By Ofwono Opondo
Over the last few weeks, opposition groups, and their allies in the civil society, have been on various media platforms, flirting with conditions, they claim, must be met, before they enter into a national political dialogue with government. For the record and avoidance of any doubt, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, and government, haven’t sought such a dialogue process because we believe that the current constitutional framework and government, are legitimate and effective in building consensus towards resolving emerging contentious matters. However, other efforts could be additional to ongoing platforms and processes.
The background and basis to this chorus is that President Yoweri Museveni and NRM never won the elections fairly, have governed for too long, not creating a possibility for a peaceful political transition, and is now on reverse gear on democracy and governance issues. In short, they are contesting the legality, constitutionality, credibility, integrity and legitimacy of President Museveni and NRM. They want to make it appear that the NRM, with a big majority has been handed a licence and is governing untroubled by constitutional limits, national interest, or common sense.
FDC, UPC, DP, PPP, the hypocrites in CSOs, media, and most recently, hecklers and creepy stalkers exploiting the anonymity on social media which has turned them into something of a gentrified people, isn’t a discernible coalition, but rather a cluster of angry subgroups, packaging old ideas.
We can see from the shallow demands they are placing on the table, among them, a neutral platform for the so-called national dialogue, composition of participants, modalities for convening, facilitating, funding, and guarantors to implementation of the outcomes. From these demands, it is not difficult to see that they don’t believe in the existing constitutional framework that produces the executive, parliament, local governments and judiciary.
The list of Samuel Mukaaku Lubega (People Power), Geoffrey Ekanya (Peoples Government), Dick Odur (PPP), Wafula Oguttu (FDC), Norbert Mao (DP), Mugisha Muntu (New Formation), and Olara Otunnu, alongside Joseph Bossa representing a UPC faction, is humorous and nicely sums up their unilllustrous political profile because they have been proven wrong on many major recent issues. In 2011, Otunnu didn’t even bother to vote for himself, and so there is no guarantee he will turn up turn for the dialogue.
Many analysts believe that this is what a vacuum in leadership looks like, when debris sucked up isn’t appealing, and has no unifying leader or clear message. Of course, the opposition and their media allies will get angry at being called out because they don’t want their incompetence and mob tactics to be exposed in the mainstream public discourse.
But as the adage goes, if it looks like a mob, shouts like a mob, and stomps around like a mob, it could indeed be a mob. Many of the people in the opposition, who are demanding for ‘dialogue’, are attention seekers, and distracting themselves from internal problems in their political organisations. They simply pay lip-service to democracy which they rarely practice, and don’t agree among themselves even on the small things as recent events demonstrate. In the past month alone, a dejected Mugisha bolted out of FDC because he was harangued, while in Masaka, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere had to be evacuated from a street brawl among DP factions.
This is the same opposition that has been so ruthless in its unsubstantiated accusations against President Museveni and NRM, and now that their ruthlessness hasn’t worked for them, they think half-hearted softening may succeed. They have overreached themselves with unsupported accusations which backfired many times in public opinion polls, and actual ballot box. If they could sometimes keep their powder dry, they would still have some energy, but now have no one, but themselves to blame. Their brazen behaviour pisses off many Ugandans, is waking up the sleeping giant in NRM, and could be giving most Ugandans reasons to look past their collective frustrations with President Museveni in the next general election.
The opposition has every right to be unhappy and denounce NRM’s political direction, legislative and policy preferences, and provide own alternative. But none of these concerns justify their repudiation of the existing constitutional framework from which they are attempting to work from the outside so as to serve their interests.
The opposition, constantly in a wrestling match, has often treated the higher courts as nakedly political and partisan, and yet without a final arbiter, our nascent democracy will just wither and die. As currently is, the opposition is such a dishonest group in defensive and preemptive strikes against NRM, and engaged in pathetic rounds of post-defeat self-pity.
Some have claimed that their problem is that they are just too good, too nice, too sincere and too righteous to battle with the evil NRM, as if their smears, taunts, untruths and ambushes follow noble rules and rise from their innate goodness. They are trying, although unsuccessfully, to paint a compelling picture for voters to look elsewhere, and seem so resigned that they cannot win. Yet, recent elections show they indeed can, although those victories weren’t because they ran appealing campaigns, offered any leadership or direction. Many shudder, how they will govern when they share more power among themselves.