The old adage, “the higher the monkey climbs, the more it exposes its bare behind,“ aptly holds for Col (rtd) Dr Warren Smith Kizza Besigye Kifefe, who last week in a dejected posture and tone announced that he had abandoned his quest to run for president of Uganda. Although the media has downplayed the reasons for Besigye’s decision, surely after four knockdowns in a row, one has to be very courageous to continue a journey. Besigye had since 2001 billed his contests as high-stakes against President Yoweri Museveni. But in unmasking Besigye, a historical anecdote is necessary for emerging analysts.
Even without the excuse of NRM’s might or alleged harassment, Besigye has fallen on his own sword because his brand of politics is largely based on calculated untenable falsehoods, hostile and corrosive forcing many including his former allies to shun him. Besigye as former protégé to Museveni, frog-leaped to the front bench, falsely viewed the throne as his to inherit. In fact Besigye believed that Museveni’s revolutionary zeal could be acquired through osmosis by those closest to him.
Behind a smokescreen, Besigye said he was abandoning his presidential bid because the Electoral Commission couldn’t deliver a free, fair and credible election in which President Museveni could be defeated. Besigye then announced he has “Plan B”, but which as many recall has been up his sleeves since 2001. When he lost that election Besigye fled to South Africa from where he was linked to the Peoples Redemption Army (PRA), an obscure rebel group that operated in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Even under intense media pressure, Besigye refused to denounce armed rebellion, saying cleverly that taking up arms was his constitutional right. Mid that controversy his then closest political assistant James Opoka joined the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony and has never been seen again, reported killed in rebel infighting. The PRA was however crushed in its nascent stages, with most of its fighters killed, captured or surrendered and volunteered information to the UPDF, leaving Besigye in embarrassment.
Besigye, the opposition doyen had refused to relinquish his mischievous title until Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a. Bobi Wine came onto the scene three years ago slowly but surely displacing him particularly among urban riff-raffs. When Besigye officially left FDC leadership in 2012, he remained lurking around its corridors to undermine his successor Gen. (rtd) Greg Mugisha Muntu because he viewed himself as indispensable to the party. While Muntu tried to settle in Najjanakumbi, Besigye opened an office on Katonga road and at his home in Kasangati both becoming the centre of his defiance activities to divert public and media attention from FDC official programs. As a charlatan he postured as a post-Museveni revolutionary democrat, when in reality built extremist factions who treated him like a cult leader. Whoever disagreed with their line was ostracized, sidelined and got ousted making Besigye into a deeply divisive figure within and outside FDC.
Besigye failed to expand FDC support and membership countrywide, and its numerical strength in parliament and local councils declined. FDC’s national appeal as a party of hope has steadily waned over the years and current trajectory isn’t surprising. It is worth noting that FDC started with sixteen MPs in Teso region, but today has only Elijah Okupa, Angeline Osege and Robert Ariko. These too have abandoned FDC ticket in 2021 election. FDC remains in Acholi, Kasese and few urban areas on account of other grievances.
While Besigye gives the appearance of a leader building FDC, in reality they are personal followers who have led to its disintegration. Following Muntu’s failure to hold firm grip, he was ousted in 2017, and Patrick Oboi Amuriat installed as Besigye’s stooge. Subsequently Muntu formed Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party, taking FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso and her deputy Ezati Kasiano Wadri.
ANT also took two former Leaders of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) Ogenga Latigo (Agago), Winnie Kizza (Kasese), and over ten FDC MPs out of 36. In addition, FDC luminaries, Betty Kamya, Alex Onzima, John Kazoora, Augustine Ruzindana, Amanya Mushega, David Pulkol, Wandera Ogalo, Yona Kanyomozi, Ben Wacha, Dan Mugarura, Winnie Babihuga, Johnson Nkuhe, Miria Matembe, Musinguzi Garuga, and Athanasius Rutaro among others have all gone sine die of party activities. Mushega, in his bitter parting missive, admonished Besigye not to think that he (Besigye) will do all the “heavy-lifting” until the end of times by himself. For all these losses, Besigye only recruited the ego-centric Erias Lukwago. Suubi, a collection of Baganda chauvinists that supported Besigye in previous elections has switched sides to Robert Kyagulanyi on grounds of tribe. Also, foreign monies especially from two neighbouring governments seem to have dried up.
Under those circumstances, Besigye must have read the sad reality that his presidential ambition is currently unattainable at least in the short term. Most likely, he believes he can resurrect his political journey in post-2021 elections, which is highly doubtable. Unfortunately, the NRM that was anxious to give Besigye a fifth knockout will surely miss him.
The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre