Dictators find a Perfect Excuse in Covid-19

Uganda is all but set to hold a “digital campaign” for her 2021 presidential, parliamentary and local governments’ elections. Candidates won’t be allowed to address public rallies or hold campaign processions.

The Electoral Commission (EC) fears that pubic rallies will provide a perfect opportunity for the coronavirus pandemic that has so far infected nearly 1000 Ugandans. 

Candidates will campaign using radio, television and social media. Of course, campaign posters are not banned.

There is a possibility some small meetings of about 100 people will be allowed. On the surface of it, it sounds a legitimate measure to protect people’s lives against a pandemic that has ravaged the world. And who wouldn’t want to protect his citizens against a deadly disease which, as of now, has claimed more than 600,000 lives globally?

But anyone who knows Museveni, the man who has ruled our country for three and half decades knows corona is simply an excuse to serve the country with the usual sham elections.

Public rallies and processions had been banned long before Covid-19. That was the whole idea behind the enactment of the Public Order and Management Act. 

That is one of the gifts that Gen. Kale Kayihura gave to Museveni. Remember, it is Kayihura who single-handedly championed the public order and management law. It came to replace sections of the Police Act that gave Police powers over public rallies. Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi challenged the power of Police – granting permission to people intending to hold public rallies. 

When the Constitutional Court struck out the prohibitive sections, Kayihura invented the Public Order and Management Act. Although the law required us to inform Police whenever we were going to hold a rally, Police claimed they had been given permission to allow or disallow public rallies. And many meetings were violently dispersed. Some of us were placed under house arrest on the day of the public meetings.  

With Robert Kyagulanyi joining politics and declaring presidential ambitions, concerts were added on the list. That is where coronavirus found us. 

Museveni had told a meeting of Inter-party organization for dialogue (IPOD), a loose coalition of political parties with representation in Parliament at Munyonyo that Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye would not be allowed to address any meetings. Why? He (Besigye) denounced the government and formed his own People’s Government. Security sat and agreed that Besigye should be stopped. 

Museveni informed IPOD that security was about to sit to discuss Kyagulanyi’s concerts. He eventually announced that Kyagulanyi won’t be allowed to sing because he was spoiling Uganda’s name abroad. Museveni, therefore, said Kyagulanyi won’t be allowed to make money through concerts.

I have brought back all this to help you understand why EC has announced digital campaigns. Museveni knows that mobilizing citizens will eventually force him out of power. 

But of course, in this century, it is also expensive to be brutally naked. Museveni wants the whole world to think he is still a popular figure. It is the reason nearly half of Uganda’s budget has been turned into his pocket money he uses to offer bribes. 

Of course, he supplements bribery with force. I don’t know how many Local Defence Units (LDUs) that he has recruited and trained. I have a barracks of LDUs at Bulindo in my constituency. 

That is what is awaiting anybody who wants to remove Museveni from power through an election. And that is what 2020/21 elections are about. Museveni will either peacefully stop you from organizing against him or he will crush you. 

The Covid-19 measures simply give him more room to maneuver. With or without Covid-19, no candidate was going to be allowed to freely challenge Museveni. 

Isn’t that the reason Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye has had to give elections in Uganda under Museveni a second look? If you are excited please take note. We will compare notice In-shaa-Allah after February 2021.

The writer is the Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament, also Kira Municipality MP and FDC spokesman.

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