations.
Quoting a constitution often disregarded during security operations, the General urged opposition dissidents to abide by the law.
“While the constitution allows peaceful demonstration, the Public Order Management Act has provisions for it,” he warned.
‘Murders and abductions’
Using social media and press briefings, Bobi Wine has since Election Day, found surged energies in exposing rampant cases of abductions, arbitrary arrests and disappearances of mostly his supporters while also emphasizing truism that the January 14 presidential election was irregular.
“Hundreds have been murdered. Many people are missing. Many people have been tortured very badly but they fear to speak out. Their associates say they were gravely intimidated,” he said.
Agonized and frustrated legions of Ugandans have come out to castigate Mr Museveni’s government- equating it to the past brutal regime, critics say, of Idi Amin which Mr Museveni has relentlessly criticized in public or their mistakes.
Recent criticism of Mr Museveni’s rule is rooted in rocketed waves of kidnaps in number plate-less vans popularly known as ‘drones’- that took center stage during pre and post-election period, especially in opposition strongholds like central Uganda.
Confirming arrests of over 300 people that occurred during and after elections, Mr Museveni on February 13, 2021 asked Ugandans to “ignore talk of people disappearances” adding that the arrested were “terrorists who had planned to destabilize the country and also block elections.
“However, we deployed commando unit which has been fighting Al-shabaab in Somalia and ADF in DR Congo which crashed them. The corrupt and weak police had failed,” he said.
In his March 14 address, Mr Museveni strongly accused the National Unity Platform (NUP) led by Bobi Wine of championing election malpractice.
“This group of Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) cheated massively in elections. They rigged and did ballot stuffing; helped by the weak organization of (ruling) NRM party and corrupt people. Those who helped them in Police abused their trust and are a disgrace,” Mr Museveni said.
‘Politics in Covid-19’
Mr Museveni also acknowledged Uganda’s success in the fight against an apocalyptic Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 2.6m people worldwide but which according to Bobi Wine has rather become political in Uganda.
“Because you listened to our advice, in the last year, we have had just over 40,000 people infected with this virus. Over 12,000 people have been discharged. We have lost 334 people. We are moving well,” he said.
“As a person that grew up in the ghetto, there is something called a night economy. Mr Museveni has imposed a political curfew. Many businesses are halted. During day time, towns are packed. He can’t explain how curfew is helping in the covid-19 fight,” the outgoing Kyadondo East legislator, Bobi Wine- earlier said.
Mr Museveni came clear- instead slamming those that undermined state efforts aimed at thwarting the spread of Covid-19 while also touting a Ugandan made Covid-19 vaccine that will be better than others.
‘Kenya-Uganda trade row’
President Museveni called for cooperation amongst the six nation East African Community bloc as the only way of fostering regional unity and fast paced development.
“As long as East African countries are separated, we will get opportunists; parasites. Some parasites in some countries say maize from Uganda will take away their business. We need dialogue, engagement and cooperation not just empty shouting,” he said.
‘Election petition and what next?’
Overriding the diminishing presence of the other nine characters and parties in the 2021 presidential race, opposition NUP party has opted for an ‘unconstitutionally recognized’ public court they (NUP) say provides an abundance of options.
This came upon NUP abandoning a legal petition challenging 76-year old-Mr Museveni’s victory with 5,851,037 votes (58.64%) of the poll against opposition front-runner and NUP party presidential candidate, Bobi Wine who trailed closest with 3,475,298 votes (34.83%).
“We are taking the case to the public court,” Bobi Wine revealed in early March.
“The case in court is now finished,” Mr Museveni says, but there is parallel unwillingness to a ceasefire with the two dissenting figures not showing intent to back down on their next course of action that could be consequential with masses paying the price.
Now, Uganda remains locked in some aura of suspense after Bobi Wine- vowed to end Museveni’s presidency by 2022 and also halt his May 2021 inauguration; while at the other end, the current regime is hell-bent towards extending its rule to four decades or even more.