By Muhimbise George
Three facts about Dr. Besigye; His contribution to the struggle for change in the past two decades is unmatched, he has a good vision for Uganda and has been persistent in pursuing this vision.
Unfortunately having a good vision is not good enough unless it is backed by the right strategies. As Maxwell said “everything rises and falls on leadership”, Gen Museveni led 27 young men to the bush to remove an entrenched regime, that’s leadership!
The dream of any leader is to see his organization grow. Therefore, Dr Besigye’s role in FDC cannot be ignored because as a founding President, he is the vision bearer of an organization he founded.
Following the loss of 2006 & 2011 elections, Dr Besigye lost confidence in the Ugandan electoral process!
He opted for walk to work demonstrations which generated momentum & the NRM regime almost collapsed. This was in the wake of the Arab spring that saw Presidents Ben Ali of Tunisia, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Gadaffi regimes collapse!
To Besigye civil disobedience was a hot deal that would end Museveni’s rule. His efforts to convince FDC leaders to adopt civil disobedience strategy as opposed to elections was however futile. Some leaders believed that building FDC would be a means to influence the population for elections as well as civil disobedience.
Dr. Besigye therefore resigned from Party President to allow the party operate independently as he pursued civil disobedience and he camped at Katonga Road. At this point FDC was not prepared for a transition, in the two previous internal elections between Besigye & Muntu, Besigye had won with about 90 percent which means that majority in FDC believed in Besigye so much. So even when he left the Party leadership, he was still influential!
After Besigye’s resignation, Gen Muntu was elected after defeating Mafabi in a hotly contested election. Mafabi’s team despite openly conceding defeat, turned against their own word & challenged Muntu’s victory. Some of Mafabi supporters like Jack Sabiti resigned his position as Treasurer General, Mafabi himself resigned as Deputy Treasurer and Toterebuka Bamwenda too resigned his positions while Maj Rubaramira Ruranga who headed Mafabi campaign team joined NRM. Those that re-signed, and others who remained in the party but took a back seat all camped at Besigye’s Katonga office. This was good because they had a platform to operate from, but it was also bad because these leaders used Katonga as a base to fight Muntu’s leadership.
So instead of Dr. Besigye rehabilitating them to build FDC, he incorporated them in his activities & allowed them to use his place as a base to fight his successor. Failing to reconcile the leaders who strongly believed in Besigye was strategic mistake, it was perhaps because Besigye didn’t believe in parties that he didn’t give it attention!
Another mistake was that FDC had conflicting messages; Besigye’s message was “no reforms no elections” while Muntu’s message was about “Organizing the party for elections” with or without reforms. This continued to play in 2015 delegates conference between Besigye and Muntu when they competed for flag bearer! Imagine you are a party and you haven’t built consensus on whether or how to participate in an election, few months to voting day!
As 2016 approached, Besigye group realized he needed a Party and when FDC elected its NEC leadership, both camps presented candidates. Katonga group fronted Mafabi for Secretary General against Kasiano Wadri, Waswa Birigwa against Wandela Ogalo for Chairman, Geoffrey Ekanya for Treasurer, Ingrid Turinawe for Mobilisation among us others. This was an opportunity for reconciliation, but it instead became an avenue for continued fighting. When Mafabi became the Secretary General he captured the Party administration, finances, some administrators were harassed because they were royal to Muntu etc. Muntu’s reconciliatory and tolerant politics was taken advantage of!
When Muntu’s term ended in 2017, Katonga decided to recapture the party by fronting Patrick Amuriat. His message was; to reclaim Besigye’s 2016 stolen victory, returning Besigye to Najanankumbi, to remove Museveni from power in 3 years etc. They accused Muntu of being an NRM mole, a weak leader, refusing to be part in Peoples Government and for not reclaiming Besigye’s stolen victory etc. Clearly it was propaganda with no idea of what kind of a leader Amuriat presented. Unfortunately Ugandans enjoy politics of rhetoric, sloganeering, noise, excitement, hate etc as opposed to ideas or character, even someone who can’t chase a snail will promise to chase an armed dictator & you will see them clapping! That’s how Amuriat defeated Muntu, just on empty false hope!
To the ordinary FDC supporters majority who believed in Besigye, Muntu was a threat & so they voted for Besigye in Amuriat skin. Besigye knew that he was not going to contest in 2021 but went on to fight Muntu who had the ambitions. At this point Bobi Wine had not emerged and so by fighting Muntu I don’t know whom Besigye had wanted to hold FDC flag, if himself didn’t want it!
In 2018, after Muntu’s departure, Besigye convened a National Council meeting & announced that he would not contest in 2021. This was a big blow because none of the leaders was prepared save for Muntu who had been literally chased away. The Party did not bother to identify a flag bearer, somewhere they thought Besigye would change his mind & contest or even the regime would collapse before 2021 elections as they had always prophesied. As the saying goes, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”!
In late 2020, reality dawned on FDC that they needed a Presidential candidate. They went to Besigye who refused & asked them to work with NUP. It would be strategically wrong for a leading Opposition Party to cede space to a few months old Party, which was facing legal battles regarding its legality but also founded by a leader who was less than three years in the national politics. It would he putting all your eggs in one basket!
Amuriat was forced to contest as Presidential Flag bearer even when he wasn’t prepared. It’s at this point that the “desperate” Amuriat was given the alleged “dirty money” to fund his campaign, and this money has to date divided the party leaving it in shambles! Had Muntu been the FDC flag bearer; he would not have been compromised because he is a leader with character and is incorruptible. Secondly majority of the FDC MPs who left the party & lost elections would have maintained their seats. Lastly FDC would have had a good working relationship with NUP in management of 2021 elections!
The last blunder was how the dirty money issue was handled. Besigye seems not to have cared about the party perhaps because he doesn’t believe in Parties. Had he organized his team & fought internally, they would have ousted Mafabi, Ekanya & Amuriat from leadership.
Organizing a Delegate’s Conference against a Court order & running to the same courts for justice is self-defeating. With a new leadership having been elected, illegalities therein notwithstanding & with the state on the side of Najanankumbi faction, Besigye & team have been technically ousted from the party they founded, and sadly by the people they constructed.
Whereas Besigye and team have legitimacy from the population, running parallel & unrecognized outfits like Party Interim leadership and People’s Government could appear as a big joke.