In his maiden presidential run in 2001, Dr. Kizza Besigye, the
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)’s four-time candidate polled 8 percent in
Mbarara district. He almost tripled the 2001 score in 2006 election—polling 23
percent. Besigye score in Mbarara slightly went down to 20.6 percent in 2011
and he had the best score of 28.2 percent in 2016 presidential election.
Besigye’s scores in Mbarara in the four presidential elections
is illustrative of his performance in western Uganda. For instance, he won only
two districts—Kasese (2006 and 2016) and Rukungiri—his home district in 2016. Apart
from these districts, Besigye managed to poll more than 30 percent only in Mitooma,
Ntungamo and Kabale districts in 2016 election.
And his worst scores were in districts of Kisoro, Kamwengye,
Kyenjojo and Kiruhura where he never scored more than 13 percent since 2001. But
Besigye was always making minimal improvement in these districts. For instance,
he polled 3 percent in Kisoro in 2001 and had improved this score to 10 percent in
Besigye’s score in western Uganda is a contrast of his
performance in other regions, except Karamoja, where he managed to perform
impressively, winning many districts or losing by a small margin.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate, Yoweri
Kaguta Museveni maintained such a tight grip on western Uganda votes. Elvis Harold Twikirize, 32 years,
a resident of Rubanda district started voting in 2011 and has been voting
Museveni for what he says has done in the “health and education.” He says he
will give Museveni a “thank you vote” for creating Rubanda district. The
district was curved out Kabale in 2017.
Katusiime, 60 years, from Hoima City says she has been voting Museveni because
of improvements in the health sector which has benefited women. For this
reason, she will vote him again. Joy says Museveni is “still leading this
country into the right direction.”
he came into the race in 2001, Dr. Mwambutsya Ndeebesa, a lecturer at Makerere
says, Besigye was first seen as a traitor who was coming to interrupt their
turn to rule. That didn’t win him many votes in the region.
in: “Besigye had a….
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subsequent elections, Ndebeesa says Besigye won more political support which he failed to turn into a wider vote win because of weak organizational
structures. “Elections are won on two grounds: organizational factors and
political factors. Besigye did not have organizational factors in his side,” he
Bernard Sabiti, a
researcher and public policy analyst says Museveni has had a substantial
support in western Uganda over years that disadvantaged Besigye. “It’s being
naïve to say Museveni has no support at all. That is not true. There is genuine
support for the president especially in the countryside and particularly in
The growth of
opposition in western Uganda and across the country, Sabiti says is impeded by
lack of a leveled playing field. For instance, he says most radio stations—the
main communication medium—are owned by NRM bigwigs or rich businessmen affiliated
to the ruling party who don’t let opposition candidates use them to reach a
wider audience. A number of opposition candidates have been blocked from
appearing on radio stations during the ongoing campaigns.
Both Sabiti and
Ndebeesa say NRM has leveraged patronage and state machinery to tempt
politicians who walk away back into its fold but also frustrate organizational
capabilities of opposition parties in western Uganda.
In Toro, Beatrice
Kiraso says the region has historically embraced Museveni as their own. “Toro
has really taken NRM and Museveni government to be their thing all this time,”
It was the first area to be captured by National Resistance Army -NRA. Kiraso says Toro is one regime behind the rest of Uganda because when Bazilio Olara-Okello and
Tito Lutwa Okello overthrew Milton Obote in 1985, the Toro had already been
captured by NRA. In other words, the Okellos never ruled Tooro.
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Besigye is not on
the ballot paper in this election. How will western Uganda’s voting pattern change as a result? For instance,
Edward Rugumayo says, certainly, Toro’s voting pattern will change as Toro
urbanize, more people get educated and youth access social media to keep update
withthe country’s political environment.
Rugumayo’s forecast is:
“Museveni is going to win but with a reduced percentage.” He adds; “Young
competitors like Kyagulanyi and Mugsha Muntu will take away some of the voters
that Museveni has taken for granted.” He says Besigye’s voters will be largely
shared by Kyagulanyi and Muntu but some will stick to the FDC candidate Patrick
Kiraso who is now chief
of staff of Renewed Uganda of Gen. Henry Tumukunde, a presidential candidate
says Toro people “seem to have come to realize that they were taken for
granted.” People, she says have started “slowly and steadily” embracing other
political parties other than NRM. “There are so many young people who don’t see
any reason why they should vote NRM,”
performance in Toro was in Hoima and Kabarole where he polled 23 and 22 percent
respectively in 2016 presidential election. Kiraso says these votes will be
shared by opposition candidates.
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Kiraso further argues
that the last presidential election “was a two horse race.” And now there are
more horses that have come into the race, a disadvantage to Museveni. But in
2016, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was projected to be a horse when he
entered into the race. He never lived to peoples’ expectation. Therefore, it’s not
certain that presidential candidates such as Muntu and Tumukunde will be “horses”
in this election.
She reckons, “Actually,
I would be shocked if Museveni get a clean 50 percent in any of the districts
Same as other analysts,
Peter Bogere of Uganda Project Implementation
and Management Centre (UPIMAC), an organization that conducts voter education
thinks that Besigye's votes will be shared by opposition candidates. For Besigye
fanatics, they could still be waiting for him to endorse a political candidate.
Besigye has seldom been on the campaign trail with FDC candidate, Amuriat.
Bogere argues that candidates
such as Tumukunde and Muntu can only make inroads in Museveni strongholds if
they are meritoriously organized.
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Forecasting opposition chances
in western Uganda and across the country, Bernard Sabiti argues that Bobi
Wine—the main opposition candidate—will perform less “impressively” than
Besigye. He says Bobi Wine is viewed as a youth and Besigye had some kind of
“authenticity” that the musician turned politician lacks.
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And for the youth vote, who are
viewed as a key in this election, Sabiti argues that the thinking of most rural
youth in not different from that of their parents who are sticking to Museveni. “The majority of youth
who are 18-30, these are married and many of them are living a rural life,” he
says. Most of these youth, he says will also vote for Museveni.
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Ndebeesa say without Besigye,
FDC with perform dismally in western Uganda. He argues that voters tend to vote
for personalities rather than political parties. Whereas Besigye was well
known, Amuriat—the candidate who replaced him isn’t.
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“You get votes because there
are people to hunt votes for you, there are people to sustain votes for you,”
Ndebeesa says. “Because on the day of voting, in western Uganda, you will find
that even those who have not turned up to vote will be voted for, and they will
be voted for in favor of candidate Museveni.”
Such are the circumstances that
make opposition candidates lose in western Uganda. And they will lose again.