Besigye, Museveni – Their 30 year fight ahead of 2021
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | “Winnie, would you accept to be our candidate for President?”
Col. Kizza Besigye posed that question sometime in early October 2000. His wife, Winnie Byanyima was surprised.
“You as who? Who are `we?” she asked Besigye. And the conversation soon became even more serious.
Winnie said: “It would be suicidal. How would you take him on? I wouldn’t do that! How can you, in this short time take on Museveni?”
“People are fed up with him,” Besigye said.
“I guess they are, but it takes some time to turn discontent into votes,” Winnie countered.
Days later, on October 20, 2000, Besigye dropped another surprise on Winnie.
“I am going to run for president,” he told her that night.
Again she answered with a weighty caution.
“I will support you but I hope you realise that this is a one-way ticket. We are defying Museveni. He is going to fight us to the end.”
This drama is captured in Daniel Kalinaki’s book on Besigye titled ‘Kizza Besigye: Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution.”
A week later, on October 28, 2000 at a little known restaurant in Kampala, Besigye publicly declared his intention to challenge Museveni in a press statement.
Nineteen years later, Winnie appears to have been prophetic on both counts: First, although he has challenged Museveni in four presidential elections over 16 years, Besigye appears to have failed to “turn discontent into votes”. Secondly, Museveni and Besigye appear determined to “fight to the end”.
Kalinaki published his book in 2014, with the 2016 presidential battle between Museveni and Besigye already looming. Once again, as the 2021 presidential election nears, most Ugandans are asking whether Besigye will again challenge Museveni – for a fifth time. And what will be the result? Is this the time when Besigye will finally succeed in turning popular discontent into votes?
This November marked 20 years since Besigye penned his famous dossier titled ‘An insider’s view on how NRM lost the broad base’. The document stirred the hierarchy of the NRM, then known as the Movement, when Uganda was in the throes of a one party political system.
In his missive, Dr. Besigye criticised the creeping autocracy under President Yoweri Museveni who was then in his thirteenth year in power having taken over Uganda in 1986. Besigye started off writing “I have taken keen interest and participated in the political activities on the Ugandan scene since the late 1970s. This was during a period of intense jostling to topple and later succeed the Idi Amin regime.”
He added, “I am therefore, fully aware of the euphoria, excitement and hope with which Ugandans received the Uganda National Liberation Front/Army (UNLF/A)…” The dossier resulted into the court martialing of Besigye, at the time a Colonel in the UPDF, “for airing his views in the wrong forum.”
Besigye accused the NRM of sectarianism and of being a one man dictatorship. It culminated in his declaration to stand for the presidency in the 2001 elections. Since the 2001 election, Besigye has stood three more times against Museveni. In that period, he has incurred the wrath of the NRM regime with trials, teargas, constant arrests, torture and blockades on his home.