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ANALYSIS: Besigye reloaded

Besigye at the launch of Tubalemese in January 2018.

Does Twerwaneko mean he will run against People Power in 2021?

Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Kizza Besigye’s recent launch of a national campaign dubbed Twerwaneko (Let’s defend ourselves) is being seen by some as a strategy for the veteran politician to launch himself right back into the political fray after close to three years of a Bobi Wine tidal wave.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said as much to Besigye when the two squared off on a popular television talk show.

On the previous four occasions; 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016, Besigye has stood on a strong quest for change. But now it may beg the question; will his campaign plank still be change on the his fifth shot at the presidency when there’s a 39-year-old Bobi Wine on the same 2021 campaign trail?

Besigye calls Twerwaneko a “clarion call” to address the enormity of challenges and injustices the country that is facing; incessant murders, police brutality, kidnaps, poverty. The campaign will be kicked off with a citizens’ national convention.

He also told those present at Katonga Road that there is an existential threat to Ugandans adding “new people” could take over Uganda.

He says his new campaign is premised on Article 3 of the Constitution which gives a right to Ugandans to defend the constitution in case anyone tries to overthrow it or abrogate it. The article puts agency in the hands of Ugandan citizens.

Besigye launched Twerwaneko on Oct. 24 at a press conference at his office on Katonga Road in Kampala flanked by members of his ‘People’s Government’ like vice president Erias Lukwago, who is Kampala City Lord Mayor and other senior members like Rubaga North MP Moses Kasibante.

Besigye said those seeking change in Uganda should find convergence in Twerwaneko.

Roland Mugume Kaginda, Coordinator of People’s Government in Western Uganda and ‘Minister for Trade’ in the same government says the people’s government is ready to work with all forces to bring change and he does not appear to be using the same radicalism like Kaija and Besigye or most of those in FDC have.

“What Besigye is trying to say is that we need to first level the ground. He is saying, how can we work together to level the ground?” he told The Independent in an interview.

“The government is trying to create a problem between and People Power and us. We just want to put the country in order.”

He says if the government accepts reforms, it would be a good starting point. He adds, “if the government refuses and keeps on doing what it is doing, like recruiting crime preventers, then you cannot do much.”

Kaginda an otherwise hardline member of the People’s Government spoke with a resigned tone during the interview. Sources within People’s Government say not everyone is on board with the Twerwaneko campaign.

If Besigye is targeting the 2021 presidential elections, then his timing looks perfectly set as campaigns start next year.

It also means the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM), the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and the latest political vehicle, People Power, led by MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine are likely to slug it out in what promises to be a swashbuckling clash in February 2021.

President Yoweri Museveni with NRM enjoy incumbency and have state machinery at their disposal.  FDC with the indefatigable Dr. Kizza Besigye has thumped NRM in by-elections in Jinja East and for the Rukungiri Woman MP seat in 2018 and is the only opposition party worth its heft.

On the other hand, the People Power under Bobi Wine have been testing their appeal, and quite successfully on some occasions, like with the by-elections held in Arua and Bugiri last year.

Museveni is bent on keeping power at all costs, which is his motivation for running in 2021 and Bobi Wine is eager to prove his star appeal as a new player in a scene dominated by politicians from a fast fading Bush War era (1981-1986). Therefore it leaves Besigye in sort of a bind. Although he has not explicitly stated that he is contesting, sources in FDC say he will aim for a fifth shot at the presidency.

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