18 December 2012

Uganda: Besigye Did the Best He Could for Uganda


This is in response to a debate that has ensued in the public regarding the future of Dr Kizza Besigye in the politics of Uganda, particularly in the FDC party, especially following the election of new party leader, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu.

Particular reference is made to The Observer article: End of Besigye?

Dr Kizza Besigye brought forward the party elections to give him an opportunity for early retirement and help him identify new blood for its leadership. This was no doubt good democratic practice, which he should be roundly commended for. In contrast with his counterpart in the NRM who rules paka-last, both as party and country chief, Besigye voluntarily offered to step down even when his legitimate term was still on.

Thus, if we should define democracy, this is the way we should - always creating opportunities for new leadership to come up in institutions. Yet, a question has arisen as to whether Kizza Besigye is now headed for oblivion! This is because a number of thinkers argue that the new party president, Mugisha Muntu, is likely to outshine Kizza Besigye's performance, thus scuttling the latter's hopes of ever being party flag bearer again, particularly in 2016.

Apparently, the FDC party constitution does not tag the party flag bearer to the party presidency. The two are separate. Thus Kizza Besigye is still eligible to stand if he wants to. In fact, it has been reported that he has already alluded to a possibility of standing again come 2016.

But Besigye does not always have to be in the mainstream politics of the country in order to remain relevant. For, he has done the best he could in the circumstances, failure to dislodge Yoweri Museveni notwithstanding. In fact his failure to 'deliver', as some people have termed it, cannot be blamed on his political weaknesses but on the weaknesses of Yoweri Museveni.

The latter does not brook any democratic practice but employs force instead. In other words, to unseat a man like Yoweri Museveni goes beyond mere reliance on the ballot paper. No wonder he once referred to himself as a cotter pin, meaning that he can only be removed by a hammer (read force). Yet this will never take us forward.

Dr Besigye hit the headlines in 2000 when, following a strong disagreement with the way Yoweri Museveni was leading the country, he opted to leave the system and stand for the country's presidency in the hope of changing things for the better.

This was after years of struggle in what he and a few others had believed was a resistance against bad leadership in Uganda. But as things turned out, he came to realize that he had been duped by the leaders of the struggle. His performance since then has been remarkable, highlighted by his exposure of Yoweri Museveni as a man never to be trusted.

Once, all of us believed that in Yoweri Museveni we had found a redeemer from the miseries of the past regimes which included dictatorship, corruption, election rigging and self-aggrandizement. But how deceived we were! For this country has never seen the level of corruption now termed 'lootocracy' as has been witnessed under the current regime.

Moreover, the level of intolerance of political opposition, especially in the highest office, has become so heightened that sometimes one wonders whether the past rulers have not come back in the soul of the current one.

We are all aware of the scares and threats that are often thrown around during election time to intimidate people into voting 'wisely.' In particular, we are usually reminded that someone is still strong enough to return to the bush to fight 'if need arises'! This is not to consider the oil that can allegedly only be managed by someone from NRM.

Therefore, in view of all these pronouncements, one cannot have expected Kizza Besigye, let alone anybody else, to cause change, using the ballot. To fault Besigye for 'failing to deliver' is to miss the point. I would rather we give him the credit for exposing a man who had always passed off as the most peaceful, and above all, development-minded democrat. What we have since discovered is that the man is certainly not any of these.

The author is a citizen of Uganda.

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