ARUA BY-ELECTION: Is Bobi Wine the solution to Uganda’s vote rigging?

Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine is a baby to the political scene. His after shot at an elective office was a year ago when he beat seasoned politicians to become the Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East.

Kyagulanyi’s victory was hailed as a landmark as both Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and his nemesis Dr. Kiiza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change campaigned for their respective candidates, Sitenda Sebaru and Apollo Katinti respectively.

The hack according to Bobi Wine was mobilisation of voters to remain at the polling stations guarding their votes until they have been counted and tallied.

“Elections are rigged at the polling stations because people were not vigilant.
After casting one’s ballot, the police and military intimidated them to go home and they would stuff the ballots and manipulate results,” Kyagulanyi said.

After noticing the loophole, he mobilised the ghetto youth (firebase army) to keep a keen eye on the ballots casts to ensure that no tampering happened.

Kyagulanyi repeated the same in the tightly contested Woman MP by-election in Rukungiri in which FDC’s Betty Muzanira emerged the victor and Jinja East.

Last month, Jeema’s Asuman Basalirwa backed by Kyagulanyi floored Kiiza Besigye and Yoweri Museveni once more in the Bugiri Municipality election and now, the musical titan is in Arua Municipality to campaign for fellow Independent Candidate, Kassiano Wadri.

Kyagulanyi’s popularity is made him a national darling but a villain in the political circles but what is undoubted is the new dimension that he has brought to the political scene.

Speaking to Matooke Republic on the sidelines of the Africa Now high-level dialogue at the Sheraton Hotel, Democratic Party President, Norbert Mao said Bobi Wine has redefined Uganda’s politics diminishing the role of political parties.

“Kyagulanyi reminds me of myself when I was his age. Young and energetic, not afraid to try out new ideas. He is more about the individual appeal and less about political parties,” Mao said.

Mao added that Kyagulanyi is himself a one-man party and has proved to be efficient in the space that does not limit him to collective responsibility that has come to characterize multi-party politics.

Kyagulanyi delivered Jeema’s first candidate in Parliament and despite hanging around FDC circles, he has emphatically stated that he is not a member of the FDC.

Money doesn’t win elections
While President Museveni’s opponents especially FDC have complained repetitively about the high monetisation of politics, Kyagulanyi has found ways of using the state’s own money against its advantage.

In Kyadondo East, the NRM invested over Shs800m excluding the security apparatus but that notwithstanding, he won with over 70% of the vote.

Prior to the election in Rukungiri, President Museveni has extended donations to area SACCOs and farmers to the tune of Shs5billion but when it came to the elections, the results were against him.

Voter bribery, enticement with household items and grandeur campaign promises have increasingly become irrelevant factors in the electoral politics with the new force galvanising support both through big rallies and door-to-door campaigns.

Even the heavy presence of the security apparatus during campaigns, polling day and the aftermaths, the intimidation and arrest of political figures has all played to the advantage of Kyagulanyi and team.

In Kyadondo East, Kyagulanyi was arrested after he insisted in using a campaign rally venue that the Electoral Commission gave to President Museveni last minute. While his polling agents were beaten in the wee hours of the morning, the resolve of Kyagulanyi’s supporters only grew stronger and slowly, the military was overpowered and victory ensured.

In Bugiri, the same happened when the hotel (Planet) Kyagulanyi was sleeping in was broken into by the Police and military arresting 16 of his team members. Candidate Basalirwa house was surrounded hours before he was set to address his final rally but the result of the election reflected less of gun power and more of people power.

Voter turnout
According to Electoral Commission statistics in 2016, about half of the registered voters did not turn out to vote. The trend is similar for the 2011 general election.

Analysts believe that this caused the diminishing appeal of the monotonous politicians that have dominated the ballots for a long time.

“When you see the same faces on the ballot in every election and the same results after, why would you go back to line up?” Agaba Ronald Bills wondered.

“Bobi Wine has breathed new vibrancy in the election cycle of Uganda. He might as well bask in the sun for a moment.”