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07.10.2021 Opinion

Ribalism Was A Stand-Out Factor In Buganda 2020-21 Elections

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba, UK
Ribalism Was A Stand-Out Factor In Buganda 2020-21 Elections
LISTEN OCT 7, 2021

Many Ugandans are tribalists –that is a fact. Unfortunately, we are also denialists who refuse to accept and address the matter openly, frankly, and honestly. We keep sweeping it under the carpet hoping that it will disappear on its own. Ethnicity has always been a major political factor in almost all of Africa.

Yes, we have many governance challenges as a country, and that cannot be denied. But truth be told, the recently concluded 2020-21 elections were not mostly about service delivery issues, but it was directed at the current sitting President mostly because of his ethnicity. Most people who voted for Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, didn’t necessarily saw him as a presidential material but someone who’s a fellow Muganda. Yes, there were a few that voted him as a protest against the elites and bad governance in the country. I remember getting a lot of heat from fellow Baganda for not supporting him, and indeed, I saw no reason to support him for presidency, because I’m not a tribalist when it comes to national issues.

Approximately 17% of the Uganda population are Baganda by tribe. Banyankole, Museveni’s tribe, are about 9%. The most spoken language in Uganda is Luganda. So, logic will tell you that based on the fact that Baganda are the majority most things will come from them. Even political revolutions have always started in Buganda before they spread elsewhere. Baganda are proud of their traditions and often this is confused for being arrogant or stubborn, but this is not the case. A simple observation in all the countries that I have visited is that the dominant people of that country exhibit the same characteristics as the Baganda.

The Baganda voters have shown persistent preferences against Museveni. Besigye has been the Baganda voters’ preferred candidate in previous elections, and he saw polls as the catalyst for a political crisis, or even a popular uprising. With Besigye, their vote was more of a protest vote than anything else, though so many saw him as, undoubtedly, a presidential material, too – someone capable of managing a post-Museveni Uganda.

However, because of Besigye’s ethnicity, I believe, FDC has never had more than 5 MPs in Buganda though they have reasonably done well in other regions. In Buganda, FDC had 5 MPs in the last Parliament, it now has 4. The FDC won 32 parliamentary seats against 57 won by the National Unity Platform-NUP.

Basically, the parliamentary opposition numbers changed but it doesn’t make any difference as the NRM retained its majority in the National Assembly, with 337 seats.

Buganda has always been a mixture of conflicts against the state. For instance, in 2009 security forces killed at least 40 people in riots sparked by a dispute over the traditional Buganda kingdom. In 2011 at least nine bystanders were shot dead during protests against inflation and bad governance. Security forces killed at least 54 civilians in November 2020. There’s always something going on – I expect some protests and deaths soon due to the Mailo land issue if it goes through in parliament.

Since 1996, the western region, on the other hand, has shown the strongest support for Museveni in terms of vote share, while his vote share has been lowest in the northern region. Museveni won the January 2021 poll with 58.4% while runner-up Bobi Wine, got 35 per cent of the valid votes. Voter turnout was reported to be 59.4%, compared with 63% in 2016. In 2016, Besigye did about as well as Kyagulanyi did in 2021, garnering 35.6% of the vote, meaning the national opposition vote didn’t change in the general scheme of things. Museveni scored 1.03 million votes against Wine's 1.8 million. Wine's National Unity Platform also won half of the 109 legislative seats in the kingdom.For the first time, the Baganda voted as a block for their own, just as the Banyankole have been doing for years.

In Feb 2021, Bobi withdraw the electoral petition, and said: 'We are taking the case to the Court of the People'. But truth be said, people have not responded to any calls for anything from him. So, the way forward is for the opposition to go for solidarity blocks (in the short term) and then unity (in the long term). Unity cannot be achieved in the short term due to the damage done by Bobi’s novice statements in the last four years against fellow oppositionists. His supporters will, for some time, continue to fight anything associated with Besigye and others. For instance, the idea launched today, ‘THE FRONT’, cannot make sense to most NUPs yet it’s a good idea, because they think its an attempt to take the limelight away from their 'weak' leader.

As Karl Popper once said, ‘’there can be no human society without conflict: such a society would be a society not of friends but of ants. Even if it were attainable, there are human values of the greatest importance which would be destroyed by its attainment’’.

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