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The walk-to-work Reloaded was supposed to tap into the seething frustrations of disillusioned Ugandans and morph into a mass uprising that would eventually sweep President Museveni from State House.

 

But more than two months after Activists for Change (A4C) promised to engage a higher gear in their walk-to-work campaign in 2012, it seems the copycat strategy, whereby opposition activists thought Uganda could catch the contagious revolutionary fervor that had swept aside despotic regimes in North Africa, has failed to materialise.

It was envisaged that the A4C would become a mass uprising embraced by Ugandans of all works of life, to bring down a predatory regime that couldn’t care less about the well-being of its citizens.

In January 2012, the Masaka municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga, who is the coordinator of A4C, told journalists that Walk-to-work Reloaded was going to be “very serious and no one is going to stop us. Not even [Lt Gen Kale] Kayihura.”

He had reason to be optimistic because this campaign’s 2011 predecessor had been successful in many ways. However, there is so far nothing to suggest that Mpuuga’s prediction will come to pass.

Today, Walk-to Work takes the form or ordinary political rallies, which the police have allowed only in as far as there is no procession before or thereafter. Anything that resembles mass walking or a procession has attracted the fullest force of the police. As a result, many opposition leaders prefer to stay away rather than risk being clobbered, showered with tear gas and pink liquid, or carted off to the stinking police cells.

In April 2011, walk-to-work protests were launched to protest the rising cost of living. Although the campaign didn’t attract large crowds, partly because the police wouldn’t let them in the first place, the involvement of Dr Kizza Besigye and the rough treatment he got at the hands of the police, generated tremendous publicity for it in and out of the country.

When a motley gang led by Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe broke into Besigye’s vehicle using a hammer and incessantly sprayed his eyes with pepper and tear gas, nearly blinding him, Uganda was on tenterhooks.

There was even talk of dialogue between President Museveni and his nemesis Besigye because the government had its back against the wall. The more confrontations happened, the more amateurish mistakes the police made.

Tear gas was hurled into schools and dispensaries, gunshots rang out everywhere, and the grotesque image of a two-year child who was shot dead by a trigger-happy police officer in Masaka left egg on the face of the Police force.

But when Besigye was evacuated to Nairobi, Kenya, for treatment, walk-to-work breathed its last. Ironically, its last major act was Besigye’s return from Nairobi, which coincided with the day President Museveni was sworn in on May 12, 2011.

Thousands of opposition supporters thronged Entebbe road and staged Besigye’s triumphant entry to Kampala that lasted the whole day, embarrassing Museveni who alongside his foreign guests witnessed it all.

Though it had not removed Museveni from power, walk-to-work part one had clearly managed to do something not even elections had managed in the past - shake the foundation of Museveni’s power.

However, attempts to do it again in 2012, and even go one better, have so far struggled. Though some rallies have generated excitement, attracted police brutality and some media spotlight, the masses, who are key to the campaign’s success, are yet to embrace it.

Losing steam?

The campaign has failed to get the workers and middle class on board. The police’s determination to foil any mass action has scared and demoralised many people who would have wished to participate, leaving the stage for just a few diehard activists and the army of unemployed youth in urban centres.

Besigye’s absence from the last couple of rallies has also affected the campaign as he remains the single largest crowd puller in the entire opposition. His return could yet see the revival of fortunes.

But if the activists needed any indicator that it’s time to change strategy, it came through last week’s Kamwokya rally, which attracted just a handful of people. It was telling that the few opposition leaders present were asked to explain Besigye’s absence.

Aaron Mukwaya, a senior lecturer in the department of Political Science at Makerere University, says the opposition must devise other strategies to remain relevant in the political arena.

“If you try out something for long, you change to something new. That is what A4C must do,” Mukwaya said on Friday.

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Comments

 
+4 #1 santus israel 2012-03-11 23:41
This political gimmick was bound to fail from the start. Its a pity that few unsuspecting Ugandans were hoodwinked into thinking the useless w2w were as legitimate as the North African rallies. The Kamwokya rally showed how narrow & shallow minded the opposition is.

Not a single Western governement even wastes its time supporting the useless opposition efforts. Not a word from them, why? Because Uganda has an elected Gov't which the Deputy Secretary of State himself on a visit to Uganda said was legitimate.

There is also word that the perpetual loser called KB wanted to have a private meeting with him (Mr. Burns) during his visit to Uganda recently, but it was turned down and actually ignored by the US embassy, mbu KB and his A4C thugs are irrelevant, time wasting, of no consequence to Uganda's development, no agenda at all apart from M7 ajagenda,...ok, M7 goes, and then what??? hahaha!! The best they can do is to present their own policy paper on how Ug should move forward. LOSERS!!
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+3 #2 santus israel 2012-03-12 00:10
The Kamowokya ''debacle'' simply showed that Ugandans have no more time to waste. They have realised that the same evils the A4C claims to be fighting against in Gov't are the very same evils they are doing themselves, e.g.,

1. CORRUPTION (Ken Lukyamuzi stealing money from CP, mismanaged donor funds by Otunnu/UPC, un accounted for donor funds in FDC,)
2. NEPOTISM (more westerners in FDC in high echelons than other tribes,same for UPC with more Northerners,DP with more Baganda),

3. POLITICAL INFIGHTING (Mao/DP seen as illegitimate by rival
DP, so is Ken in CP, Beti Kamya forced out of FDC by her own party in ''favour'' of someone else even though the party constitution never supported the move.
In short, they are also rotten indeed and riding on peoples' emotions, particularly the unsuspecting ones. Thieves & Losers!!
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-3 #3 Raymond Otika 2012-03-12 14:00
Santus israel sitting on the fence eh, what is your solution to corruption in NRM and all the so call "rot" in the opposition? To use the former VP Prof Bukenya's words; for you to call Dr. Besigye, a victim of thugs a thug is "incredibly incredible". Which is an indicator that you could be one of the thugs molesting the opposition, especially Dr. KB.
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+2 #4 Herbert 2012-03-13 06:46
Israel, you are spot on in your analysis. Ugandans are not fools. They yearn for a credible option but until now have not seen any. Western governments too. For many of us it continues to be "better the devil you know" - for Christ's sake look at the witch hunting of efficient bureaucrats (Mutebele), shifting stand on Somalia, stupidly blocking - delaying the now popular pioneer buses ... even at one time lobbying development partners to cut development aid (i.e Uganda should grind to a halt until they are in power!!!), calling UPE Bonna bakone instead of suggesting ways to improve this humble attempt, how will they handle the national army they call personal (flies),etc - the list is endless!
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