Besigye’s tough road ahead

Ambitious. Former Forum for Democratic Change party president, Dr Kizza Besigye, addresses the media at his offices on Katonga Road in Kampala on Thursday. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • When Dr Besigye says Mr Museveni cannot be defeated by elections alone, his fierest critics within the Opposition accuse him of being a ‘Museveni mole’.

One question Dr Kizza Besigye had to deal with on Thursday morning as he unveiled his latest campaign, Article Three Twerwaneko, is why he has been rolling out campaign after campaign in recent years without seeming to achieve results.
Since he was speaking to journalists, Dr Besigye chose to use them as an example. He fixed his firm gaze on the questioner and said, as if he were certain, that much as the journalist earned some income from his trade, he must be running some other enterprises on the side in order to make ends meet.

Using this imagery, Dr Besigye said he has rolled out successive anti-Museveni campaigns, and will continue to do so until his end goal is achieved. He said the campaigns reinforce one another.
What the Opposition activist did not say on the occasion, but repeatedly admits, is that uprooting Mr Museveni from power is proving to be a very hard task, something which has led to self-doubt among those seeking change.

New campaign
Sunday Monitor has learnt that Dr Besigye and his colleagues have spent months poring over plans to launch a new round of protests, which they are convinced is the only way they can reignite the fight against President Museveni’s government.
The new campaign already has a name – Article Three Twerwaneko. It is based on Article Three of the Constitution, which requires Ugandans to defend the Constitution and ensure that it is restored if it has been suspended, overthrown, abrogated or illegally amended. Tweraneka, the catchword of the mooted campaign, is Luganda for ‘let’s defend ourselves.’
The campaign comes about after Dr Besigye launched “Tubalemese”, or ‘let’s fail them.’
In stressing the urgency of the need for Ugandans to defend themselves, Dr Besigye says they face an existential threat and could get wiped out like the Aborigines who once claimed Australia and New Zealand as their lands, or the Red Indians who were the natives of North America.
If Ugandans don’t defeat President Museveni’s government, which he says is devoid of patriotism, they could be replaced by “new people” who he says are already arriving and “taking over our land.”
Dr Besigye and his colleagues in the People’s Government insist that Mr Museveni has breached the Constitution in a number of ways, including, they argue, by detaining Dr Besigye, who was a candidate before the 2016 election cycle was concluded.

Dr Besigye insists that he won the election by 52 per cent and was blocked from proving his victory, perhaps before courts of law, since he remained under house arrest until the time for doing so elapsed.
They argue that Mr Museveni occupies State House illegally.
It is for this reason that Dr Besigye set up the People’s Government in 2016. It was under the auspices of the People’s Government that the press conference was held on Thursday, to announce a looming round of protests.

The ‘people’s president’, as his fans refer to him, Dr Besigye was flanked by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, the ‘deputy people’s president’, and over a dozen other members of the mock ‘administration’.

Shall others join?
Before the “next actions” in the Twerwaneko campaign are announced, Dr Besigye said at the press conference, they will hold a ‘national convention’ to sell their ideas to other change-seeking forces with the view of coming up with a joint programme of action.
The decision to hold a ‘national convention’ was arrived at after intense haggling, Sunday Monitor has established, and a number of players close to Dr Besigye see it as a waste of time.

“Those people they say they want to consult are not interested in fighting and will not add a lot of value to the effort,” one of the players said, asking not to be named in order to speak freely.
The source cited the failed effort to get some of the Opposition players into the People’s Government as evidence that they won’t join the effort even this time round.
Dr Besigye said in February that he took a while to announce the cabinet of the people’s government because he was still consulting with different players.

We understand that People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, the national coordinator of the newly formed Alliance for National Transformation, are among the leaders that declined to join the People’s Government.
After announcing the new campaign and plan to hold a national convention, Dr Besigye on Thursday evening appeared on the Frontline, a talk show on NBS TV.
During the show, Mr Ofwono Opondo, the head of the Government Media Centre, laid into Dr Besigye, accusing him of trying to use the new campaign to ‘remake’ himself as the most potent opposition figure.
This thinking is not confined to only Mr Opondo but is widespread even among Opposition players, who for one reason or other, don’t get along with Dr Besigye.

A number of players we talked to believe it is the reason Mr Kyagulanyi, who declined to speak to us for this article, declined the invitation to be part of the People’s Government.
During the same show, Democratic Party president Norbert Mao said there would be no problem with them joining the Twerwaneko campaign, but he hastened to add that they would do so as a way of building trust so that they can engage on better terms when the time comes for the Opposition to select a joint candidate.

Deep rift
Dr Besigye and his ardent backers, including Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president Amuriat Oboi, argue that the Opposition should prioritise putting pressure on Mr Museveni’s government over preparing for elections, while a number of other players prioritise mobilising for the 2021 elections.
Mr Kyagulanyi, for instance, has expended a lot of labour encouraging Ugandans, especially the young adults, to register for the upcoming election.
Mr Mao’s DP, on the other hand, has set a deadline of end of year for the other Opposition parties to show interest in the process to select a joint candidate for 2021.
FDC’s argument is that Mr Museveni must be pressed, through protests and civil disobedience, to come to the negotiating table – and peacefully cede power.

That is what Mr Amuriat promised when he campaigned to lead the party. That is what Dr Besigye says repeatedly. And FDC has said it will use its leadership of the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (Ipod) to push for the exit of President Museveni.
The party and Dr Besigye say they can only get into the 2021 election cycle only if their best efforts to remove Mr Museveni from power don’t materialise before then.
And they add that if they go into the next election, they will go into it with the knowledge that it will be rigged.

At the Thursday press conference, Dr Besigye took a swipe at the Justice Simon Byabakama-led Electoral Commission, which he said will be much worse than its predecessor’s which was led by Dr Badru Kiggundu, which the Opposition leader often sharply criticised.
Those who want another person other than Dr Besigye to be the joint Opposition candidate in 2021 – include Mr Mao, Jeema President Asuman Basalirwa, and Mr Kyagulanyi, who has already declared intention to stand - all cite this reasoning by FDC and Dr Besigye as one of their reasons.

Division, self-doubt

When Dr Besigye says Mr Museveni cannot be defeated by elections alone, his fierest critics within the Opposition accuse him of being a ‘Museveni mole’.
On the other hand, when other Opposition players say that they can take power through an election, staunch Besigye supporters say those are ‘Museveni moles’.
Accusations such as this, many we talked to, fear will deepen in the coming months and paralyse the Opposition.
Another factor that was cited is fear, which a number of players we talked to say has intensified in recent times as the government cracks down on protests with brute force.
More of the players seem to fear to get into demonstrations now than say in 2011 during the Walk-to-Work protests for fear of physical attack by the armed forces.

The other source of fear is about loss of income, with a number of players admitting that they don’t want their businesses or other sources of income to be frozen out due to participating in protests.
As a result, sources close to the planning for the new round of protests say, a number of their members have been pushing for alternative actions and ‘delaying action’.
As Dr Besigye pushes for 2019, ‘the year of action, to come to life, the road ahead is tough.