Besigye asks Opposition not to turn guns on selves

Dr Kizza Besigye, the People’s Front for Transition leader, in a standoff with police in downtown Kampala before he was arrested on May 24. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

With the rising cost of living pushing many Ugandans over the precipice, the People’s Front for Transition (PFT) has drummed up support for a fightback.

Speaking at an event at the JEEMA party headquarters in Mengo, Kampala on Friday, Dr Kizza Besigye—the PFT leader—said that it is abundantly clear that “many people are in a total crisis.” 

Soaring fuel prices as well as rising energy and food bills have put pressure on budgets of many households. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) at the backend of last month confirmed that annual headline inflation rose from 4.9 percent in April to 6.3 percent. Annual core inflation, which excludes transitory price changes from its index, also shot up to 5.1 percent from 4.3 percent in April.

The central bank responded by tightening its monetary policy. The central bank rate was increased by one percentage point to 7.5 percent. This is expected to increase the cost of credit in the country.

“The ones who were borrowing from here to pay the other debt, borrowing from there to pay the other debt now have nowhere to borrow even,” Dr Besigye said on Friday, adding that the country has since been split into “the Uganda of bread and Uganda of cassava.” 

Dr Besigye, who unsuccessfully faced off with President Museveni across four presidential elections, said the status quo will be maintained if Ugandans don’t have it in them to mount a fightback.

“We believe that for Ugandans to get what they want, they must fight for it,” he said, adding, “What PFT does not believe in is to fight with guns.”

The PFT leader is out on a cash bail after he was arrested while drumming up support for protests over the cost of living crisis. The veteran politician’s return to the political trenches after he chose to sit out the 2021 presidential poll appears to have polarised the Opposition. 

Leading Opposition party National Unity Platform (NUP) has been called out by some observers for not showing robust support to Besigye’s acts of civil disobedience. Last week, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi—the NUP spokesperson—told Sunday Monitor that “anybody can take part in protests. This should be about Ugandans; not us.”

On Friday, Dr Besigye weighed in on the issue. He said thus: “All of us who want change may think of using different approaches. We might not all think the way PFT thinks, and that is normal, that is fine. We don’t have to think the same way.”

Dr Besigye also added: “I ask all of you fighters never to turn your gun on the other fighters because they don’t agree with what you are doing.”

President Museveni spoke fleetingly about the current cost of living crisis in his State-of-the-Nation address this past week on Tuesday. Mr Museveni described the current inflationary pressures as transitory.

“When it comes to the recent high commodity prices caused, initially, by the relaunch of the world economy after the two years of lockdown and, additionally, by the war in Ukraine, our decision, after careful analysis, is to avoid the traps of tax cuts and subsidies,” Mr Museveni said.

“Instead, we are doing two things. One, is to engage the global actors that have caused these artificial shortages. I have contacted some of the actors. I am glad His Excellency Biden is going to Saudi Arabia to meet the Crown Prince to get OPEC [Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] to pump more petroleum out of the ground,” he added.

Mr Museveni also revealed that an in-person meeting between the African Union chairperson (Senegal president, Mack Sall) and Russia’s Vladimir Putin discussed how best to get wheat and fertilisers out of the restive Black Sea region.