The North is becoming more important to Museveni than Buganda
There were no surprises at the UPC delegates' conference in Kampala last weekend. Olara Otunnu was the obvious choice. The other contenders nearly humiliated themselves by allowing their hearts (emotions) lead their heads (minds). They just stood no realistic chance.
Analysts are preoccupied with the implications of Otunnu's re- entry into Uganda's mainstream politics. The analysis becomes more complicated in the face of another recent dramatic, if controversial, election of Nobert Mao as Democratic Party president. Both Mao and Otunnu hail from Acholi. Acholi is home to the longest and most formidable armed resistance group against the Museveni regime, the Lords' Resistance Movement, LRA. The region has characteristically rejected Museveni by the ballot and by the bullet.
Uganda's opposition has to contend with two ambitious new comers who want to make their mark on the highest political podium. In under three weeks, party leadership, both held by Baganda, i.e., UPC's Mama Miria Kalule Obote and DP's John Sebaana Kizito have shifted to the previously ostracised Acholis, as if by design. The events point firmly to a Buganda –Acholi friendship proposal. It is no wonder that in his maiden press conference Olara Otunnu mentioned Buganda and Baganda over twenty times.
Mao seems to be struggling. He will spend the next few months trying to establish himself as the undisputed DP leader in the face of the ever growing challenge from the DP's so called “real owners”. But still he has managed impressive but curious crowds in Masaka and Jinja. The Luganda press, certainly not the government owned *Bukedde*, but notably the pro-Mengo weekly, *Eddoboozi *has been extravagantly positive with Mao. The way things are, he could get a *Kiganda* name one of these days. Didn't Obote once become a Bweete?
Could the Buganda and Acholi divide, which the Museveni regime has exploited over the past 24 years be narrowing?. Wasn't one of Kabaka Mutesa II's closest friends ever, an Acholi member of Kabala Yekka, Daudi Ochieng? The analysis gets more intriguing* *when the Inter Party Cooperation dynamic is factored in. IPC is headed to field a single joint presidential candidate, to be chosen from among the flag bearers of the member parties. Otunnu has been unambiguous in his support for IPC. Appearing on a local TV show Tuesday night, he reiterated his undivided commitment to the IPC project. Mao has not been half as clear as Otunnu has been on the IPC, and seems to need some time before he understands how IPC was designed to operate.
It is tempting for any ambitious politician to want to have their photograph on the presidential ballot paper. But the opposition electorate has demanded for a single candidate since 1996.They demand the same even more forcefully for 2011. Any miscalculation by any opposition politician of the mood of Uganda's opposition electorate must result into humiliation. Not unlike the one that Sebaana and Mama Miria suffered in the 2006 presidential race. Mao, (or any other candidate including Bidandi Ssali), does not stand a chance outside IPC. He ought to quickly find a copy of the IPC protocol of December 2009 and have a good look at it.
Otunnu and Mao must find a way to work together if the northern vote is to benefit the opposition. Yet, a resurgent UPC and probably DP in the North can benefit the opposition more if it does not necessarily shrink the original FDC vote bank of 2006. UPC, DP and FDC would do well to maturely share parliamentary seats in the region as they vote a single presidential candidate with a terrific voter turnout of not less than ninety percent. If this does not happen, the NRM, which is already making remarkable inroads in the Northern region, will certainly claim Acholi and Lango combined.
So, even the losses that the NRM will likely suffer in Buganda, what with the malicious closure of CBS, radio, burning to ashes of the royal tombs, and the subsequent shooting of seven Buganda loyalists in front of the smouldering tombs in Museveni's presence, will be of little consequence. In 2011, winning the northern region will be more important to Museveni than winning Buganda. It is Mao and Otunnu's conscious actions that will keep the North for the opposition or give it away to the NRM.