Like Museveni, Besigye legacy is a matter of great concern

Tuesday December 5 2017



No one has endured the caution to think about his legacy like President Museveni. His critics have correctly warned that after 32 years in power, he risks eroding whatever good he has done as President.
Increasingly, irony and controversy spring up in all corners like sore thumbs. It doesn’t look good for the man who authoritatively said Africa’s problem was leaders who stayed too long in power.

It has been said by many that if the Museveni of today met the Museveni who arrived on the scene with promise in 1986, the two would have a serious altercation. That is the difference time makes, especially when one does not find the ability to limit themselves when they venture on a mission; they are bound to clash with some of their ideals. It is with trepidation that those who are observing the goings on in the internal business of Uganda’s main opposition party; Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), might soon ask its leaders the same question regarding their legacies.

When the immediate past party president, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, was defeated by Patrick Oboi Amuriat, he conceded like a gentleman. But he also went out angrily saying yes, he was democratically jettisoned, but that his was a culmination of a sustained campaign to undermine him throughout his difficult tenure of half a decade. He points an accusing finger at the past party president, Dr Kizza Besigye, who has contested for the national presidency four times against NRM’s Museveni. He has not succeeded in these elections, which have all been characterised by different forms of malpractices.

Naturally Besigye has felt bitter claiming that victory has been robbed from him on all these occasions on top of his supporters and himself being beaten, tea gassed, and jailed. Some have paid the ultimate price with their lives, including his brother, the affable Joseph Musasizi.

Like anyone who feels dissatisfied in such situations, it is difficult to simply shrug their shoulders and walk away when they still feel that they have a fight left in them. Make no mistake and like him or not, Besigye is very popular and has a great following in FDC and the Opposition in general, but like all of us, he has his detractors and critics as well.

Now it is apparent that for all intents and purposes, Besigye is angling and positioning himself to have this question of his allegedly stolen victories settled. To do this, he must have a base, which is FDC. The challenge for him is that being in control of the party as president is constitutionally limited to 10 years so he cannot be there forever.

Then, though being FDC presidential party flag bearer for is open, there is a ‘huge risk’ that the party may change its constitution to place restrictions on that as well. If that happens via an FDC constitutional amendment, then Besigye’s goose in this vein is cooked.

So there have been all sorts of efforts to keep the Besigye brand of politics at the centre of the party. This is not a simple matter. It calls for having like-minded delegates holding positions in the party that will be working to see that Besigye remains in the picture.

This is where Muntu’s troubles began. He cited the fact that when he took over as party president in 2012 after defeating Nathan Nandala Mafabi, a faction of leading figures in FDC led by the influential Besigye ‘departed’ from the party headquarters in Najanankumbi and set up shop in Nakasero. The party chairman, Wasswa Birigwa, went along with them.

The ‘split’ meant parallel activities like press conferences, policy pronouncements, and activities not endorsed by the Muntu leadership. It ridiculed Muntu very gravely. Some have claimed that by Besigye being away from the party, he was doing so to give Muntu space to breath and that as soldiers say, having two fronts was a strategy intended to stretch the NRM enemy.
Whatever the intentions and veracity of the claims, there are serious concern which Besigye and his supporters have to address in as far as the cost of keeping Besigye at the heart of FDC is concerned.

Like Museveni has always faced the questions, is it anywhere in the vision of FDC and Besigye to form a vibrant institution that is above personalities and has the capacity to grow and outlive them? What views do Besigye and his supporters have on building and respecting institutions even when their beliefs and strategies are contested? Is forming parallel structures to the party, which they, to their credit built with sweat and blood, a viable option to keep the party together?

What answers do they have to the query that for Besigye to remain a colossus in the party others must be undermining to make way for him? Does it occur to them that this is a good as the rigging that has supposedly cost Besigye four presidential elections?
Answers to these questions will form a major part of Besigye’s legacy as a leader in FDC. If they are not adequately addressed, they may ironically erode a greater part of it. That will be sad for a man who has sacrificed a lot for the party and democratic space in Uganda.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political
and social issues. [email protected]
Twitter: nsengoba