The violence that continues to be exhibited in the NRM primaries is a precursor of what lies ahead as the country gears up for the 2021 general elections. The NRM primaries have been very chaotic as rival candidates and their supporters. At least six people have so far been reportedly killed in election violence as the NRM elects party flag-bearers.
The use of violence to address political disagreements is not new to NRM as the same group resorted to violence after the disputed 1980 general elections. On December 10 and 11, 1980, Uganda held general elections.
Uganda Peoples Congress’s Dr. Apollo Milton Obote was declared winner, but the result was vehemently disputed by the Democratic Party Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere who also claimed victory.
The Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) led by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni that came third in the elections took the contest to the bush in the jungles in Luweero in guerilla war that claimed hundreds of lives. The NRM captured power in 1986 with promises of restoring the rule of law.
The culture of the use of violence seems to be entrenched in the NRM’s DNA as flashes of violence have over the years been reported in the various NRM primaries. Any disagreements have resorted the heinous crimes with guns, pangas and the party is yet to have violence-free elections whether it is in the primaries or in a national election.
The worst election violence that Uganda has witnessed to recent was in 2001 where Dr. Kizza Besigye challenged Yoweri Museveni for the presidency. Vigilante groups including Kalangala Action Plan led by Kakooza Mutale, Nyekundiire, Elgon volunteers emerged orchestrating violence against supporters of Kizza Besigye. Other security agencies were reportedly involved in the rampant election violence with several nasty incidences reported across the country. There was more violence in the 2006, 2011 and 2016 general elections.
In the aftermath of the 2020 NRM primaries, President Yoweri Museveni while addressing NRM members at the party’s secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala revealed that he had told the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola that if the police doesn’t do their work, he will do it himself by arresting the police officers themselves. He surprisingly condemned the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries. The NRM primaries have so far been marred with reports of multiple voting, massive voter bribery, ferrying of voters, underage voting, violence and the abuse of the COVID19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
It is not surprising that the president has not commented on the disregard of the COVID19 SOPs and the demonstrations by the aggrieved in the NRM primaries. This comes just months after Museveni warned that he does not want to hear about selfish people who he referred to as ‘enemies of our future.’ “I have been hearing some people saying ‘we shall demonstrate, we will riot’. If you riot, we are also here waiting for you, we will deal with you. You can plan whatever you plan, we shall crush you.” Museveni was quoted during one of the COVID19 national addresses.
The question is to why Museveni has not yet ‘crushed’ the disgruntled members of his NRM party that have been taking to the streets the demonstrated against results in their NRM primaries. The answer is that those referred to ‘enemies of the future are members of the opposition that have a single ambition to wrestle the NRM out of power using legal means through general elections.
If the NRM members can use such form of violence against their fellow party members, what venom will they use as a combined force against the opposition?