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Kizza Besigye in Rendezvous With Political Destiny

By Ofwono Opondo

March 21, 18

The adage “don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house,” seem to have caught up with former NRM honcho, Dr Kizza Besigye, now political turncoat, and a restless fire-thrower over alleged land grabbing, and other forms of state patronage. Besigye last week got exposed over grabbing of public land in Kyankwanzi district where he had curved out up to eighty acres of land belonging to the National Leadership Institute (NALI) which he once supervised between 1988 and 1991 as the National Political Commissar (NPC) of the NRM. In a sense, Besigye is coming to a rendezvous with his political destiny, and he may not be able to completely bury some of his ugly political past.
This is relishing because all along Besigye has postured as one who has never benefited unfairly from state patronage under Museveni, and has been the leading fire thrower castigating others. And I like the fact that this revelation has denied Besigye to bask in the glow of Jinja East. It is imperative that Besigye fully accounts publicly how, when and the source of the money he used to acquire the swathe of over one square mile of public land in Kyankwanzi district in 1988 when we all know he and others had just come from Luwero Triangle in rugs.  
Kyankwanzi was a twenty seven square mile land established in the 1960s by UPC government for the National Youth Service, a.k.a. Kasanvu, which never took off. Idi Amin turned it into a hard labour prison, before UPC II used it for training the dreaded Special Forces of John Martin Ogole to fight the NRA ‘bandits’. I joined Kyankwanzi in 1988, and there were no squatters, and had a radius of about 20km completely empty. But, around 1989 military officers associated with the then NRM secretariat began to infiltrate squatters from their home districts, and many of those officers today have ranches there.
Without dwelling on the legitimacy of Besigye’s acquisition is, it’s instructive that Besigye who relishes the media is now avoiding direct questions over Kyankwanzi land saying courts, he has castigated as compromised by Museveni, will settle the matter. May be, Besigye’s chickens are coming home roast.
The obvious question Besigye should answer is how he got the money to purchase over one square mile of public land when he and others had just emerged from the Luwero jungle in rugs. More fundamental is the apparent primitive accumulation of ‘wealth’ he had because twenty years down, he has not put that land productive use. And remember, most of them except Museveni had joined the bush war as young men from Makerere University, or school drop outs roaming their villages.
We all know that in 1986 until very recently financial transparency and accountability in public policy formulation was so lacking, and many exploited that vacuum to accumulate whatever they could. Even today, abuse of public office by leaders hasn’t been effectively checked.
It appears that as we strengthen our democracy and public accountability in governance, old sins are returning to haunt those like Besigye who had thought they had escaped the wheel of political scrutiny by joining opposition politics as a fashion. And this is not the first time Besigye finds himself being confronted by his past in government. In 2001, when Besigye first launched his presidential bid, he presented himself as a clean politician devoid of the trappings of state patronage and got down to assail President Museveni’s record especially on giving public jobs to those perceived as close to his family.
However, soon after, hand written chits written by Besigye emerged which he sent to various government entities including then Security Advisor to the president, Lt. Col. Kale Kayihura who was also heading the anti-smuggling unit (ASU) at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) asking him to recruit youths from Rukungiri into the unit. ASU was financially lucrative due the rampant black market.
What shocked the nation’s political class was that all the names Besigye had sent were only from Rukungiri, in spite of the fact that Besigye had since 1986 served as state minister for internal affairs, NPC, commander of mechanized brigade in Masaka, Chief of Logistics and Engineering (CLE) of the UPDF, and military assistant to the defence minister which should have exposed him to a broader national outlook. It also emerged that it was, Besigye who led NRA, now UPDF team of ‘experts’ that recommended the controversial purchase of the so-called “junk military helicopters” from the republic of Belarus, formerly part of the defunct Soviet Union. And during that tenure we also the case of undersized uniforms for the UPDF.
We, in the elect-Museveni campaign taskforce used these documents to expose Besigye as a political charlatan whose national outlook was only limited to his birth place, and was merely exploiting grievances of other regions and ethnicities for selfish gains. Besigye had never travelled to northern and eastern parts of Uganda, and in fact had condescending attitude towards them. And although he ganged up with the old UPC and DP groups, his platform collapsed in that election.