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Besigye’s coalition of the intolerant

Besigye expected to attend Tuesday prayers. FILE PHOTO

THE LAST WORD: By Andrew Mwenda

While NRM is a corrupt government, FDC has evolved into an extremist antidemocratic party

Most commentary on politics in Africa tends to revolve around the analysis of the actions and motivations of incumbents in power. A narrative has consolidated: those in power in Africa seek power for selfish motives. Public service is never a part of their calculus. This is not an entirely wrong analysis. But it is an overly simplistic one. Public and private interests are not always mutually exclusive. The pursuit of private interests often forces politicians to articulate public objectives.

However, the narrative against incumbents in Africa has led to a fatal error: anyone fighting an entrenched government is presented as seeking to advance democracy, accountability and human rights. African opposition politicians, journalists, “civil society” activists have learnt how to exploit the prejudices against incumbent leaders to position themselves – in the eyes of the international (actually read Western) media as fighting dictatorship, corruption, and impunity.

If there is a gross misrepresentation of Africa, this is it. Because for the opposition on our continent, their motivations are not analysed but analogised, their claims are not scrutinised but assumed to be sincere, their democratic credentials are not questioned but taken for granted. Thus, everyone who rises up to challenge power claims to be fighting for democracy, defending human rights and opposing corruption and the world buys the claims at face value.

The tendency to equate opposition to an incumbent government to a struggle for democracy (as opposed to a struggle for power) has led to many disasters as we can see in Libya, Yemen, and Syria. In the case of Libya, we see what these “democrats” have done to that country. Indeed, the lesson from history is that power has very specific dynamics that tend to reproduce similar actions from those who hold it.

It should be obvious from any study of history that all too often successful rebels tend to replicate the ills they denounced in their predecessors. The best illustration of this inherent contradiction of power is George Orwell’s `Animal Farm’ and Arthur Koestler’s great novel, `Darkness at Noon’.

All too often opposition movements in most of Africa are not fundamentally dissimilar to incumbents they fight. This conclusion should be obvious for it only goes to underline the fact that those in power and those outside of it come from the same society. Therefore their actions and behavior to a large degree reflect societal dynamics than the character of an individual leader or political party.

The best example is the FDC party in Uganda. Its leaders and supporters have placed themselves on a high moral pedestal claiming they are fighting for freedom, democracy, and accountability. But does FDC represent a democratic alternative to NRM’s “dictatorial” hold on power? We can examine the behavior of FDC leaders and followers to establish the party’s democratic credentials.

For the record, FDC has many leaders of good standing. People like Augustine Ruzindana, Mugisha Muntu, Amanya Mushega, Abdul Katutu, Morris Ogenga Latigo, Ronald Reagan Okumu, etc. appear to me to be democratic minded. However an extremely angry and intolerant faction led by Dr. Kizza Besigye has come to dominate the party. Besigye himself, as he tenaciously clings onto the leadership of FDC is blind to how similar to President Yoweri Museveni he is.

For this loud, angry, and intolerant dominant section of FDC leaders and activists, everyone who supports NRM does so – not out of honest difference of opinion – but out of a selfish desire for material enrichment. Anyone who disagrees with them, however mildly, is an enemy of Uganda. Anyone who expresses anything, however small, that shows Museveni and NRM to have achieved anything, that person has been bribed, and supports dictatorship and human rights abuses. Any support for NRM and Museveni is treason; criticism of their party and its god, Kizza Besigye, is sacrilege.

Thus just as NRM has consolidated a personality cult around Museveni, FDC has consolidated a messiah cult around Besigye. And just like Museveni is the only candidate NRM fields for the presidency, Besigye is the only candidate FDC fields for the presidency in spite of losing elections four times in a row. It is possible; therefore, that what we are seeing is not the behavior of either individuals (Museveni or Besigye) but a much broader problem deeply rooted in our agrarian society. For the NRM, only Museveni can rule Uganda. For the FDC, only Besigye can challenge Museveni in an election.

Whenever there is any criticism of FDC, however mild it may be, its fanatical supporters flood social media like a swarm of bees and virulently attack, accuse, insult, and verbally terrorise any dissenter. This is perhaps the most extremist and intolerant party in our history. FDC is not just undemocratic. The party is actually an extremist anti democracy group. One is either with them or against them. They do not accept the legitimacy of any opinion contrary to their own. This is even worse because unlike the NRM which has serious policy ideas, FDC is bereft of any serious policy proposal except populist slogans.

But this should also lead us to ask another question. Right now FDC lacks the coercive and repressive infrastructure of the state to jail their opponents. But they possess the power of social media where they are always keen to viciously attack, hurl insults, and make false accusations at anyone who disagrees with them. They have actually won a lot of space on social media through verbal terrorism. And one wonders what they would do to their opponents and critics if they also controlled the state’s instruments coercion and repression.

The point here is simple but fundamental. FDC cannot represent a democratic alternative to NRM because the party is by the very nature of its modus operandi an antidemocratic force. Its civil and democratic minded leaders have been silenced and sidelined. Besigye himself, who was a moderate with strong democratic convictions, has only retained his leadership of the party by appealing to the passions of its most extremist radicals and by pandering to their whims.

This is a moment for Ugandans genuinely committed to a liberal democratic future to pause and reflect. Like the people of Ivory Coast who embraced Laurent Gbagbo, a politician who had been in the trenches of opposition politics for many years, Ugandans may one day wake up to a very rude awakening when Besigye is president and they realise that he is not any different from those he has fought with fanatical zeal. The danger is not in Besigye the man (I find him tolerant and accommodating). It is in the social forces that have rallied around him.

****

amwenda@independent.co.ug

13 comments

  1. Mwenda is falling over himself trying to make a comparison between the FDC and NRM- between Museveni and Besigye. In so doing, he’s making a seamless but fatal mistake; that Besigye is Museveni. For a moment, let’s imagine that before we are born by our exceedingly beautiful mamas, we have a prenatal discussion with our maker (God). And the purpose of this discussion is to plead before God that we shall do good once we’re let into His world. Let’s further imagine that Mwenda had two siblings that preceded him (a one Maggie and Kay). That these siblings have, however, turned out to be a menace to society. And here comes an “innocent” embryonic Mwenda pleading with God for his future
    existence. Would it be fair to Mwenda if God rejected his plea basing on the fact that this particular womb whence Mwenda is coming from has produced two monsters before him? My natural answer is, No, it would be unfair to Mwenda. However, if Mwenda had tried to look for the differences between the FDC and NRM- there is an unmistakable difference.

    NRM is at best the political wing of NRA an armed rebel outfit that captured power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war that claimed 800,000 Ugandan lives. It has been in power for the last 30years under the singular- unrivalled rule (as both the president and chairman of NRM) of Museveni. On the other hand, the FDC was founded in 2004 from two emerging
    groups i.e. PAFO (a group of like minded Members of Parliament- Parliamentary Advocacy Forum) and the Reform Agenda- who were historically NRM but with dissenting views from those of President Museveni. Although, two of its leaders (Col. Kiiza Besigye and Gen. Mugisha Muntu) have a military background, none of them has yet sounded war tantrums. They have been civil in their political advancements subjecting themselves to the established Constitutional mechanisms. Dr. Kiiza Besigye has addressed his electoral grievances twice in the courts of law (in 2001 and 2006). He has been severally charged for
    treasonable offences only government failing to adduce incriminating evidence.

    To allay Mwenda’s concerns that the FDC is “intolerant”, let me take him through the front seat of the Party’s history. In its twelve years’ existence, FDC has had two party presidents- Col. Kiiza Besigye and Gen. Mugisha Muntu. It has had four Chairpersons- Dr. Sulaiman Kiggundu, Butiime, Sam Njuba and Wasswa Birigwa. It has had two Secretary Generals- Alice Alaso and Nandala Mafabi. To make a personal case for Dr. Kiiza Besigye, he resigned during the 2nd year of his second term (2012), giving chance to Mugisha Muntu who had to tussle it out with Nandala Mafabi and finally emerging as President. At the helm of the Party,
    Gen. Muntu embarked on realising his ‘brainchild’ which was to build party structures from the “grassroots.” Through his efforts, the party was able to convene a ‘delegates conference.’ It is this delegates conference (in 2015) that resoundingly elected Dr. Kiiza Besigye as the Party’s Presidential candidate for the 2016 Presidential general elections. To claim that the FDC lacks ‘alternative leadership’, is another political hunch intended to annoy. On, 9th March, 2015, the President of FDC unleashed a National alternative programmed dubbed, ‘Uganda’s Leap Forward.’ Under this programme, he outlined four actionable plans; a plan to invest in people and expand opportunity for every Ugandan; a plan to re-engineer new sources of growth and create well-paying and decent jobs for people; a plan to strengthen the national security, create a new leadership and strengthen public service; and a plan to build people-centered regional integration and global partnerships. One can only wonder how a journalist of Mwenda’s acclaim could miss the contents of such a public meeting. One would expect a criticism of these hard facts but not an outright dismissal.

    I want to understand Mwenda’s quarrel. His newly acquired stand seems to be: “Let Besigye stop opposing Museveni and then Museveni will leave power.” But first things first. Besigye did not “create” Museveni. So, to presuppose that Besigye’s continued opposition only fuels Museveni’s hold onto power; is false. However, it can be said that Museveni’s leadership style “creates” his opposition, and so, it would be logical to put an end to Besigye’s “creator.” Secondly, unlike Museveni who has the state machinery at his disposal, Dr. Kiiza Besigye is devoid of such a coercive line-up that might politically devastate any hopes of an emerging opposition be it mighty or not. I want to believe that in the just concluded presidential elections, Mr. Amama Mbabazi was a formidable opposition candidate who had both the backings of two traditional political parties (UPC and DP) and also the financial muscle to challenge the presidency. His decimal performance could have been a disapproval on so many fronts. 1) That maybe the voters still considered Dr. Besigye as the better alternative to Museveni’s rule. 2) That maybe his politics was not fit for the Ugandan political terrain. In the meantime, I am requesting Mwenda to play the “political god”- Let “Him” accept that Besigye is different from Museveni, at least by biopsy.

    • Rajab

      Your justification of Besigye’s “Fourth Term is not different from all pro M7 gospel that we get.

      No matter the circumstances, after 4 attempts Besigye should give others a chance. Failure to do so justifies Mwenda’s claim

      • Abe the difference between me and the Museveni choir is that: Part of my hard earned salary goes to Museveni (through taxation) on the promise that he’s to put up roads, schools and hospitals -I don’t pay Kiiza Besigye. Museveni swore to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, he has, however, amended it to accommodated his penchant for power. Kiiza Besigye does not teargas his opponents, arrest them on trumped up charges or court martial them. The blame should be to Museveni who makes it harder for those who would have wished to oppose him but lack the courage and steel as Besigye does – faint hearted who keep on asking themselves: ‘why doesn’t Kiiza Besigye leave the man, what has he achieved so far? To me this is “redirected aggression.” Simply because they can’t effect a change they turn to the “soft spot” Besigye. It is to me a complete act of cowardice.

      • Who gave Besigye the chance? I thought the selection of the candidate for FDC was done by voting. How come you are talking od Besigye giving a chance? Does he even have the power to give the chance you are talking about?

  2. Francis Kiggundu

    Without prejudice to either President YK M7 or his nemesis Dr Besigye, both of whom ascribed to violence to ascend to power, we as Ugandans must realise the evolution of democracy that we must experience in order to achieve a nation state.

    We are always reminded that the democracy we ascribe to from the west is a century old experiment whose finesse they still grapple with, and whose future is uncertain given the regressive trends of Brexit and the U.S. election of demagoguery. As Ugandans, we have gone through post colonial idealism for which we experimented with socialism, revolutionary wars and finally achieved the semblance of a state detached from the needs of the people. It is this detachment that creates fodder for emotive politics. Emotions that are then exploited to sustain the kind of undemocratic movements that you point out as being the dominant force for change.

    We must thus, like the Arab Spring nations, disabuse ourselves of emotive politics by experiencing the onslaught of change in the way it will present itself. What cannot be reversed is either the need or desire for change. The kind of change we get is dependent on the kind of incumbency that is resisted. The FDC intolerant movement is a direct consequence of the NRM intolerant state. The two decades of police, army and intelligence service brutality on the population is what has created a hateful generation desirous of retribution. This is a people beyond tolerance. These are the social forces that have rallied around Dr Besigye. His thirst for power is what holds him hostage to these forces. It is the brand that will deliver change and the brand that will derail us into war.

    The decades of power that President M7 has reigned have created a significant armed military and intelligence component among the populace. A component that claims the right to patriotism. They are, including Dr Besigye, a direct consequence of the Fronasa/NRA revolutionary movements that declared War on Idi Amin with only one year in power and Obote II immediately after the 1980 elections. They are the politically active citizens who took it upon themselves to analyse the leadership of these two leaders and thus arrived at the conclusion that they were dictators and were to be fought immediately. It is this crop, or its remnants after the intolerant purge that follows the immediate post M7 era, who will rise up in arms to fight the Dr Besigye presidency that they will have analysed and concluded to be dictatorship worth resisting.

    The social forces around Dr Besigye though attracted to the need for change, are more driven by the perceived injustice of corruption that is expressed as a blanket blame upon the tribal sect presumed to be in power. One only need attend an emotionally charged rally or street protest to quickly discern that the drive is more a hatred driven by resentment against the ‘tribal class’ that has amassed colossal wealth at the expense of the general population, rather than a clamour for democracy. It is this anger that will be unleashed in a cleansing purge. This intolerance and abuse of which you speak – pent up frustration in my view – is what will lead to a regression to violent reprisals and infighting as witnessed in the Arab nations that were unfortunate enough to undergo the Arab Spring.

    The blame therefore, and the solution lie more with President M7 than with Dr Besigye in the sense that only he has the power to reign in the corruption and mismanagement of resources that will be fodder for the annihilation that will follow his exit. This annihilation will be blanket reprisal on entire tribal groupings and all that bear facial features of resemblance. It will be an anger out of control, much like the rallies and street protests, because a leader held hostage is a leader unable to reign in his base. Dr Besigye may believe in non-violence, but the change he represents will directly lead to armed resistance as those targeted for purging and wealth reversal, will once again claim the revolutionary upper hand; that kind of patriotism that leads citizens to pick up arms to fight a newly formed government.

    President M7 can thus take responsibility for the anarchical opposition politics that may be destined to take power after his exit by diffusing the resentment and pent up anger and frustration in the populace. A truly tough stance on corruption and the corrupt, in a manner devoid of window dressing, is what will negate emotion in politics. I find it hard to believe that a government that operates like a principality, reigning over kingdoms in which people love their Kings to death and recognise their leadership by birth – and for life – can create the kind of intolerant clamour for change that will definitely lead to war in the immediate post-M7 era. No, this is about corruption. This is about wealth and livelihood. This is both envy and anger towards those that have privileged themselves to amass wealth in the midst of lack and misery. As much as you realise Dr Besigye the man to be accommodative and intolerant, in the same way you seem to believe President M7 to be equally accommodative and intolerant, can only lead to one conclusion. This is not about love and hate for either, it may be about power struggle by both, but the key of the future is the forces rallying against each. These forces will inevitably clash at some point and out of that clash, with perhaps two more in the distant future, Uganda and Ugandans will evolve as a people born of and fed up with tragedy. Only then will clear rules be spelt out by all. Clear rules on amassing wealth and contesting for power. Until then, the wheel of the revolution must continue spinning – it must absolve and swallow in the same breath!

  3. and yet the said anger and intolerance about NRM ways is not to be found in opposition alone, watch Tamale Mirundi and his hatred for you westerners, as he plants and waters the same anger and hatred in the populace under the cover of him supporting M7 to avoid detection. Tamale Mirundi describes you Mwenda and co as an intolerant lot, who listens to none but themselves. The opposition haven’t bullied NRM on social media, the simple fact you witness that silence is that the so-called nrm no longer believe in it but using it to loot.Where have you seen a spirited defence of this government in courts, in fact M7 has to send his inlaws where he needs some outcome. My friend, nrm has run out of steam, a new dispensation is needed either from itself or without. fortunately for it and unfortunately for Uganda, it has in firm grip all levers of power and so evenif government is awash with incompetence, corruption, mismanagement, insensitivity etc, I think they remain firmly in charge. It is the sad reality of our generation.

  4. Democracy has largely remained a foreign reality -a Western pseudo-ideal -that we (read Africans) have failed to domesticate. The more we parrot cut-and-paste in our attempt to democratize Africa, the more we’ll continue to witness the frustration within the political opposition groups as the incumbent regimes hold grip on power and/or seek to influence electoral outcomes. The difference may not be all that significant in transiting regimes like Tanzania from one-man-show regimes such as Zimbabwe and Uganda.

    Before we surrender our helplessness to the predatory NRM-like hegemonic regimes across Africa, we MUST, in my view, first come to terms with the fundamental question of whether we should actually seek to democratize Africa or, instead, seek to Africanize democracy! I believe the answer lies beyond the social dynamics-individual character binary that forms the basis of Mwenda’s argument, to the core question of which political system is adaptive to Africa’s historical and evolutionary reality!

    I would be keen to follow a debate that seeks to question democracy itself and its applicability to Africa’s, instead of castigating our leaders for failure to lead democratically.

  5. Andrew Mwenda;Gone too soon! He was such a young charismatic journalist with independent thought and a role model for many but the cruel hand of corruption,like Death,knows no boundary.May his Memories Rest in Peace.Portraying the likes of Latigo,Ruzindana,Katuntus as democrats and Besigye as a die hard is what NRM would like to make us believe.Why? Because they love weak leaders,leaders who don’t give them sleepless nights like Besigye. Andrew Mwenda should choose between journalism and politics.A few years ago this same Andrew was all over the place exposing Museveni’s regime.He at once mentioned Muiseveni’s regime as being the worst Uganda has seen since independence.All of s sudden,Museveni became the gold Uganda had never mined since independence.All the wrongs he had earlier pointed out became achievements.Mwenda knows too well that Museveni has never won a free and fair elections in his life time.Even the 1996 polls when he was still popular and faced a weakre Paul Semogerere he still had to rig..Museveni has rigged Besigye 4 good times and the 2016 polls were the most rigged polls in the history of Uganda.Why them should Besigye and co keep quite when Musevveni,who came 3rd in 1980 made the loudest noise and went to fight yet the true complainant should have been DP??
    The day Museveni’s regime falls,The likes of Andrew Mwenda should not be spared because the urged the regime on knowing well the peoples choices were being shot at by soldiers.The day the regime falls i will personally look out for Mwenda to answer some questions.You are the people fanning dictatorship in Uganda.

    • Being an anarchist does not make you powerful or a great leader. Great leaders are represented by great ideas and great ideals. Besigye is no a saint but what he does is to coerce people to embrace violence while disrupting businesses , scaring tourists and investors. The other thing you have to agree with Andrew is that FDC has turned into an authoritarian opposition party just embedded on the disorientation of one man. What we see in the NRM are the same things manifesting themselves in the FDC. We’re seeing power struggle in the FDC, we see greed and chaos in the party but opposition fanatics don’t want to speak about these things. The FDC has populism but lacks credible ideals to make Uganda democratic. This is true because its top leaders especially Besigye has kept on disorienting the young youths with a doctrine of violence, anger and civil disobedience. This is very dangerous for the society

      • You are dead wrong were247.Do you really know the meaning of the word “Coerce”?? Do not use words without understanding their meanings. Since when did Besigye Coerce people to embrace Violence??Besigye is a popular leader elected by the people to be their president. Besigye’s appearance on the streets of kampala is enough to bring out his supporters. People are angry because their choice was stolen in broad day light and you know that too well. Who embraces violence between KB and M7?? KB would have resorted to violence had he been a violent man. Your Museveni who came out 3rd in 1980 resorted to violent means and swam in blood to come to power. Where there is money there is greed. FDC does not control any financial resources to attract greed. The opposite is true in NRM and the greed starts from its leader downwards. Again here, you mis use the word greed. You can not be authoritarian when you do not wield power or exercise authority. Where does FDC get the power to become Authoritarian?? Your misunderstanding of key words show that you are not well versed with the subject you are responding to. If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here!!! What do you mean by “populism but lacks ideals to make Uganda democratic?? You really must be a dimwit!!!
        You seem to have eyes but can not see, ears but can not hear. Whose votes were stolen in the last elections??? What kind of democracy are you referring to??? Gun Democracy??? Your president M7 repeated tiold the world he would never hand over power to Besigye. Do you call that populist??I really do not want to waste my time responding to your claptrap.

        • Do you realize that the FDC contradicts itself by doing the same things which the NRM does. The FDC has established a Besigye Cult inside the party just like the NRM. If the FDC was for Democracy, why would they keep on bringing Besigye for presidency? You have always accused Museveni of dominating the NRM but at the same time Besigye is also dominating the FDC. Whats the difference? Don’t you have other people in the party who can stand for presidency?

          I want to reiterate my point that Besigye and his fanatics exalt violence and lawlessness. If you’re educated enough what does defiance campaign mean to you?

          This campaign encourages people especially the young youths to go against civil obedience. In other words, it promotes civil disobedience, lawlessness and anarchism.

          Now you’ve talked about Besigye being elected by the people. Yes I agree with that and I disagree at the same time. Some people of course a few of them elected Besigye and the majority elected Museveni. It only takes a simple logic to understand this. The NRM controls all the political positions from the local level to the National level. NRM has the majority number of district chairs, Sub county chairs, and members of Parliament. Of course you’ll say the elections were rigged. This is always used a scapegoat to make people think that Besigye does not win because Museveni deprive him of his chances by rigging.

          What people fail to understand is that Museveni’s support come from rural areas. And you know very well that majority population in Uganda lives in rural areas. And these youths you see in Kampala don’t vote. Coming on the street to demonstrate with Besgye does not mean that these people voted.

  6. 1.What has caused World war III?its this nonsense of forcing people to go for an interlude in democracy.Most of the countries in the Arab &Africa world r in a mess coz of democracy obaa deomocrazy.
    2.Syria was at peace not untill they demanded for democracy and good governance.Assad’s father Hafez-al Asaad ruled Syria for over 30 years & all was well.
    3.NGO’s were criticizing rich nations for shutting their doors to refugees from Africa and the Arab world?who do the refugees want to inconvenience in Europe?who told them to misuse their tongues?Its the NGOs who fund activists who mislead the rich nations about the political situation in poor nations when they blunder like they did in Libya & Syria they change their tone they better shut up.
    4.Besigye is annoyed coz (i)Obama gave M7 jets(ii) When he arrived in USA he thought he would address the UN delegates but instead he addressed the economic refugees in USA.
    5.For one to access restricted places like the runway at the airport they need identification that’s why CAA provides reflector jackets to staff of ENHAS,Airlines,URA etc so Besigye should keep his ignorance on how the personnel at the airport dress to himself.
    6.Mbu there is no indication to show that he returned from Europe as if we wanted him to return.He is so redundant in that police knows that he has only in 3 places to be at i.e; Kasangati,Najjankumbi& on the streets.

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