Dr Kizza Besigye has said former President Idi Amin might have been illiterate but must be commended for setting up infrastructure that has stood the test of time.
Addressing a well-attended rally in Arua on Saturday, the IPC presidential flag-bearer said Amin developed West Nile—something President Museveni has failed to do.
“Many people have been saying that Amin was not educated, but what Amin built can still be seen,” said Dr Besigye. “We have Muni National Teachers College, which is one of the biggest in the country. Where is Museveni’s college in West Nile?”
Amin, who ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979, was born in West Nile and never completed primary school education. He died in August 2003 and was buried in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he had fled into exile. Speaking to a charged crowd, Dr Besigye said had it not been for President Museveni’s inflexibility, Amin’s remains would have been returned to Uganda.
The IPC candidate promised to upgrade Arua airfield to an international airport, pay thousands of ex-servicemen in the country their due arrears and build silos in each region to stabilise prices of farm commodities during surplus and offer food supplies in the event of scarcity.
There was drama prior to the rally when supporters of the ruling NRM party, reportedly rallied by Arua Resident District Commissioner, retired Maj. Ibrahim Abiriga, slaughtered a number of cows at Kamure Park for people to feast on so they would not turn up for the opposition gathering.
That did not happen. At about 4pm when word spread of Dr Besigye’s arrival, people poured on the streets clogging the Rhino Camp-Avenue Road junction and shopkeepers hurriedly locked their wares and joined in the trudge to Arua Hill grounds. The crowd chanted, “Anya emi eza oyee”, a Lugbara equivalent of “We have eaten your meat for nothing”, apparently referring to meat pieces distributed by Mr Abiriga.
Earlier in the day, a single-cabin pick up vehicle, carrying about a dozen people who appeared intoxicated with alcohol, circled the town streets with the passengers clad in yellow T-shirts shouting “No change, Museveni pakalast”.
The tension provoked a heavy police deployment amid fears of likely clash between the rival supporters. Law enforcers recalled all their patrol pick-up vehicles in the region’s eight districts and anti-riot police in full body armour and brandishing other crowd control gear, made rounds at high speed in the town – charged to nip in the bud any trouble. But all ended peacefully, although Mr Abiriga who drove briefly to the Pakwach highway round-about next to the rally ground, had to dash away in the face of a sea of opposition people.
“I was a political commissar of the NRM when Maj. Abiriga was still in Arua Park (in downtown Kampala),” Dr Besigye said of the man made an RDC three years ago. “I was Museveni’s doctor in the bush and I know him both inside and the outside. No one knows him more than I do.” He added: “No one should intimidate you, be firm and change is definitely coming. Anyone who stands in the way of change will be rolled over.”
Dr Besigye juggled his words between empathy for West Nile people, who he said the government had deliberately marginalised by denying them good jobs, bitumen roads and electricity, and promises of better education, quality healthcare and irrigation for all year-round productive, mechanised agriculture.
Dr Besigye had a headache after the crowd’s disapproval forced him to introduce incumbent Arua Municipality MP, Akbar Godi, who appeared more popular than FDC’s official flag bearer, Ms Amina Atako.
Former Buganda Katikkiro, Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere was at hand at the Arua rally to drum up support for Dr Besigye by promising Arua people that the Baganda will this time round vote against President Museveni whom he said had deprived the kingdom and impoverished Ugandans “so he would bribe them for votes when he becomes unpopular”.
Candidate Besigye, who is ending his one-week tour of West Nile, is expected to address marathon rallies in Nebbi and Zombo districts today and tomorrow.