Besigye pulls a surprise in NRM strongholds, military barracks

Sunday February 21 2016

Dr Kizza Besigye, the leading Ugandan opposition candidate in the just concluded General Election, pulled a surprise in some areas that had religiously voted for President Yoweri Museveni in the past elections.

Dr Besigye’s three-month campaigns yielded fruit in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) stronghold including a military barracks where he garnered more votes than President Yoweri Museveni.

His performance in western Uganda, which in previous elections voted for President Museveni almost to a man, surprised many as he was expected to win at least one more district in addition to Kasese.

Provisional results showed that Dr Besigye had garnered 60 per cent of the votes in Kasese district.  

In an election where he started as an underdog with some party members pushing him to stay out of the race to pave the way for a fresh presidential candidate, Dr Besigye attracted huge crowds at his campaign rallies.

On polling day, long queues of voters waiting for hours to cast their ballots were a common sight across the country.


READ: Ugandans vote for president

In 2011, 5.8 million out of 13.9 million registered voters didn’t vote.

Dr Besigye had been abandoned by some senior party members, among them shadow attorney-general Abdu Katuntu and Kitgum woman Member of Parliament Beatrice Anywar, over his three previous losses to Yoweri Museveni. 

Results that were collected by a number of media houses across Uganda at the close of polling on February 18, showed.

Dr Besigye won in a number of polling stations in different parts of the country including Luweero district, which has generally been an NRM stronghold.

In the Makindye military barracks whose soldiers are regularly called upon to quell demonstrations in Kampala, President Museveni got 198 votes while Dr Besigye got 437. In the 2011 presidential race, Dr Besigye said the military would support him, but when the votes finally came in, President Museveni still polled more votes than him. This seems to have changed this year. 

Dr Besigye also changed the attitude of Ugandans towards politicians and received contributions from party members to his campaign kitty. Party officials said the FDC candidate collected Ush96 million ($27,603), 11 cows, 78 goats and numerous chicken from party supporters to finance his campaigns.

Beti Kamya, who also contested against Dr Besigye in 2011, said in the just concluded elections that the FDC candidate had been treated like a king who receives gifts from his subjects, and not as a politician, who otherwise will be generally treated as corrupt and not worth voters’ respect.

Long distances

FDC and its presidential candidate not only collected money from supporters across the country but attracted followers who walked long distances to attend rallies. NRM, on the other hand, provided transport and at the very least water and sodas for its supporters.

As a result, a report from the Alliance for Campaign Monitoring shows that in the first two months of the election, the NRM spent Ush27 billion ($7.8 million), which accounted for 91 per cent of the money spent by different political parties during that period.

The NRM had all but bought the 2011 election, with the Bank of Uganda governor reporting that he unknowingly borrowed money to finance the ruling party’s campaign, which led to unprecedented levels of inflation.  

Ms Kamya said Dr Besigye’s new method, which showed Ugandans’ willingness to contribute to the campaign kitty — is the kind of lesson that could have a long-lasting effect on the way Ugandans respond to vote-buying in future.

Dr Busingye Kabumba a lecturer of Law at Makerere University, noted that the other long-lasting effect of this election will be on how Ugandans start to view the importance of voting. 

“My fellow Ugandans, after the events of yesterday and today, do you still believe that your vote counts? he asked.