Stop political Hooliganism Now!

By Ofwono Opondo

Aug. 02. 17

During the 2016 general elections campaigns, President Yoweri Museveni cautioned the political protagonists particularly the opposition groups who were taking violent trends that they shouldn’t put their hands in the leopard’s anus.  Even the un-initiated know that a leopard is a very aggressive, if not unforgiving animal, and so whoever pokes their finger is certainly courting trouble.
As a media columnist and panelist for over two decades now, the most gratifying responses I receive via email, telephone and meetings are not from audiences who agree with me, although I appreciate those who do and they are very many. But the ones I like most are from audiences who don’t support President Museveni, NRM and government but say I engage constructively with everyone.
 Quite often I get people, total strangers who tell me they read my column in the New Vision or watch me on television, and have been yearning to understand some things about my support for President Museveni and his politics. These people want to understand better my perspective in hope that the gulf in Uganda’s political landscape can be bridged, because it seems to them that the extreme polarization will not be tenable for long.
These people passionately explain to me why I am wrong on President Museveni. But these days it is increasingly becoming hard even painful for people across the political spectrum to understand or tolerate those whose views seem opposite of their own.
There is steady diet of divisive and biased programming on news outlets. Depending on which platform, audiences now know that certain programs will predictably spend hours haranguing Museveni and NRM with the most arcane hyperbole while suggesting that anyone who disagrees is anti-Uganda.
The ever increasing incidences of rowdy, violent and disruptive political behaviour during the many public gatherings, and on media platforms like on television and radio talk-shows where opposition elements orchestrate attacks and the use of toxic language against those they disagree with, often NRM supporters, or government officials is a worrying trend that must be stopped now before it gets out of hand.
This week’s attack on Simeo Nsubuga (MP Kasanda North), by a lone wolf and estranged journalist, turned political activist during Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi’s 24th coronation anniversary in Mubende district signifies bad omen yet to come. This follows a similar incident two weeks ago at Namboole stadium where Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Gen. (Rtd) Kahinda Otafire was accosted by yet un-indentified  section of local government elected leaders who falsely claimed that he had gone to preach the lifting of the so-called ‘presidential age limit’ from the constitution.
While investigations continue to establish the real motives and persons behind these incidences, the emerging disagreements over the impending constitutional reforms ought not to cause bloodshed. And the opposition should not take the political civility by NRM leaders and supporters as a sign of weakness, cowardice or self-guilt for which they can’t respond.
It appears that during many of these discourses, the main intention of the opposition and critics of government is not constructive and objective discourse with the view to reaching improved and agreeable positions on contentious matters. Rather, [it is becoming apparent] their aim is to create a state of anarchy and fear so as to make those who support the government, NRM or President Museveni to go into total withdrawal.
These trends are very evident in parliament and its committees, on radio and television talk-shows, at political and social gatherings including, unfortunately at funerals where bereavement ought to cause restraint. In parliamentary committee meetings, bombastic opposition loudmouths have made ridiculing ministers, NRM MPs and senior government officials who appear before them the mode of operation. It is common to hear “shut up” or “stupid” being shouted at ministers with abandon even when parliamentary rules dictate mutual respect among MPs, and between MPs and those who appear before them on the numerous inquiries.
The abrasions are intended to drive those in support of government positions to go underground so that hopefully, the opposition could move on with their agenda of dismantling President Museveni’s government by 2020 as the self-styled opposition kingpin Dr Kizza Besigye is fond of vowing. It is important that the architects of dirty political handiwork of violence and intolerance to free speech do realize that their actions may enlist responses perhaps in similar or higher proportions they won’t be able to handle, and not good for our nascent democracy.
These opposition elements ought to know that their efforts is like somebody trying to roll a huge boulder uphill endlessly, which seems to be what Kizza Besigye has specialized in lately. Besigye and some of those who follow him have surely run past their targets covered in beers, and yet are hell bent on jumping into deep waters. They believe that each day is like in the Bible where a day is sufficient for the earth form and life to mature. They refuse to acknowledge that Uganda’s politics has evolved, and many of them have withered and lost youthfulness with their limbs now fossils.