Besigye is wrongly Reading Uganda’s Political Trends

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Weeks of peaceful protests, that forced Algeria’s president for twenty years, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to abandon running again for office, and on Tuesday culminated in him relinquishing power with immediate effect has re-ignited Dr Kizza Besigye, back to ‘life’ swinging his political pendulum aimlessly. Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 and has rarely been seen in public.

In 2017, Zimbabwe’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was in a similar fashion also forced out, first, through a creeping internal ZANU-PF party coup later the military. Both Mugabe and Bouteflika are former revolutionaries, who, perhaps overstayed their welcome reaching senility, and became ensnared by cliques that couldn’t keep them in power endlessly leading to being toppled by a combination of local opposition, public protests, and military intervention. 

In Sudan, Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who seized power in a military coup in 1989, has, for now at least, withstood protests initially over bread scarcity and price, but quickly turned into demands for him to leave power. The protest, seem to have sputtered after Bashir resigned as chairman of the National Congress party, made some political changes, and imposed a year-long state of emergency. The emergency decree bans protests, public gatherings, political activities, and gives security forces more powers to monitor and detain individuals, and seize property deemed being used to aid civil disobedience. 

Mugabe’s former vice president, Emerson Mnangagwa, was then installed by the military and a few months later, neutralised opposition pressure by calling for elections which ZANU-PF decisively won at parliamentary level, although his presidential win was razor-thin and disputed. In both Zimbabwe and Algeria, the ageing presidents were accused of letting a cabal of un-elected officials to hijack the authority of the state. 

In Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Algeria, what began as matters of fuel, tuition fees, bread and butter, quickly degenerated into street political brawls, that the ailing presidents, apparently held hostage by cliques, found difficult and unable to handle. The voices of the people who demanded ‘change’ appear to have been short-changed by the military which installed governments of their own choice and convenience. 

These events, appear to be emboldening sections of Uganda’ opposition led by Besigye, whose political pendulum seems to be swinging aimlessly. It isn’t surprising therefore, that opposition groups are falling heads over tails, believing Uganda is heading the same direction. Uganda is a robust democracy, and stable state with an effective President Yoweri Museveni. On Wednesday, Mugisha Muntu, who is still struggling to find his way in the muddle, tweeted “Algerians have had their voices heard. Their resilience in the face of adversity is commendable. The will of the people can be challenged and attempts to resist it can be made, but eventually, as surely as night follows day, change comes!” This tweet, demonstrates a huge muddle!

Two months ago, Besigye announced to the world, that 2019, was the year of political “action” in Uganda, to topple President Museveni before elections scheduled for February 2021. Presumably, the last two decades Besigye has spent in active opposition politics including four times as presidential candidate have been trial matches, building his muscles. Alongside that announcement, Besigye inaugurated a political outfit he described as a ‘peoples’ government’ whose main task was to ‘reclaim’ his victory ‘stolen’ in 2016. The other task is to establish countrywide structures to mobilize for civil disobedience and an uprising to enable him topple President Museveni.

Since then, and following two resolutions by the NRM Central Executive Committee, and Parliamentary Caucus in Chobe and Kyankwanzi respectively, Besigye, as a political copycat, has been going places urging Ugandans not to let Museveni appear on the ballot paper in 2021. According to Besigye, President Museveni has ruined Uganda’s economy which is now on its knees with widespread poverty, and basic social services like health and education are nothing to write home about. Early this week as if to further dampen the morale of FDC supporters, Besigye told them that government was too broke to hold the 2021 general elections, and therefore people shouldn’t waste their time. He castigated the on-going registration for national identity card, a pre-requisite for voter registration as worthless, because, in his dim view, elections can’t bring a democratic change in Uganda. 

According to Besigye, the NRM government, which he calls a ‘junta’, employs intimidation, cajoling, and bribery as its main tool against opposition leaders except himself. In effect, Besigye sees only ‘ghosts’ and untrustworthy people around him. It is an admission that many in the opposition are not worth the lofty ideals they publicly claim to represent. This brash style of an outsider, further demonstrate how Besigye’s pendulum is swinging aimlessly and could confuse his followers. No wonder, Besigye is wearing thin, and seen by most people as a greedy spoiler, unable to unite, yet unwilling to give way. Besigye believes that he is on a mission from the gods to save Uganda from Museveni’s ‘junta’, and if he doesn’t succeed in martyred fashion, he will go crying about betrayal for the rest of his life.