Besigye is the person the opposition wants, but Mugisha Muntu is the person the opposition needs. Muntu could probably be the noblest politician in Uganda. He’s the only politician in Uganda who is in politics not for personal economic gain, not for personal egotistical aggrandizement. Of course Besigye his counterpart is not in politics for economic gain. However, I am bound to think that Besigye is in politics for personal egotistical aggrandizement. Muntu is in politics whether his ideas are right or wrong, but his primary motivation deep inside is to build a better Uganda. Precisely because of that deep-seated idea in him, that motivation, his approach to everything is very different from other Ugandans.
Museveni whether knowingly or unknowingly has cloned himself in Besigye. By fighting Besigye, roughing him up, teargassing him, locking him in his home, Museveni has created a cult-like following for Besigye. He’s delivered political and social capital for Besigye, and indirectly creating an opposition that is personalized around Besigye. One would be correct to predict that should Besigye capture power, he will create another mini-Museveni, a personalized party, personalized power and a total collapse of state institutions. Without Besigye, the opposition ceases to exist.
Besigye’s strengths have also equally recreated themselves as his greatest character flaws. His messianic complex has helped him be a better mobilizer but it has also ensured that he can’t be a great organizer. What makes one a great mobilizer is equally what makes one a terrible organizer. When Robert Trivers wrote his book; “the folly of fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception” he must have had Besigye in mind. As humans, we tend to delude ourselves. Besigye has convinced himself that he’s there to fight for Ugandans that without him, everything would collapse and he would have to live with the guilt all his life. His ego is driving him. If he knew that it was his ego driving him, he would lose the interest to do what he’s doing. He has deluded himself that he’s genuinely fighting for the future of Uganda. It is that delusion that gives him the motivation to sacrifice so much for the goal of liberating Uganda. Even though Besigye is in politics not for personal economic gain, he still has his ego to serve. He is in politics for personal egotistical aggrandizement.
It is a truism so often told that every great politician must have this delusion in some measure. What else would make someone believe that they alone, out of everyone else are the persons capable of leading?
Because Mugisha Muntu lacks this egotistical flaw, he’s not performed well as a mobilizer. Ego tends to create a passion, charm and magnetism that rub off potential supporters in the right way. Muntu lacks that ego. It’s his personal flaw but looking at the big picture, it’s the very reason why the opposition needs Mugisha Muntu.
Muntu has a vision of a better Uganda that he wants. He may not articulate it in its statistical form but it’s an ideal. Muntu has his heart in the right place and his ideals are pure (despite a deficiency of knowledge on issues of economic policy). Even his primary motivation inside him is noble. Precisely because of that foundation, Muntu is able to see the big picture. He’s able to postpone capturing power tomorrow if only to build the right infrastructure for that power to be meaningful and viable. He is not a person who wants to run for presidency and win tomorrow. He looks at elections as a vehicle to strengthen and build a party from the grassroots. That is why Muntu was interested in building structures up to the grass root level. Besigye has been trying to build a party by exciting city masses into a mob and then captures headlines, human rights groups surround him and praise him and argue his case. But in the process, he’s physically exhausted himself without achieving his objective because of the very nature of the enemy he’s fighting.
For the opposition in Uganda, everything starts and ends with elections. They see elections as the only vehicle through which to achieve the reforms they desire. As Besigye has articulated; “cut off the head, and everything will work out.” But Besigye forgets that Museveni may be the head, but not the only head. The Ugandan society functions like the multi-headed Hydra, to try and think that without Museveni all Uganda’s problems would disappear is to be in a trance, a high level hypnotic delusion.
Luckily Muntu is yet to get into his deep-state hypnosis. He’s not fighting to be president. He’s a Ugandan leader that’s lacking in the egotistical department. It’s as though he went through a self-cleansing moment where he shredded off his ego and what remained is what makes him the candidate the opposition needs at this critical point in time.
Besigye has passion but he lacks organization. Passion without organization cannot be driven into purposeful political behaviour to achieve a specified end. Many times, passion leads to mobs. Mobs don’t build things, they destroy things. If you have a large group of people enthusiastic about you but you lack organization, it’s very difficult to win an election. Because it means you don’t have even the basic infrastructure to protect your vote, to rally up your supporters and troops to turn up and vote on that day. A strategic weakness of FDC is that while the national sentiment is in favour of change, the national sentiment is against Museveni, they lack the organizational infrastructure to turn that sentiment into electoral power.
Muntu because his ideals are noble and non-selfish, non-egotistical, he understands that what Uganda needs is social reform. You can achieve a lot of social reform without even capturing power. In fact Besigye’s supporters across the country as we’ve travelled have told us the same message. “It is Besigye who abolished graduated tax. It is Besigye who did this.” In otherwords, you don’t need to be in power to achieve the reforms you desire. Why doesn’t Besigye celebrate his own achievements? Because to force government to bend to your will is part of democracy. There are many political parties that have been formed in the world that have never captured power but have been there for 50 years. Why do they continue to stay? Why are they not organizing a mass insurrection? It’s because they recognize that you do not need to have power to force social change. Power can be also compromised. Because now once you are in power, you have to do so many things to allow power to be retained.
Finally, Besigye has failed to appreciate the kind of government he faces. The NRM government is not like any other government in the world. It’s a revolutionary government, a political party that went to the bush in order to fulfill its political needs. It’s a government that dislodged another, and in place build a totally different one and has sustained power for 30 years.
To put it clearly, NRM is a revolutionary government. To understand it is to first understand revolutionary governments all-over the world. Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, China, Cuba just to mention but a few. There’s one thing common with these governments. Rarely do they lose power once they’ve been given time of not less than five years. Secondly, the armies in such governments are always military arms of the political parties, serving the party’s needs. Yet Besigye strongly believes that he can achieve a Tunisia or Egypt in Uganda. How possible can that be with an army that functions as a military arm of the NRM? And how do you dislodge a revolutionary government that has a strong organization infrastructure?
What many fail to recognize is that UPDF is the military wing of NRM. It’s an NRA that’s been re-created and professionalized. Whereas professionalism is what ensures promotions in this army, loyalty to the NRM party’s ideals is embedded in the qualities they look out for when promoting army officers. To rephrase Will Durant’s words; “the NRM government cannot be conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.” There’s also the assumption that NRM would fall upon the death of Museveni. This is also not true. Another characteristic of revolutionary governments is that the death of the founding father doesn’t result in the collapse of the establishment. Instead, in most times, it strengthens it. That’s why in Cuba, Raul Castro replaced Fidel smoothly. When Meles Zenawi died, Hailemariam Desalegn comfortably replaced him. We’ve not seen a break-up in the system once the founding father of the revolution dies in power unless Uganda is trying to be the black swan.
Secondly, Besigye has under-estimated the man he faces. The first crucial mistake is to underestimate your enemy. Besigye strongly believes that Museveni is weak and that it would take a mass insurrection to force him out of power in a few days. That explains why he participated in these elections. He was not in the elections to win; he was in them to create the conditions for the mass uprising.
What Besigye needs to recognize is that Museveni is a man with an arsenal of weapons in his chest. One of those is the cash weapon. Museveni’s first tool of dealing with dissenting views is not force, it’s to always try and co-opt one with cash. During the walk-to-work campaign, everyone was focused on the military force that was applied to stop the resistance. But in doing so, everyone missed the big picture because it happened in the background. In the background, leaders of walk-to-work, the youths, were being convinced by various police officers that their economic needs would be met, they were told to form youth groups. Slowly by slowly, they were co-opted and Walk to Work fizzled out.
Museveni on the other hand is paranoid. He never underestimates his enemies. He will always overestimates the size of the enemy he faces. Nothing makes for good strategy than overestimating one’s enemy and applying a force so big to match that overestimation. He will leave no stone unturned when fighting an enemy. He will try to fight the enemy from within and from without. That’s what has ensured his continued stay in power. As a strategist, he’s unmatched. Since the opposition has failed to recognize this, they’ve kept on doing the same thing again and again hoping to get different results.
This is where the need for Mugisha Muntu arises. In the 2016 elections, Muntu’s brigade would always go out at least a day before Besigye visited an area; they handled everything that was needed for Besigye to address a rally. Thus, Besigye only had to focus on his message and not be entangled in the stressful work. Much of Besigye’s success in this election is owed to what Muntu and team did in the background. They freed up Besigye the leader from the minute day-to-day details.
From the basis, Muntu understands that as a leader, you must be willing to delegate. You must be willing to clone yourself. You can’t do everything by yourself. For example, why would Besigye leave Rukungiri on Election Day to rush to Naguru and expose the house where rigging was taking place? Couldn’t he delegate this to some trusted person in his team? This single incident like many others exposed the fact that Besigye has personalized this struggle and it has blinded him to the bigger picture and made him the worst of strategists. Strategy requires time to study the big picture, tact doesn’t.
2021 is not very far. Should the opposition take this message to heart, they could use these five years to re-create themselves? I have often argued that if opposition focused on capturing parliament, they could be able to capture the presidency whether directly or indirectly. The opposition only needs to have a majority in parliament to pass all sorts of laws they may need in the country. Yet, they keep running around in circles.
Finally, the opposition should learn that there are many ways to capture power, and presidency is just one of those. There are many ways to cause change in a country. A revolution is not only political, it can be social, it can be cultural. Or as Will Durant concluded; “the only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionaries are philosophers and saints.”