8 February 2017

Uganda: The Trouble With Besigye's Radicals

Photo: The Independent
FDC officials were waiting for Kizza Besigye on his return from Europe recently.
analysis

The trouble with Besigye's radicals

Something must be wrong, totally wrong with Besigye faction of FDC radicals. Either they are few on the ground but noisy on social media. In which case M7 can afford to ignore them.

Or they are many but lack both strategy and leadership to convert their strength into ability to gain power. In which case they need a new leader from Besigye.

Each of these scenarios has powerful implications on understanding the crisis of the opposition in Uganda. And both of them lead us to the inevitable conclusion that Besigye is the wrong leader for the opposition in Uganda.

Let me begin with the scenario that they are many and have consistently won presidential elections since 2001 as Besigye claims. How can they win elections four times in a row, then M7 steals it and all they can do is complain on social media at at rallies, radio and tv talk shows and yet M7 remains in power? How can Besigye enjoy such broad support for 16 years but is unable to galvanize it to seize power to defend the will of the people?

These questions lead us inevitably to two answers about both men. Besigye must be a very poor strategist and leader and M7 must be an exceptionally skillful leader and organizer.

To retain power through elections that you organize and lose - not once, twice but four times in row is unprecedented. Most dictators organize elections where they block their opponents from participating and get a clean 95%.

Yet in each election, especially in 2001, 2006 and 2016, M7 faced a real threat of losing power. Yet after the election Besigye complains and there are hardly any demonstrations by Ugandans to defend their will. To accept this reality can lead one to say Ugandans are cowards incapable of defending their rights.

But I find it hard to accept this. It does not make sense. M7 organized these same Ugandans in a military struggle and they prevailed against the odds - a Ugandan army many times their size backed by a Tanzanian army of almost equal size in only five years.

Anyone who seeks to challenge M7 must not only match him but exceed him at this level of leadership strategy and ability. I am convinced based on 16 years of Besigye knocking himself against M7's steel walk that M7 is the better strategist, organizer and leader.

You can have the best players with the best coach (as Arsenal people believe) but when it does not win trophies season in and season out, it becomes hard to keep saying u r the better team. Here the trophy is power.

So the problem cannot be the people but the lack of leadership strategy and ability. This leads me to question Besigye's continued leadership of the opposition.

I am inclined to believe that Besigye does not have the support he thinks he has and that the majority of his people actually accept their defeat whenever it happens. They recognize, like the Supreme Court, that there have been irregularities that they did not affect the final outcome. That is why they do not dash to the streets to defend their victory.

If this later conclusion is correct then the challenge facing the opposition is how to organize effectively to convert potential support into actual votes. This means being present not just on social media but in every district, sub county, parish and village, a task Besigye has proven himself incapable of achieving.

For now what Besigye has is a body of disorganized, unorganized, or poorly organized masses that can only act as a mob. Mobs rarely do things. Often they destroy things.

Organization gives structure to masses of people (or mobs) and converts their anger into purposeful political behavior. FDC is lacking the organization to convert both the actual and the potential support into purposeful political action.

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