We learn that by the late 1990s there had developed a strong effort for reform within the movement government then and this initiative was being championed quietly by Dr Besigye and his colleagues. Continued growth of this initiative kept meeting equally continued and increasing resistance from the political leadership of the “broad based” government.
In 2000, Dr Besigye opted out of the system strongly believing that as the guns were going silent in most parts of the country, they were leaving behind a deeply disempowrered citizenry which situation now urgently needed a powerful civic response.
As an experienced and knowledgeable character that had taken time to analyze and diagnose systems of government and what the state can do to stifle political growth, Dr Besigye set out to mobilise Ugandans around a particular agenda or idea which he feels strongly is the solution to our country’s stalled political progress. It is this agenda that some of us conveniently refer to as “Besigye The Idea”.
Besigye The Idea is a thinking that Universal Human Rights begin in small places, close to home, so small that they cannot even be seen on any map of the world. Its the idea about the ordinary people having capacity and the will to enjoy the rights,freedoms and equal justice ; and that in return, assume the responsibility for the welfare of the community.
Its an idea that democracy is born in struggle from below rather than handed down from generous elites making a gift from above ; That robust and sustainable democracies are not given to people by great powers , they are rather created by people with the skills and the will to assume responsibility for their own destinies.
An idea that the durability of democracy depends on the bottom up activity by ordinary citizens. Its an idea that in this climate of civil uncertainty in which the reality of terror can overwhelm the aspirations to democracy, its sturdiness will come not from written constitutions of the leadership of politicians but from the rigorous on ground engagement of citizens. That our desired liberties depended not on the people in power but on the vitality of Ugandans.
The idea that Liberty is local , and that as activists we must put all our energies on building a system that depends entirely on the actions of ordinary women and men. This is an idea quite the opposite of a system rooted in heroism.
And this is our shared view as part of the grand plan of real aligning our countrys’ democratic practices with our cherished values as a country.
We learn that building such a strong idea of strengthening the democratic fabric of a country with a powerful civic response where the citizens have total control of their own destinies, is not a process you can achieve on timelines of periodic elections but rather through a robust and sustained effort that can take months or years depending on the circumstances. That this process doesn’t happen because we are still a force seeking change but rather even while we are in power,efforts must sustained to keep the ordinary people as the masters of their destinies.
That means therefore that its as well a responsibility that is not dependant of a particular leader because naturally a person cannot stay forever. But rather its an idea passed on from generation to generation of activists until the final objective of an empowered citizenry is achieved.
Over the last 18 years, many activists across the political spectrum including Dr Besigye have been in the trenches playing various roles in building this idea and many people especially young cadres have been mobilised around and into this agenda.
Deep and wide discussions have taken place and came up with strategic approaches for this shared agenda. There has been a careful study internally of the What, How, When and Who. Out there have been public calls that this process should be short circuited with the use of machines but we learn that this will instead most likely dis-empower the citizenry further undoing even the little we have achieved in this struggle. So we are out there, overtly and covertly, jointly and individually working on this idea.
What does the above mean? That there quite a number of people with responsibility in building this system and indeed many activists are in the trenches. That there is Besigye the person who in this case although related to The Idea (having been its vocal but certainly not the only champion) is separate from it but certainly remains a good reference and equally a critical activist in this agenda. In simple terms, that the idea has been here for 18 years now and and its has been anchored on a strong foundation. And that it will be with us for generations long after The Person has retired.
The writer is a Ugandan Lawyer, Activist & Member of the Forum For Democratic Change