Museveni, NRM secured the vote by going back to the basics

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Museveni supporters celebrate his win in Kampala. Photo/FILE

Museveni supporters celebrate his win in Kampala. Photo/FILE 


Posted  Monday, February 28   2011 at  00:00

When government blocked Buganda king Kabaka Ronald Mutebi from visiting Kayunga, a northern district of Buganda, riots broke out, and on Monday, September 14, 1999, when peace returned, a febrile calm enveloped Kampala, the epicentre of the riots.

In scenes reminiscent of the mid-1980s, residents of the city, on turning a corner, would stop dead in their tracks as they came upon files of troops, guns at the ready.

Monday, February 21, 2011, provided a flashback to that day as careworn citizens of Kampala, like residents of all towns across the country, met companies of soldiers and policemen, this time in at least four different uniforms, on every street, sometimes one company only minutes behind the other.

Between 2009 and 2011 was yet another incident that brought the guns and camouflage out.

In mid-March 2010, the two-century old burial tombs of the Buganda kings went up in flames, setting off running battles in Kampala that saw the death of some three people.

Happening barely a year from the 2011 general elections, the Kasubi fire further inflamed a stand-off between Buganda and the central government.

By the end of 2010, a hard-to-paper-over breakdown in the relationship between the Uganda government and the Buganda palace meant only the most optimistic of NRM loyalists could foresee President Yoweri Museveni winning the Buganda vote.

The two-decades war in northern Uganda had, by 2006, spread discontent from Lango and Acholi to Teso districts with the result that the Forum for Democratic Change made a nearly clean sweep across northern Uganda.

Even with the return of peace starting in 2008, 2011 was too early for a drop in poverty levels.

So it was expected that Museveni, who had lost the northern Ugandan vote in 1996, 2001 and 2006, was due for more of the same.

Barely an hour after polls closed on February 18, with the results coming in, the country realised it was in for a surprise: Museveni won in Pader, Agago and emerged a significant second in Kitgum, Gulu and Nwoya.

This was in Acholi. If Museveni could win in Acholi, he would win everywhere. Museveni posted over 80 per cent returns in more than half of Buganda’s districts.

It was a stunning outcome for the opposition and commentators. By Saturday morning, opposition telephones were either switched off or not available as the reality sank in.

In the run-up to the 2006 elections, the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, spent much of the campaign period in detention.

The notorious Kiboko Squad, so named for the canes they used to beat up opposition supporters, had been out in force.

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