Published by Patra K on

Are shifts of political loyalties the new strategy in Uganda's political arena?

Bosco Lawino-leader of NUP defectors in Gulu district who defected to the NRM are now demanding for the fulfillment of promises made by the NRM.

Since Uganda’s return to Multiparty Politics in 2005, there has been a major trend of political defection, whereby politicians and supporters have kept crossing from one political party to the other. The disguised reasons always expressed for defection are based on allegations of preaching politics of hate, pushing for violence, and ideological bankruptcy. 

In the run-up to the recently concluded 2021 polls, Ugandans witnessed a mass defection of Members of Parliament. For instance; Democratic Party (DP) lost Eleven (11) MPs to the National Unity Platform (NUP). In Isingiro District, the National Unity Platform (NUP) Woman Member of Parliament Candidate and NUP mobilizer for the Western Region; Ms. Lillian Keitetsi defected to the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Within the same retro, NUP lost over 200 youth mobilizers again to the NRM party. The defectors were from Nwoya (120), Amuru (65), Pader (50), Kitgum (38), and Gulu, districts in Acholi sub-region and Lira city. 

These denounced their allegiance to National Unity Platform (NUP) on grounds of tribalism, corruption, and violence, and pledged their full support and commitment to the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. The cross-over came with demands that NRM should create more jobs, enhance security, offer vocational skills training, and ensure peace in the forthcoming general elections.

Many political analysts who weighed in on the matter described the move as opportunistic where those crossing were looking for an advantage a specific party offered to easily win an election. For instance, in the central region, that is predominant opposition, the people power wave presented an advantage to contest under NUP which partly explained the exodus of political candidates from Democratic Party to NUP. Indeed, after the 2021 general elections, all the eleven defectors of DP to NUP won the election under the party ticket of NUP.

On Wednesday 11th, NBS’s 9 pm news edition reported that some of the former NUP supporters who defected to National Resistance Movement (NRM) came out to demand the fulfillment of promises of creating more jobs, enhancing security, offering vocational skills training among others made by the ruling party on the day they defected to the party. 

SecretsKnown observes that the motivation for shifts in political loyalties right from the national level up to the grass-root level is principally driven by commercial interests such as money or promises for “juicy” jobs in public institutions which the poor and economically vulnerable youth find difficult to resist.

Whereas some may argue that the common explanation of political defection points to the divergence of partisan loyalties and ideologies, SecretsKnown concludes that many of the defectors are merely political merchants who do not associate with the beliefs, values, and ideologies of the political parties they defect from but rather use them as special purpose vehicles to win the next election or to strategically position themselves to be bought off by other political parties or candidates that fear competition.

The way forward is to intentionally and deliberately build a culture of multi-party politics where belonging to or associating with a political party is primarily on the basis of a shared ideology and vision. As is now, the glue that binds together politicians and political parties is political capital for monetary gain. Until then, politicians will continue to practice political transhumance every election year.

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