Uganda’s opposition needs to regroup and clean its house

By Badru Walusansa

It’s without a doubt that Dr Kizza Besigye is an opposition strongman and his support among many Ugandans is unquestionable.

While addressing party leaders in Mbale town last month, Dr Besigye said he will continue using non-violent means to capture power, re-echoing a statement he made after his defeat in the February 2016 general elections.

The founding leader of the main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has contested for the presidency four times to unseat President Yoweri Museveni unsuccessfully since 2001.

While I support Dr Besigye’s stance, it is also true that this tactic of non-violence has failed to unseat the incumbent regime. (This shouldn’t be mistaken that I’m calling for use of violence by the opposition to capture power). So what is the problem?

The defiance campaign in 2016 and walk-to-work protests in 2011/12 were both instrumental in stirring debate about hardships in the economy and the need for change but other than that, these non-violent strategies achieved little.

While the opposition can use a series of non-violent tactics to try and oust the current regime, it should not fail to undertake a critical self or in-house assessment.

The opposition (and not just FDC party) should shine light on its leadership composition and assess whether to remain urban-based or expand its structures and presence to the countryside. The opposition should also re-evaluate whether their main goal is to occupy the office of president or to unseat the whole NRM leadership at all levels.

Many opposition members have in the past cried foul that their campaigns are restricted during elections and that the current harsh political environment denies them the chance to assume power.

While this may be the case, that argument shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat since opposition parties elsewhere operate under the same or similar conditions until they get hold of office and power. Therefore, the opposition should look at the repressive political environment as an opportunity.

The opposition should start now by building and strengthening party structures at the grassroots as FDC party president Mugisha Muntu has always opined. The upcoming LC1 elections should be an opportunity for the opposition to establish such structures.

When all that is done, the rest can be left in the hands of the citizens. That’s why I applaud Dr Besigye’s assertion that Ugandans should be allowed to decide and manage their own affairs. His statement followed the felicitations that different Ugandans made upon the election of Donald Trump as USA president despite widespread criticism and opposition to his candidacy.

I therefore implore the opposition to continue appealing to Ugandans with different messages since power rests with the people. Rhetoric and lamentations should stop and energies shifted to action points such as cementing grassroots party structures and formulating coordinated messages – short of which, things will remain the same.

 Mr. Walusansa is a Commonwealth Correspondent in Uganda.

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