On #Museveni…and the need to revisit opposition parties’ strategies in #Africa

Museveni has been declared the winner and he is the President elect of Uganda. He has been President for 30 years. While the votes were being counted yesterday, I posted two consecutive tweets:

  1. #Museveni is #CCM in person. BUT the difference is he hasn’t even bothered to rebrand himself as CCM did in the last 4 years for survival
  2. The question, thus remains, how does he survive?what’s his strategy? I don’t think use of force and rigging explain it all. There is more!

Those tweets were a manifestation of my ongoing reflections on why in a number of African countries the “liberation” parties are still in power despite the introduction multiparty system in the last 24 years. The ‘third wave of democracy’ fell on Africa in early 1990s, which introduced multiparty system among other politico-economy reforms.

Last year, I closely followed elections’ campaigns in Tanzania out of my interest on political parties’ strategies and especially the rebranding exercise that #CCM embarked on since 2012 in order to survive. I kept concluding that the opposition parties in Tanzania needed to revisit their strategy if they seriously wanted to remove CCM out of power. In the campaigns, I banged myself up wishing the coalition of major opposition parties in the country (#UKAWA) would do things differently starting with acknowledging the still leviathan nature of CCM. The way UKAWA supporters thought and argued in their lips- was a manifestation of denial to what a “monster” CCM is and that removing it out of power needs more thinking and systematic strategies. I am not saying that UKAWA did not think or strategise. NO. They did. That explains (to a large extent) the rise of vote share from 26% in 2010 to 39% in 2015 thus managing to humble down CCM to below 60% vote share.   UKAWA, of course, were not satisfied with the results. Blaming it to rigging. May be there was rigging. I do not know. But what I know is that the research polls had reveal the same results…and my quick thought on numbers (given the number of candidates – MPs and Councillors across the country and intensity of campaigns- meetings, canvassing hours, etc) and qualitative examinations of how things looked from observation point of view were indicative that the results could not be reduced to rigging.

So in #Uganda, it is true that #Museveni has used enormous force and unfair repressive tactics during the elections campaigns. But those factors are not sufficient to explain his winning. There is more. The opposition in Uganda needs to take on a serious rethinking and revisiting of strategies for them to be sure that the majority of Ugandans would not vote for #Museveni in the next elections neither allow him to rig.

Such is the case for all other opposition parties in African countries that have the same incumbent “liberating” parties. Apportioning the blame and attributing loosing to rigging and unfair treatment cripple the needed vibrant thinking and strategising efforts on the side of opposition parties. It has to get into a point where citizens themselves protect their votes and not allow rigging or being maneuvered. My argument is we cannot adequately explain the failure of opposition parties in a number of African countries with rigging. There is more.

Going back to my tweets- the first one: Museveni is like CCM because he has managed to stay in power for so long going through elections victoriously. CCM has managed to do the same. An in my second tweet, I wonder with the question, how does Museveni survive? For CCM, in addition to use its incumbency advantages and other institutional privileges against opposition, the 2010 elections (despite 64% win) was a wake up call for the party. From 2012, the party embarked in a rebranding strategy that, arguably, explains the choice of Magufuli as his candidate. Magufuli was deemed so different from the general CCM style that analysts such as Maria Sarungi call him antiestablishment. BUT tracing the party behaviuor since 2012 to 2015, the candidate was the ultimate reflection of politics of image that CCM embarked on in order to survive.

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