The Dark Portrait of Opposition Politics

Ofwono Opondo
May, 31, 18
The reported re-union of Uganda’s oldest political, the Democratic Party (DP), born 1954, or as was derisively called in the 1960s and 1980s, Dini ya Paapa (Pope’s Party), on account of its catholic origin, is leaving hot flames sweeping in its wake even before the tents under which the meeting took place at the Makerere University rugby grounds were even removed.  And well, this is in spite of DP president, Norbert Mao, striking a sunny tone, assuring the world “we will prove the naysayers wrong by transforming DP and our country. We’re not playing the game the way it is. We’re changing the game” and suggesting they could have the last laugh. Of course it is always good to be optimistic.
But, it is becoming a messy debate. While the re-union last week started with relative decorum, by the end of this week, the brawling involving Mao, Erias Lukwago, Dr Abed Bwanika, was getting nasty, punching without gloves. When they appeared on NBS television show, the Frontline, they were in a long stretch interrupting and talking over each other. At some point, Lukwago who is Kizza Besigye’s side-kick, and his de facto spokesperson, was pleading for more time, while Mao, perhaps disingenuously, appeared eager for less.
Apparently, the same people who have been peddling ‘truth-telling’ as a good political principle, were not very amused with Bwanika for stating the facts that DP is ineffectual, having failed to stop UPC and Milton Obote’s machinations, then jumped into bed with the victorious NRM in 1986. And when Bwanika further stung DP leaders for making unreliable alliances with Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, anticipating they could win, neither FDC nor DP was amused.
Lukwago and perhaps many FDC leaders aren’t amused that Bwanika flayed Besigye’s longevity as a perennial presidential candidate being testament of his unbending refusal to drop out even when it is clear that voters were not flocking to his side. It is looks obvious that they are ready to fight, which is a promising development for the opposition, given how much time they are spending attacking each other instead of President Yoweri Museveni, the man who’s winning.
Analysts have said that the ‘re-union’ won’t last long as many similar attempts have been made before but failed miserably because for some time now, DP and its many factions are motivated mainly if by seeking money from European sponsors, tribal and religious sectarianism, and petty bourgeois psyche and interests. DP, which was formed as a common man’s platform has now drifted far off that radar, and is now more of an ethnic based, whose most vocal national leaders champion narrow ganda chauvinism.
The DP wave that swept across Uganda in 1980s was mainly based on opposition to the return of the UPC and its then leader Obote, who had ruled from 1962 to 1971 through a combination naked trickery and brute force. And for failure to stop UPC political machinations that enabled it to return to power in 1980, Ugandans lost faith in DP leaders. Additionally, when UPC descended to the political abyss between 1980 and 1985 and collapsed under its own weight Ugandans, especially in West Nile, Buganda, and Western region further felt let down by DP they had supported.
 The dark portrait of Uganda that the opposition leaders have sketched in their public statements is a compendium of doomsday statistics that fall apart upon close scrutiny. Usually, numbers are taken out of context, data is manipulated, and sometimes the facts are wrong. When facts are inconveniently positive, such as rise in GDP, personal incomes, education and health statistics, improvement in electricity, roads and clean water, they simply avoid mentioning them. They describe an exceedingly violent country, flooded with murders, when in reality, the violent-crime rate has been on the decline.
The opposition has been speaking out of both sides of its scowl, itching to be the voice of the common man but equally eager to demonstrate what a highfalutin, university-trained intellect they collectively possess, and weaving populist messages in plumy vocabulary. And while the line separating smart and being daft isn’t all that thin or blurry in politics, DP is not going to stay on the winning side of the on-going argument.
The rant of the past decade or so has been that President Museveni, is the problem, and they each forgot that in the opposition crowded field, each is supposed to compete as a possible alternative government. Apparently, Mao and Bwanika, both of whom previously supported Besigye’s presidential bid, were wagering in the belief he would fade with time, more so, because he has failed four times to defeat Museveni. And so, each wanted to be in a friendly position to inherit the maverick’s following, unfortunately, they’re realizing that Besigye, is their main obstacle. While Mao and his DP cohorts try to present themselves as the new messiahs, their just one true compass, is own self advancement. From 1954 to-date, and still limping, many pundits think, it is perhaps time for DP to rest in peevishness, instead of being in group therapy sessions.