The first sight of election violence was witnessed on Sunday when supporters of National Resistance Movement (NRM) reportedly attacked independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi who was addressing a Go Forward rally in Ntungamo. The brawl left many people injured.
The melee happened at a time when Amama Mbabazi, who served the NRM government for the last 29 years in different capacities but now an opposition frontrunner, on numerous times complained to the Electoral Commission of interference from NRM supporters at his rallies.
This is the first time that Uganda is going into an election with three strong candidates vying for the presidency. This makes it one of the most competitive elections ever. Because of this competition, the 2016 election remains more prone to electoral violence.
Should violence as witnessed in Ntungamo prevail through the election period, Uganda and innocent lives will be put on at risk. Therefore in this article we highlight the five lessons we draw from fracas that can inform our decision to stop such preventable fights
We learn that NRM is scared
The National Resistance Movement is used to comfortably running the election show but the emergence of Amama Mbabazi and a re-energized Kizza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has got the ruling party and its supporters scared of losing the grip on power.
Therefore the leadership at the yellow party, especially those leaders at the grassroots level receiving funding from head office is taking no chances. Well aware of the opposition new weight, NRM is now frightened by opposition presidential candidate’s big crowds.
To tame the surging support for opposition, NRM supporters are turning to intimidating their opponents because they know they have the backing of police or like it has been in past elections cannot be confronted by opponents in self defence. It has worked elsewhere but not Ntungamo.
The opposition has accused the ruling party of enjoying the backing of a near partisan police and the opposition has been wary of the men in Uniform. However the tables have turned and supporters of opposition are ready to face the wrath of police and are now engaging violent NRM supporters in equal measure.
2016 will be a violent year
The election year 2011 was expected to be the most violent year in Uganda’s democratic history but the process that retained President Museveni in the country’s leadership for the past five years went on without major violence incidences.
Despite claims of voter intimidation, vote bribery and other election malpractices, the main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye refused to rally his supporters in protest. He also didn’t go to court to contest the outcomes. He instead launched a countrywide walk to work protest that only attracted mild participation by his supporters in Kampala.
But like we have seen the events in Ntungamo, and considering the threat the opposition candidates present to the seating government, violent clashes between NRM and opposition supporters will characterize this electioneering season.
These ugly scenes have not been condemned by the affected presidential candidates. Mbabazi despite describing the fracas in Ntungamo as unfortunate commended his supporters for standing up against the ‘intimidation of NRM’ before asking them to stand firm and exercise their democratic rights.
President Museveni who is the chairman and NRM presidential candidate called on police to investigate the incident but never mentioned word faulting his supporter who according to media reports provoked those of Go Forward candidate who beat them up.
The failure by these two leaders to condemn these irresponsible acts by their supporters before pointing fingers is a catalyst to more violent actions. What might happen next is for these leaders to arm their supporters and result into a civil unrest like in Kenya 2007.
NRM are not competitors
On top of being scared of what is coming their way, the events in Ntungamo portray NRM as a not so good competitor. Actually after the fracas was quelled, the Go Forward candidate Mbabazi warned NRM and its supporters to prepare for more action because they (Go Forward) are in the race to compete.
The NRM, which enjoyed significant victories in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, is not used to such cutthroat competition with this race being their first. It only brings more chills to their spine and somehow they don’t know how to deal with the overlapping competition.
To avert un-repairable eventualities, NRM is adopting confrontational approach akin to what happened in Burundi when current President Pierre Nkurunziza went through in April, May through the election period. Burundi is now sunk into a civil strife that is smearing the tiny nation with innocent blood.
Should NRM maintain this sort of prevocational politicking Uganda might find itself in a situation that will see more supporters going at each other’s throat baying for blood and the leaders will not be able to tame it. It will be bloody than never before in the Pearl’s history.
Ugandans are tired
Ugandans thirsting for change in government have been down this road before and possibly know what will come out of it. Therefore they are not taking any chance. They will fight if that is what it will take. And that is what happened in Ntungamo when NRM supporters attacked an Amama Mbabazi rally.
Ugandans are tired of being cheated, intimidated, lied to and made to sulk in their discontentment every after elections and with the resilience in Ntungamo a word has been sent out and well received (if social media reactions is anything to buy into) by the public as an option should things not work fairly.
Ugandans are not only willing to confront their opponents but also police, a security organ they accuse to be implementing the Museveni agenda. The fight in Ntungamo in full view of police delivers a message peace loving Ugandans shouldn’t be comfortable with. A message that citizen can take the matter in their own hands and get what they want.[related_posts]
Ugandans are ready for change
After 29 year in government, even the most neutral persons feels President Museveni should give way change of guard at state house especially considering what the country is going through in terms of corruption, inept social service delivery and economic strife Ugandans are going through at the moment.
This has prepared many Ugandans for possible change; some people are ready to fight for it should anybody try to flow the process to achieve this much awaited change like the case was in Ntungamo over the weekend.