16 July 2011

Uganda: Will Besigye Exit From Party Presidency Weaken FDC?

THE Sunday Vision has asked whether FDC will be a weaker or stronger party without Kizza Besigye. It is a question that ordinarily only either the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leaders or their most ardent supporters can accurately answer.

Besigye's initial objective in 1999, when he fell out with the mainstream Movement to launch his Reform Agenda (RA), was to "rid" Uganda of Yoweri Museveni and the Movement. But honestly, even with some of the current mistakes of the NRM, not well attended to, FDC, with or without Besigye, is a very short-term project in Uganda's political future.

At the time, Besigye and RA said they wanted President Yoweri Museveni out of leadership so that they could redirect the cause of the 1981-1986 resistance that made them wage the five-year protracted people's war. According to them, the Movement under Museveni's leadership, had become "diverted."

Driven by petty personal ambition disguised as a national cause, Besigye then launched himself to be the fickle opposition coalition presidential candidate for the 2011 elections, collecting around himself former defeated UPC, DP and disgruntled NRM politicians. Besigye although riding an abrasive political wave, tinged with sectarianism and lies was roundly defeated.

He then fled into self-imposed exile, associated with armed rebellion and later returned to contest again for president under the new multiparty dispensation. Rising on misplaced public sympathy largely generated by the overt mistakes of the Government which arrested him, Besigye almost assumed a semi-hero status that enabled him to garner 37% of the presidential vote in 2006.

Now, buoyed by this pseudo-success, Besigye became even bolder, if not brazen and reckless, to believe in public and foreign sympathies to deliver to him the presidency of Uganda until NRM completely shattered his and FDC's hopes in both the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2011.

So, regarding his own and FDC's publicly stated principal objective of ousting Museveni and NRM, they have failed. And their attempts so far to deny NRM and Museveni political credibility and legitimacy have come to nought, and it is very painful to them.

The secondary objective which was to build FDC into a disciplined, viable and strong alternative political force is clearly dwindling with each passing day, as neither Besigye nor FDC can build a strong, coherent and sustainable challenging policy platform to NRM.

The net result FDC has been or is systematically being reduced to a small group of self-aggrandisers bickering over political spoils, which will be easy for NRM to neutralise or absorb.

Besigye's third objective had been to reverse the political gains he claimed NRM failed to deliver on. Among these were a leaner and efficient public bureaucracy, rid government of widespread corruption and hopefully hold it accountable.

I submit that Besigye has miserably failed, and so he bequeaths a dysfunctional FDC to its membership and public. Having been reduced in the last election to 33 MPs out of 375, four district local government chairpersons out of 112 and failure to field even half of sub-county candidates, neither Besigye nor FDC should be proud.

Wafula Oguttu-FDC

About two weeks ago the president of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr Kizza Besigye surprised many Ugandans when he announced that he will be handing over the top position in the party to a new elected leader by 2014. He was addressing a party leader's post-election retreat in Mukono.

Those of us who are members of FDC were not surprised because we know very well that our party constitution provides for only two terms for its officials to serve in one particular position.

So like Besigye, all leaders who were elected in 2005, if we still want to continue serving as officials of the Party, we will have to step down and stand for different offices at the next party national delegates conference.

Some people were surprised by the announcement because they could not believe that Besigye who is seen by many as being synonymous with FDC and undoubtably still the strongest and most popular opposition leader in the country would ever want to step aside for someone else to take over! It is a rare move in Uganda.

While addressing the same retreat as guest speaker, a renowned researcher with Makerere Institute of Social Research, Dr. Golooba Mutebi, seemed to have either flashed a spotlight of doom over the party horizon or given a subtle caution to the party members when he said in Uganda political parties are built around personalities.

"The reality is that there is no NRM without Museveni and no FDC without Besigye," he said.

It is possible some people cannot imagine the existence of FDC without Besigye. But FDC members do.

As one of the founder members of FDC and someone who is quite knowledgeable on the quality and commitment of the leadership and the workings of the party - its strengths and weaknesses - I am confident that Besigye and his team have put in place strong enough shock absorbers to see the party through the transition.

In any case, Besigye is not leaving FDC. He will be around, still active and offering all the necessary support to the new team.

Party members are in agreement and have been preparing for the coming transition in the party leadership.

What is still not agreed upon is the possible change in the presidential candidate, come the 2016 presidential elections.

Besigye is still the preferred choice and is free to seek the Party flag and stand again if he so chooses.

I know of some party members who will not hear of Besigye leaving the stewardship of the party, let alone not being the one carrying the party flag in the next presidential race.

With the increasing storms blowing across the country because of the government's economic mismanagement and turmoil characterised by multiplying mass and sector strikes, FDC is the only well-organised party that can offer a much needed strong alternative leadership to the country.

Besigye is certainly aware of this fact and historical responsibility. What he does will be in this direction and not anything that will weaken the party.

Ugandans would never forgive him for abandoning them at an hour of great need in the struggle. And I am sure he will not.

The only serious threats to FDC will continue to be from NRM which will always employ all sorts of machinations, plots, bribery, arrests, disinformation and even killings in order to weaken and tame or destroy the party.

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