By Stephen Lwetutte
In his angry victory speech following the declaration by the Independent Electoral Commission on 16 January 2021 that he had won, a visibly bitter President Museveni accused the voters in the Kingdom of Buganda for voting along sectarian lines. The results showed that, notwithstanding the massive electoral malpractices and rigging in his favour, Mr Museveni had still been badly humiliated even according to the contested result and his party all but wiped out of Buganda. The voters in the Kingdom, in clearest signal yet, had indicated that they wanted to see the back of him and restart their lives and redeem the time they had lost for the 36 years he has ruled the country. Not that they were under any illusions and holding their breath that he would somehow miraculously heed the popular signal.
“Like you saw the voting, for instance, in Buganda. They were talking of a new Uganda. But actually, they wanted to bring back the old Uganda that failed. That is what they wanted to bring back: The old way of sectarianism” said President Museveni in a loaded statement during his 91-minute televised address from his Rwakitura country-home on following being announced the victor. Clearly stung, he appeared to accuse Baganda of voting along tribal lines in overwhelmingly returning candidates of the National Unity Platform (NUP) candidates led by youthful Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, although many NUP winner candidates in Buganda are not even Baganda.
It is believed that Mr Museveni himself had once-upon-a-time enjoyed considerable support in the Kingdom, before time unmasked and revealed him for who he is – a deeply sectarian and manipulative character. The younger digital-age generation is smarter and sophisticated, and can no longer be manipulated – it are a united block who quickly see beyond the parochial attitudes, see through the manipulation, reject tribalism and vote for competence. In rejecting the NRM party and voting for NUP, they demonstrated that they knew which side of their bread was buttered.
Three months later, President Museveni is not done with Buganda demographics – he has just made and has lent credence to Frank Gashumba’s unsupported, amateur and wild statements that Banyarwanda make up the majority of people in Buganda. Frank Gashumba is a controversial socialite of Rwandese extraction, but born and bred in Buganda. He has lately courted controversy by suggesting that Ugandan citizens of Rwandese origin were being discriminated against, yet they constituted a population of up to 11m people, mainly in Buganda. He sought and was granted audience by President Museveni on this issue, before he was contradicted and countered by another group of Ugandans of Rwandese origin disowning him and his antics.
On 1 May 2021, speaking at the Labour Day celebrations he hosted at State House, President Museveni is reported to have stated that “most of people who run around as Baganda are Banyarwanda” – quite a statement from the Head of State, if it were not absurd. In the event that it is an accurate statement, it would, by logical extension, mean that it is the Banyarwanda, therefore, to blame for the sectarian voting on 14 January 2021 he alluded to in that infamous victory speech that decimated his presence in Buganda.
Whatever the rationale and purpose of his contradictory and insensitive statements regarding Buganda, his obsession with the region’s demographics is clearly unhealthy. He should at the very least make up his mind as to who exactly is at fault for his abysmal and disappointing performance in Buganda specifically, but also in the country generally at the January 2021 general elections: is it the sectarian Baganda, Banyarwanda or President? It is a matter for him, although there are no prizes on offer for the right answer.
Uganda has come along way in uniting its people to have such a president. This very much sheds light as to why the youth were easily galvanised and mobilized to vote the way they did not only in Buganda, but also elsewhere in Uganda, whether the majority there are Baganda or Banyarwanda, for them matters less. President Museveni must be about the only person prioritizing the ethnic composition of a region on Labour Day, whilst presiding over a country with the worst unemployment in the region and on whose watch it has gotten to such a stage, instead of focusing exclusively on the grave matters at hand.
The writer is a Multilingual Human Rights Practitioner, formerly at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London for over 20 years and now Legal and Human Rights Consultant.
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