Dust has been raised during these rainy days over the decision by some legislators from the other side of the aisle to support the ruling junta’s long-serving Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, for yet another term.
In my opinion, distinguishing between ‘the Opposition’ (please note the uppercase letter ‘O’) on the one hand, and opposition on the other might help calm our nerves, and help us focus on the more urgent business of ridding our country of misrule and repression.
Opposition is a creature of Articles 69-72 of the 1995 Constitution and laws like the Political Parties and Organisations Act of 2005.
These laws are the premise upon which political parties, other than the ruling National Resistance Army (NRA) are allowed to field candidates, hold seats in representative local government bodies and parliament, and, to the extent possible under the prevailing state-funded banditry and military rule, exist as political parties.
Before the 2005 referendum whose result nominally restored multiparty politics, Uganda was under the so-called broad-based and nonpartisan Movement System—a fraud of biblical proportions.
Having given this background, I now want to test my thesis which contends that the Opposition, even though it may present itself and occasionally behave as a group of free individuals and institutions—and portray themselves as separate from the existing political ecosystem—the Opposition is, in many ways, a vestige of the Museveni State.
In practice, parliament’s (perceived) powers are subject to the barrel of the gun, a fact that is dubiously concealed by Article 1 of the Constitution which in part states that “all power belongs to the people….”
These facts should concern Ugandans more than the unfortunate horse-trading, dirty dealings and illicit business that goes on in that House. In this respect, I am not saying anything new since several MPs have publicly conceded that the place has been reduced into a clearing and forwarding house for all manner of dangerous and narrow interests. Opposition MPs have many times been caught in flagrante delicto, canoodling with the NRA.
The second half of my theory holds that everyone who is opposed to land grabbing, electoral fraud, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killings, abuse of power in all its forms and whatever else defines authoritarian rule constitutes the opposition (please note the lowercase letter “o”). A significant number in this category do not formally belong to any political party or formation. These are Ugandans who genuinely desire a better country and are doing something about it. Cartoonists, musicians, academics, columnists, independent professionals, activists, civic, religious, and cultural leaders are a few examples of progressive elites who can be referred to as opposition. Certainly, there exists a number of Ugandans in opposition who aren’t active and prefer—for one or other reason—to remain inactive even when their blood boils at the mess in our country.
Needless to say, the Opposition and opposition aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, Ssemujju Nganda straddles both categories very well. In the House, he does his work excellently, is trustworthy, and is just as dedicated and resolute when he takes to the streets, organizes political engagements, or writes a newspaper column. But Ssemujju is a rarity.
What is clear in my mind though is that every effort must be invested in building the opposition (with a lowercase “o”) which exists outside Parliament—an institution of the repressive and violent state.
Ugandans must stop asking Nyanjura Doreen, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Bobi Wine, Winnie Kiiza and Others to fight for them! We must get off our asses, roll up our sleeves, and get involved. No one was born to fight (be tortured or die) for us.
The liberty we crave so much will arrive sooner if we all put some skin in the game and make our individual contributions—could be writing a song, a donation to a political party, offering technical advice to a political party of their choice, hosting a town hall meeting, protecting a forest from being destroyed, exposing land grabbers, writing an Op-ed; something, anything, to pushback against the designs of the ruling elite, and their foreign backers.
This way, we will have a formidable opposition which will be able to call the Opposition to order and align our elected representatives more with our interests, and less with those of the dictatorship.
Opposition MPs should constantly be put on the spot to prove whether they are for us or not. This way, Rebecca Kadaga will think twice before she openly brags about her role in the treasonous removal of the presidential age limit from the Constitution!
Besides shaming them, we may not be able do much about the sweetheart deals that our (Opposition) legislators may make but we can certainly build our civic competence as citizens so that power in fact (and not in theory) belongs to the people.
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