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Watching out for presidential debate

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Watching out for presidential debate

From the Outside Looking in

Mbabazi and Besigye

A new and later entrant has entered the pack of presidential spokesmen. He comes in the person of Kennedy Ssebalu, or the disgraced wayward -tongued Tamale Mirundi.

He comes in at the opportune moment when the televised presidential debate between the presidential hopefuls is to be aired. Keen public attention has focused on the three leading contenders: Incumbent Yoweri Museveni, and challengers; Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye. With all the respect they deserve, the other five, are only journeymen.

Ssebalu comes at the time when there is intense speculation about Museveni’s participation in the debate. The NRM has danced between having a “ghost” stand-in for Museveni and saying that he has other State duties that coincide with the time of the debate, otherwise he would have attended. That is the position that was initially aired by the rotund Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba.

Then, immediately Ssebalu is injected into the matter, and he categorically says that Museveni will not attend; and that he is not “dodging” the debate. Ssebalu says that with his superior “gift of the gab”, Museveni would have overwhelmed his erstwhile challengers.

But this does not sound like the confidence of a fellow who can trounce his other debaters. Indeed, in his reaction to the exposes that have taken place around the country of the 30-year failures and inadequacies of the NRM regime, it is fair to assume that Mbabazi is right to describe Museveni as being “desperate”.

Non-participating Uganda Federal Alliance leader, Betty Kamya, has said that in the circumstances, if she were President Museveni, she would not attend the debate. She mentioned only a few of the woeful failures of NRM, touching on the endemic and uncontrollable corruption and the dilapidated medical sector.

In his campaign tours, Besigye has done a lot, sometimes accidentally, to reveal the mournful state of affairs in some of the sectors. Museveni says that for the last 30 years, he has laid down the conditions for Uganda to take off into a middle-class economy, and that he now needs the added time (perhaps another 30 years) for the take-off.

But when he was in the Northern Sub-region, Besigye exposed the sorry state of the roads in Alebtong, when his convoy got stuck somewhere on a sorry road; and the intending voters had to push his cars out of the morass.

In November last year, this columnist came across a convoy of military escort vehicles stuck somewhere on a rain-drenched road in Hoima District – two examples of the so-called “laid-down conditions for take-off” in the infrastructure sector.

When Besigye was earlier campaigning in the Karamoja Region, he came across the appalling situation in Abim Hospital where only three nurses were manning a hospital, in which there had not been a doctor for a considerable period.

The dire situation was picked up by international media and went viral. In its embarrassment the NRM regime, in a rearguard , ordered candidates and prevented them from visiting government institutions and installations citing whatever.

In Nakasongola, the Police duly acted to prevent Besigye fron visiting such an institution with teargas and shooed him away. Unfortunately, and to even a greater embarrassment, they drove him into a swampy area where people and animals are sharing the same water hole for their water needs.

(This is the area where the much-vaunted NEC Luwero Industries are based at). These and many sectors obviously expose the lack, or unwillingness, of the NRM regime to address issues that the voting citizens want. Is this part of the desperation that Mbabazi is talking about?

In such a situation, a public debate would unravel the lies that the NRM regime has been feeding the voters with. The televised debate would be picked up by the other media and broadcast all over the country. And for the NRM regime, that all the time touts that the grassroots are its base, the 250 FM stations dotted around the country would pick this up and unravel the deception.

The panel of the debate would ask each candidate about his or her intentions for the country and how they would go about fulfilling them. The candidates would be allowed to turn against each other, questioning them about the efficacy of their manifestos and promises.

Undoubtedly, Incumbent Museveni, would be the butt of the other hopefuls and would have to answer for his performance in the last 30 years. If people like US President Barack Obama, can lift his country out of unemployment in the last eight years, how come Museveni has failed in the last 30 years?

Unless it is a ruse to throw the other candidates off-balance, and later Museveni would announce his participation in the debate, no amount of Ssebalu’s cited gift of the gab can answer this. So, perhaps, Kamya is right.

szumuz@yahoo.com

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