Uganda: Bobi Wine, Muntu Inch Toward 2021 Deal

4 December 2019

A strategy alliance ahead of the 2021 general election between Col Kizza Besigye and Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine against President Museveni has long been plotted and torpedoed by internal suspicions and fears.

But Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu and the People Power leader seem to be firmly united in opposition against the ruling NRM. Insider sources have told The Observer that Bobi Wine's People Power movement and the Muntu-led Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party are closer to forming a working coalition that will challenge President Museveni in the 2021 general election.

The two groups have so far met face-to-face four times to plot a common strategy against President Museveni who has kept a firm grip on power since 1986. Sources close to both camps say the two principals have agreed in principle to work together but are yet to agree any modalities.

"I can't say that we have reached an agreement yet because Gen Muntu has always insisted that each of the groups continues with its own mobilization strategy, that the agreement will come at a later stage," a source said.

Interviewed on December 2, Kyagulanyi's spokesman, Joel Ssenyonyi, told The Observer that the engagements are still ongoing.

"We are still in the kitchen cooking but time is coming soon when we shall let the country know what we have agreed on," Ssenyonyi said.

Sulaiman Kakaire, the ANT deputy spokesman, said, "There have been engagements between ANT and other formations for purposes of expanding the democratic space but some of the discussions in those meetings are not for media consumption yet. We shall inform you at an appropriate time whatever is necessary."

Back at ANT, Muntu reportedly constituted a committee chaired by Wandela Ogalo, the head of the party's elders' league, Barbara Alimadi (diaspora), Martin Okumu (research) plus the party's spokesman Wilberforce Sseryaazi and Kakaire to scrutinize the viability of alliances.

This was after the party was approached by other groups including politicians allied to the DP bloc, a formation of political groups that broke away from the Democratic Party (DP), plus Wasswa Biriggwa and Chapaa Karuhanga from FDC.

DP BLOC

The committee rejected the DP bloc's idea of a "special purpose vehicle" which proposes a one-to-one strategy - having one opposition candidate at all elective positions taking on an NRM candidate. This strategy also encourages different opposition groups to have a common pool of human, political and financial resources.

While the idea appears impressive, the Ogalo committee preferred to study it further after some members raised concerns about the way it is structured in addition to claims that it was formed to disorganize Kyagulanyi's People Power movement.

"The way it is structured is not clear; it is difficult to tell whether it was born out of DP structures or whether it has the endorsement of the relevant DP structures. We want to avoid a scenario of [The Democratic Alliance] TDA where alliances were made with parties and then groups emerged denouncing it," the source said.

TDA was a loose coalition of opposition political parties formed in the run-up to the 2016 general election but collapsed within weeks to nomination of presidential candidates after factions emerged within subscribing political parties.

For instance, UPC had one group led by Olara Otunnu in TDA while another led by Lira Municipality MP Jimmy Akena entered into an understanding with Museveni's NRM. DP President Norbert Mao was deeply involved in the TDA affairs as Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago led a splinter group named Truth and Justice (TJ) that later allied with FDC candidate Dr Kizza Besigye after the opposition party announced its withdrawal from the alliance.

The other principals - Ken Lukyamuzi of the Conservative Party (CP) and Michael Mabikke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) also experienced similar challenges.

"We are not going to ally for the sake of it but we want to appreciate each other's structural capabilities," a source at ANT said.

COMES BIRIGGWA

Biriggwa and Karuhanga met Muntu with a request from Besigye's People's Government to endorse the campaign to drag Museveni to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as establish a working relationship with FDC.

Muntu did not answer our calls but based on his November 21 address to ANT coordinators in Tooro sub-region, he said he is opposed to the ICC petition but would not stop any ANT member from signing it.

Interviewed, Biriggwa said, their discussion centred on the political weather in the country, but also wanted to find out whether they could work together again.

"He was amiable to our suggestion but said that he needed more time to consult, which is a right thing," Biriggwa said.

When Muntu tabled the suggestion to the ANT leadership, it was flatly rejected with several ANT executives viewing it at as a hypocritical move by FDC.

"In public, FDC calls us moles but privately reach out to us. If they want any form of cooperation with us, they have to first and foremost respect us. There must be mutual respect, trust and transparency," an ANT official said.

They also reasoned that there was no need for any form of persuasion since ANT has been cooperating with all opposition political forces where necessary like in the recent by-election for the Hoima Woman MP.

sadabkk@observer.ug

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