Bobi Wine and Besigye: Who gains, loses in partnership?
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Did the May 6 agreement between Bobi Wine and Kizza Besigye to “partner” against President Yoweri Museveni weaken the People Power leader? Did it strengthen a sinking Besigye?
Besigye, representing the People’s Government, and Robert S. Kyagulanyi, the Kyadondo East MP also known as Bobi Wine, representing the People Power Movement and their teams met on May 06.
The cover for the meeting that took place at Bobi Wine’s home in Magere, Wakiso District, was that they were there to welcome him from jail. Bobi Wine had been jailed on April 29 and released on bail on May 02.
It was an unexpected turn because before it, Besigye and Bobi Wine had been lobbing sharp criticism at each other and their supporters appeared divided. Some were excited to see them working together but others were not.
In a joint statement after the meeting, Besigye and Bobi Wine had said: “we agreed that despite belonging to different formations/fronts, we must all work together as partners”.
What does being `partners’ mean? This was the main issue when the joint statement signed by Besigye for the People’s Government and Robert S. Kyagulanyi, the Kyadondo East MP also known as Bobi was released to the press on May 08.
But Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze who spoke for Besigye and erstwhile NTV news anchor turned politician Joel Senyonyi who spoke for Bobi Wine either stuck to the vague statement or issued clarification after clarification.
The statement said: “We acknowledge that the forces of change are stronger when we work together and speak with the same voice as we confront the common enemy”.
Does that mean that Besigye and Bobi Wine camps will field one presidential candidate in 2021, journalists asked.
“At this moment, it is difficult to talk about candidates,” Nambooze said.
She added: “We are in discussion. What is best for Uganda is that they see us as one team at the polls”.
Meanwhile Senyonyi said: “We hope we can pull all entities together and then we discuss”.
Both said each group will continue carrying out its own, separate activities but added that there would be some joint activities.
When it became clear that nothing was clear yet, some commentators said Bobi Wine, who appears to be surging ahead of all opposition leaders, had squandered his popularity by being associated with Besigye whose popularity is said to be sinking.
But did the May 6 agreement weaken Bobi Wine? Was Besigye sinking and did Bobi Wine rescue him? Was that a smart move? And can Besigye now cause trouble for Bobi Wine ahead of the 2021 presidential election?
In any case, Besigye appears to have embraced the renewed links to Bobi Wine.
At the most recent activity for his mother party; Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leaders and supporters at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi on May 12, Besigye scoffed that those who thought he had failed to overthrow President Museveni. He said that they had reached an understanding with Bobi Wine that in the war to overthrow Museveni, they faced the same challenges and that if they were to overcome them, they have to cooperate in that fight. Party leaders and supporters, he added, should not sit whenever Bobi Wine is mistreated.
The event comes after recent poll by Research World International (RWI) put Besigye behind Bobi Wine in popularity.
The poll showed that if elections were held today, Bobi Wine would get 22% of the vote and Besigye 13%. It is the first time any opposition leader is ahead of Besigye in a poll.
But Bobi Wine remains a far second to President Yoweri Museveni who got 32% in the popularity vote. That is why many think only a joint opposition candidate can challenge Museveni.
Besigye’s biggest challenge is that after four attempts, many see his efforts as an exercise in futility. The excitement appears to rotate around Bobi Wine. But can Besigye, who has rejected such moves in all previous elections, allow to Bobi Wine to lead the opposition?
These events are also happening when Besigye, who is a former FDC flag-bearer, has intensified activities in what appears an effort to shore up his support ahead of the 2021 elections.
He has been holding events across the country in recent months. His name has been in the headlines as police has teargased his meeting, dragged him out of radio stations, and occasionally detained him. These events are aimed at maintaining his position as the de facto leader of opposition.
Also, perhaps as a strategy, Besigye and FDC party loyalists have ignored or dismissed the poll showing Bobi Wine’s popularity.