After the victory of MP-elect Kassiano Wadri Ezati, 61, and the violence that followed thereafter, it is important to visit the role of mass mobilisation against the 32-year-old regime of President Museveni and NRM. A budding movement called “People Power” led by the Kyadondo East MP, Robert Sentamu, Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, featured prominently in this election as ‘King Makers.’ The same applied to the election a few weeks ago in Bugiri Municipality where MP Asuman Basalirwa won convincingly.
This group of young people has ostensibly gained confidence and belief in themselves as being vital in causing regime change. They now overshadow what we have always perceived as the major players on the political scene namely NRM and the shade of opposition led by former FDC president, Dr Kizza Besigye.
Now that the de facto leader of people power, Bobi Wine has been arrested and brutalised, is this movement still sustainable?
Given a scenario where Bobi Wine is out of the picture can the youth and some of the politicians who have been following Bobi Wine across the country emphasising the ‘power of the people,’ carry on the mantle?
There are some pointers to note. Word has it that the arrest of Bobi Wine started on a depressing note. That when a vocal politician close to Bobi Wine was ‘merely’ threatened with hell fire, the snitch, like Judas Iscariot easily revealed what Bobi Wine had done to avoid arrest. It is that information that was used to track him down.
Save for a few pockets of turbulence in Kampala, Mukono, Jinja and Mityana – from where the MP Francis Zaake hails -after his arrest everyone took off for dear life. It reminded us of Robert Greene’s Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep Will Scatter. (Robert Greene – The 48 Laws of Power.)
In modern Ugandan political culture, civil action through rioting and demonstrations against the powers that be is something very rare. When it happens, it usually lasts a short while and then dies down. When the State fires the first short or worse still, draws blood, the resolve of the people dies out quickly.
The elite come off very badly. They want to rebel against ‘the dictator’ at a distance minding the safety of their families, jobs, property. They intend to do things by remote control and osmosis. These are the type of people who send you ‘credible information’. They ask that you publish it, but with a huge caveat that you do not quote them. Their reason? They fear ‘these people’ might harm them or make them lose their job! In other wards, they are asking you to act in their plot as a human shield as if your life and job don’t matter.
This time round, they have taken their protest to social media. Vocal but cowardly keyboard warriors are fuelling the rumour mill. They are dreaming of regime change through rumour-mongering.
They are purveying photo shopped pictures of disfigured MPs and unsubstantiated information and fake news to stir emotions. The wishful thinking is that this will easily rouse the anger of the masses against the regime, leading to a revolution.
This is very difficult to envisage because most of the movements that purport to lead people are a glorified version of a one-man show. As such, they can only go as far as the man goes. When the man is jailed they are bound to be imprisoned as well. When he falls sick or is out of the country, they are rendered redundant. Yet autocrats need sustained pressure. Their back sides need to be poked constantly to make it hard for them to seat comfortably.
Despite the popularity that is associated with the much touted mass uprisings, they have no clear leadership structures. Save for the ambiguous quest to ‘remove the dictator’ and get back our country, their vision or mission is blurred. Most of their goals are not clear or quantifiable and, therefore, it is difficult to evaluate their progress. Most importantly, they are not well organised and managed socially and financially. For instance, if one of the activists is injured or jailed and has been the bread winner for their family, the children risk going hungry and dropping out of school. It is disastrous if they die in these struggles.
So those who join do so on the wave of emotions, are half-hearted with their hearts and minds divided. Self-preservation takes the lion’s share of their pursuit and dedication.
Finally, people suffer fatigue and get demoralised when they do not see the promised desired goal of regime change being achieved in the near future. That is the fate Dr Besigye has suffered. It has created the vacuum in which Bobi Wine is now acting as a fresh breath of air and promise.
The work is cut out for him to sustain the momentum. Insisting on proper political, social and financial organisation plus the clarity of vision and purpose will be vital. This organisation should be the type that grooms as many leaders as possible that are capable of driving an agenda they identify with even in the absence of Bobi Wine as a person. Without this the people will eventually get frustrated and drop out of the equation of people power.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org