Bobi Wine and team should beware – or at least, have it at the back of their mind – that they are actually seated in Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere’s 1980 spot right now.
While the country was ready for a full-blown military struggle, Ssemogerere sat back, offering rather hazy alternatives to his voters. Whatever his justification, the events that followed gave us the most rejected candidate of the 1980 election. The fellow who came last, read the moment well, didn’t go too far from the capital nor outside of Buganda – because political activity happens here – and has been with us for the last 35 years.
All he had in his arsenal, as Joseph Kabuleta would put it, were guts. I am sure comrade PKS has never stopped regretting his lack of courage. As my father told me one time, if the farthest Museveni could go was Luweero, then Ssemogerere didn’t have to leave Kampala.
Presently, if any of the losing candidates summoned Museveni or Andrew Kayiira type of courage, not to the bush this time – bushes are extremely cumbersome nowadays – but to simply invoke Article 29 (1) (d) of the constitution and shout it on top of a mountain: “freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition,”
this country would not be the same.
I know Museveni would make it extremely difficult and life-threatening to assemble and demonstrate. But before NUP cultist-opportunists dismiss my plea, I want to remind Bobi Wine of the pain that comrade brother PKS has had to live with for this entire time.
But at the same time, there are moments that do not come often in our lives, to be kingmakers. They do not last forever, and we ought to harness them at their appearance. Bobi Wine has the best cultist following in our time – a major ingredient in the agenda I am about to spell out that could change the fortunes of Uganda.
[Hajji Nasser Sebaggala had it in 2001 and we chanted his name; Col. Kizza Besigye in 2006 and 2011 and voters simply lined the key]. Let’s start with the petition: whatever the outcome, Bobi Wine and team will soon realize the need to call on their disbanded civilian soldiers onto the frontline of this struggle.
There are two possible outcomes, nullification or upholding the election. But let’s focus on the most favorable: if the Supreme court summoned the courage to nullify the election, they would not assent to barring Museveni from standing again. Neither would they dismantle the Byabakama Electoral Commission, which would immediately have to organise a re-run.
As is expected, Byabakama would declare Museveni victorious, again. Would Bobi Wine return to court expecting another nullification? Unlikely. But the damage is that this second Museveni “victory” would be more legitimized than the first.
There is a silver-lining, though: this court process and re-run will come along with more than one sumptuous opportunity for steady activism [and political action], which is calling on people to “assemble to demonstrate together with others peacefully, unarmed and to petition.”
This is the only way Museveni and his security forces could be brought to their knees, and have the international community intensify pressure on the aging autocracy.
There are three points to take from this: (a) I hope embarrassing Mr Museveni as an election thief is not the ambition of Bobi Wine and his attorneys. To use one of Slavoj Žižek’s favorite jokes, embarrassing a rapist who molests your wife in front of you, by throwing a little dust on his testicles, cannot be celebrated.
You cannot start jumping, “at least, his balls are dirty!” Museveni is beyond embarrassment. (b) I also hope Bobi Wine appreciates that the aspirations of his voters were never for him to replace Col Besigye/FDC as the main opposition force. But, rather to upstage Museveni completely.
This is why voters voted for people with no names, faces, or public profiles. They handed him soldiers, not leaders or policy analysts. NUP elected officials, with their newly found public identities, should be mobilizing assemblies for protests, and not buying new suits. (c) At the end of the day, Bobi Wine will have to invoke Article 29 for a genuine and timely challenge.
There is no point running away from it in the name of peace. It is an authentic constitutional provision. In real terms, this also means remobilizing People Power – the movement.
Yes, Museveni will make it difficult and dangerous. But look, his men are already kidnapping, torturing and killing even when Bobi Wine continues to chant slogans of peace. People Power is Bobi Wine’s only joker card. He has to proudly own it and dangle it around.
As I argued in the past, before the state appreciates that the governed are capable of even more violence, the state cannot act responsibly. Interestingly, peaceful demonstrations actually remind states of the people’s potential for even more apocalyptic violence.
The simple artistic forms that made and defined People Power have to be given more prominence: red overalls, and berets; songs of the struggle and freedom, memorable slogans such as #Mwebereremu, #TeriKuzikiza and asking everyone to do what they could – in the spirit of Article 29.
Energize Col Besigye’s frail but strategic initiatives such as the Noise campaigns, boycotts, his checkered shirt, etcetera. All this is enshrined in Article 29.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.