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The Hoima by-elections a microcosm of 2021: In Nyakato, Museveni saw Bobi Wine; himself in Harriet Businge

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President Museveni and MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobu Wine.

By Moses Ssejjoba

The Hoima Woman MP bye-election that took place on Thursday, 26 September 2019, revealed Museveni’s mentality heading into the 2021 general elections. Most Ugandans are now fearful of what will happen in 2021 if a mere parliamentary by-election in a small constituency like Hoima can draw the level of vote-theft and violence that was reported from this election. But the apparent inconsequence of the Hoima by-election, given the NRM’s already massive hold on parliament, is belied by a number of factors. Here’s why Museveni had to win that election by hook or crook.

For a start, Museveni’s ruling NRM party has more than 80% of seats in parliament. This is way above the majority needed to pass any bill. In fact, the party always gets its way as a result: from voting themselves salary increases, cars and allowances, to removing presidential age-limits. In other words, matters big and small are decided in favor of the NRM with almost no opposition. Given his NRM stranglehold on parliament, the body rubber-stamps whatever he wants.

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Why then would Museveni be so worked up about a single MP seat that does not have an effect on the makeup of parliament? This is what most observers missed.

Ms Asinansi Nyakato was a combined opposition (FDC and People Power) joint candidate. If Museveni allowed for her win to stand, he would be planting a dangerous seed in the minds of Ugandans. This seed would likely germinate at the time of the 2021 presidential elections. Museveni, therefore, is nipping this threat in the bud; he is literally killing the suggestion that a combined opposition FDC-People Power candidate could trounce him in the 2021 elections.

In Nyakato, Museveni saw Bobi Wine and himself in Harriet Businge, the NRM candidate. Similarly, Museveni was demonstrating to his security forces that it didn’t matter who people vote for; they can be brutalised into accepting whoever the electoral commission announces as having won. This explains the heavy deployment of military and police to Hoima to guard the brazen vote-rigging on his candidate’s behalf.

Early that Thursday, Museveni had ordered the removal of the District Police Commander (DPC) who had refused to arrest Bobi Wine. The authorities had planned for the vote to take place while Bobi wine was locked up. However, video recordings began to emerge with the DPC having a friendly conversation with the person he was supposed to arrest. This prompted his immediate transfer.

A video of the deputy RDC (Resident District Commissioner) Richard Tabaro surfaced caning and slapping Elizabeth Katungi, an FDC supporter who also happens to be candidate Nyakato’s sister. According to the Daily Monitor, Nyakato’s team had deployed her to Kigorobya County to monitor the election on her sister’s behalf.

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The woman was assaulted in the presence of army and police officers who looked on, guns in hand, as she was repeatedly slapped and caned. Unlike the DPC, the RDC stayed in his job. This implicitly tells the story of who, between the two, the authorities think should be rewarded or punished, and how the security personnel are expected to handle themselves.

Everything is on video, including the evidence of rigging. But that didn’t stop Museveni from issuing a statement condoning the abuse, “Congratulations to my daughters, Busingye Harriet Mugenyi (Hoima) and Tubo Christine Nakwang (Kaabong) for their victories in the parliamentary by-elections held yesterday. I congratulate the NRM structures in the two districts for doing a good job and delivering these victories,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

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It shows that he isn’t bothered any more about credibility and suggests that he won’t hesitate to kill to stay in power. Even a child can now tell: 2021 will be very bloody! Museveni has just put his cards on the table and dared anyone to call him out.

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