On Thursday, May 9, two things happened that the architects of what is commonly known as the defiance approach to our politics are keenly interested in.
First, it was the day a special session of the National Security Council (NSC) was to be held to, in the wording of the notice that Internal Affairs Minister Gen Jeje Odongo sent out to the members, to “specifically discuss the subject of defiance”.
The NSC, chaired by Gen Odong, brings together the ministers of Defence, Security, and Internal Affairs. It also has the Chief of Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police, Commissioner General of Prisons, Director General of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Director General of the External Security Organisation (ESO), and the Chief of Military Intelligence. It meets periodically to discuss matters of a security nature.
Dr Kizza Besigye, the architect of the defiance campaign against President Museveni’s government, was interested in the development to the extent that he accessed a copy of the official notice issued by Gen Odongo and shared it on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Dr Besigye captioned his posts thus: “Urgent SPECIAL Session of National Security Council (NSC) to sit today to particularly discuss the subject of defiance! Happily, there’s no remedy; it’s TIME UP!”
On the same day, May 9, perhaps as the NSC was meeting, a group that calls itself Kampala Metropolitan Informal Sector Business Forum, wrote to Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola, asking him to stop demonstrations in the busy areas of Kampala City and the metropolitan area.
The letter was signed by Hajj Yasin Ssematimba as chairman, and Mr Adams Kakuba as secretary. It was copied to the ministers for Kampala (Ms Beti Kamya), Internal Affairs (Gen Odongo), Trade Commerce and Industry (Ms Amelia Kyambadde), and the Attorney General (Mr William Byaruhanga).
The group claimed that traders lose billions whenever there are demonstrations in Kampala, saying each day of the Walk-to-Work protests which Dr Besigye spearheaded in 2011, they lost a collective total of Shs5.3b. They asked Mr Ochola to bar demonstrators from busy areas and gazette areas for demonstrations outside the busy areas of the city.
In introducing themselves, the group said they came together in 2017 under the coordination of Kampala minister Kamya and were commissioned by President Museveni at his Kisozi ranch on January 3, 2018.
Politics versus security
Why would the politicians and commanders in-charge of the country’s Security meet to discuss defiance? Is it just by coincidence that on that same day a group that claims to represent traders in Kampala petitioned the police chief to reign in defiance?
In the years gone by, during Gen Kale Kayihura’s reign as police chief, the standard reason for blocking Opposition processions in Kampala and other townships was that the demonstrators would disrupt business. This line was taken up by the spokespeople of the government and ruling party, and then by President Museveni.
In rebuttal, Dr Besigye and other Opposition players asked for evidence of what the demonstrations had caused to be destroyed, challenging the police to protect the businesses instead of curtailing the rights of demonstrators.
Going forward, that is if the defiance group are to try to demonstrate in Kampala and other urban areas, the petition that was addressed to Mr Ochola could be used against them.
These backroom developments are important, especially in view of how the politics is shaping up. At the start of the year, Dr Besigye declared 2019 the year of action, the year he said President Museveni would be pushed out of power.
But President Museveni was declared elected by the Electoral Commission and on May 12, 2016, was sworn in by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe to serve for five years until May 12, 2021. How come Dr Besigye and his colleagues in the People’s Government unrepentantly say they aim to cause the collapse of Mr Museveni’s government before 2021?
They cite Article Three of the Constitution, which is about “defence of the Constitution”.
They argue that President Museveni breached the Constitution by, as they claim, rigging the 2016 election, and that he is, therefore, not to be recognised under the same Constitution.
Dr Besigye, who was the FDC presidential candidate in the election, declared himself winner of the election and a video showing him being sworn in as president surfaced on social media.
He was charged with treason in 2016 because of those acts, but his trial has not taken off until now. He has stopped reporting to court despite summons being issued out to him. This is also in the pursuit of his defiance strategy.
Dr Besigye keeps demanding that he is tried on the treason charge, threatening to use the occasion to release what he calls the true results of the 2016 election, which he claims he won with 52 per cent.
Dr Besigye and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who is the vice president of the “People’s Government”, often, citing Article Three of the Constitution, argue that they commit no offence in resisting and trying to remove President Museveni from power because, to their thinking, he breached the Constitution during the 2016 electoral process.
In the pursuit of this thinking, Dr Besigye has invited a number of Opposition players over the past three years, with varying degrees of success.
When he unveiled the “People’s Parliament” earlier this year, he said he had invited different Opposition players to join the “People’s Government” but that some were still reluctant to join.
By Daily Monitor