So last evening the Electoral Commission announced the results in the bye election for the woman MP for Rukungiri. FDC’s Betty Muzanira won with 50,000 votes against NRM’s Winnie Matsiko with 46,000 – a difference of only 4,000 votes in a district that is the home of opposition presidential candidate for life, Kizza Besigye. Since then, sections of the opposition have been congratulating themselves on the “big win.”
This is the real problem facing the opposition in Uganda especially the radical extremist wing led by its cult leader, Besigye. First they have spent years claiming the EC works for Museveni. Their victory is proof these allegations are fake. Second, there was nothing unexpected in the results in Rukungiri. Besigye beat Museveni in Rukungiri in 2016 by 59,000 to 56,000 votes. The MP for Rukungiri municipality and the MP Rujumbura country that surrounds the municipality are all FDC. If Muzanira had lost I would have been shocked.
Yet FDC won this seat with a very narrow margin – less than 5%. This shows that even in its cult leader’s stronghold and home district the party struggles to win.
Secondly, the NRM, using the state, deployed all its resources – money, police, army, including President Yoweri Museveni himself – and lost. This demonstrates that no amount of intimidation and rigging can defeat a cause or candidate whose time has come. This time the FDC had polling agents on every polling station, showing that it has supporters in the district. This is the thing the party lacks in other areas but it’s hooligan supporters assume exists.
The lessons from the election are obvious but the radical wing of FDC, which hijacked that party long ago, will not see them and therefore will allow Museveni to rule for as long as he wants. It is clear that rigging cannot save a weak candidate or cause. It is also true that a well organized opposition can win in spite of intimidation and rigging.
So the lesson for FDC in the next presidential elections are simple but fundamental. First be organized by polling agents at every polling station. Don’t claim someone steals your votes when you are not even present at the counting. You are hardly on the ground in most of the country. Victory comes to those who work hardest, not those who shout the loudest.
Andrew Mwenda is a renown Uganda journalist and owner of the Independent Publications