The Ateso language tabloid, Aicerit (Star), which has replaced the moribund Etop, last week asked a pointed question in one of its front-page headlines: “Can Amuriat [Manage] to Challenge Museveni?” it asked in a guarded translation. That heralded the development in the ranks of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Patrick Oboi Amuriat has emerged as the FDC presidential bearer for the 2021 General Elections.
To wit, he faces a set of imposing challengers, specifically, in the incumbent Yoweri [Yoseri Rutabayisirwa Tibuhaburwa] Kaguta Museveni, of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), and Robert Sentamu [Bobi Wine] Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Platform (NUP). There are other minor ones, like; the Democratic Party’s (DP) Nobert Mao, the Uganda People’s Congress’ (UPC) Jimmy Akena, the Alliance for National Transformation’s (ANT) Mugisha Muntu, Justice Forum’s (JEEMA) Asumani Basalirwa, and possibly, a non-party (or, is it Independent or Kisoboka’s?) Henry Tumukunde.
Until he fizzled out of the political limelight a number of months ago, Kizza Besigye, kept people guessing how he was going to enter the 2021 race. But within his FDC, there was a feeling that he had over-extended himself against Tibuhaburwa in four trials. There was a move to have a newer standard-bearer; for sometime Amuriat has been that one person. There was Wasswa Birigwa, who eventually petered out of the FDC contest; and Nandala Mafabi, who this time round, has not featured at all.
Yet, if the relative-heavyweight Besigye could not dislodge Tibuhaburwa, what chance is the relative-lightweight Amuriat have: that is the question Aicerit asked; and that is what is at the table. A number of political pundits have weighed on to inquire into this.
Look at the demographics and the presumed polling: If you go tribal, Tibuhaburwa would take the west; Kyagulanyi would take Buganda; and, Amuriat would take the north and east. The other contestants would share the cake according to their lineages, which would balkanize the polling results, and therefore the country. As one of the pundits said, “If that is the case, then we go for the polls, as it is by that configuration, and there will be no winner in the first ballot.”
There is poll talk that, in this arrangement, Tibuhaburwa might take 42 percent on the first ballot, with Kyagulanyi at 22 percent, and Amuriat 17 percent, taking over the polling that Besigye would have had. That does not take into account Amuriat’s own standing among the electorate. Using these warped statistics, influenced most probably influenced by bribery, then it would be Tibuhaburwa and Kyagulanyi to tough it out at the final of the balloting.
But that does not take into account what has come to be known in political circles here as, “being on the ground”. According to the population, if that is the case, then Kyagulanyi might garner the Buganda vote and a smattering from other parts of Uganda, according to his standing with the youth: in which case the 22 percent may go higher. Also, Amuriat might get the whole east and north, which would mean that it would go beyond 17 percent.
Moreover, at a time when he was campaigning with Besigye in the west, they fell into a populist fracas, where they were both charged with treason. That might translate as a smattering of votes for him in the west, and that would erode Tibuhaburwa’s standing there. Given this projection, it would turn out as Kyagulanyi vs. Amuriat in the final ballot.
This is not merely a mouth-watering prospect, but if there is no rigging, which appears impossible in Uganda’s polling culture, then, being on the ground will really come to matter a great deal. That is where people like Tumukunde’s Kisoboka come in. As much as he is seen as a lame-duck, there is a growing perception that he is one of the people who, “is on the ground”. So, he can twist the popular vote to any other contestant he will want to ally with.
The other thing is that Tumukunde has a military background. As a General, and together with another General Mugisha Muntu, they could turn the tables and make the present polling nonsense. Despite another General, Tibuhaburwa, being in the picture, it does not appear that he could align, especially with Tumukunde, who has visited prison a number of times in the present NRM regime.
Given this projection, it appears the present polling statistics do not make mean much. What is going to count is how much each of the contestants “is on the ground”.