Besigye emulating Museveni sole candidature-Mulera


Dr Muniini Mulera

Dear Tingasiga: When the Democratic Alliance (TDA) was formed three months ago, its stated main goal was “to win power and form government in order to build a Uganda where there is equal opportunity and shared prosperity for all citizens.”

A central strategy to accomplish this goal was to field a joint candidate for president of Uganda, just as it would for each of the elective positions at all levels of government.

Until last week, there was mounting hope that this strategy would be fulfilled. Notwithstanding the known ambitions of the four nominees for TDA flag bearer (Kizza Besigye, Gilbert Bukenya, Norbert Mao, Amama Mbabazi) it was hoped that the chosen candidate would be embraced and supported by the other three.

However, with reports suggesting that Amama Mbabazi had become the frontrunner, a group of Kizza Besigye supporters launched a reckless campaign of intimidation and blackmail, complete with a mob invasion of a TDA meeting late last week, led by three MPs.

It was reminiscent of the conduct of some Museveni supporters and militias.  Interestingly, the Uganda Police did not touch them.

Whether or not Dr. Besigye had prior knowledge of this well-choreographed invasion is unknown. However, where one would have expected him to show leadership by insisting on respect for the TDA, in which he had been sitting and deliberating, he followed his group and became their spokesman, justifying their attempt to bully his colleagues.

We have also learnt from Norbert Mao, president of DP, that Besigye supporters in the TDA had already engaged in forgery.

It seems that the Besigye group entered the alliance with a predetermined expectation of only one outcome.

It had to be Besigye and no one else. This was akin to Yoweri Museveni’s sole candidate project.

It is a reasonable guess that had Besigye been the frontrunner in the TDA’s rankings, we would have probably not heard any protests from those who now accuse the TDA Summit of breaking various rules and procedures. (Norbert Mao’s letter of September 19, 2015 is worth reading.)

Just as we reject Museveni’s personalization of the NRM and the Ugandan state, we reject the personalization of opposition leadership.

Besigye’s historic role in challenging Museveni and galvanizing opposition forces since2000 is beyond debate.

However, just as Museveni is not entitled to be president, none of the nominees for the TDA presidential candidacy is owed an automatic elevation to the State House. That includes Dr. Besigye.

We hope that Besigye’s heroic struggles have been focused on transformation of the country, not so that he becomes president.

That is how I had understood him in the many years that I have known him and promoted our shared agenda for change.

So I am deeply disappointed by his conduct, together with the reckless methods of his supporters.

It raises serious questions about his readiness to lead a peaceful transition from the authoritarian and intolerant regime that he has so valiantly challenged.

What would happen if Besigye became president and appointed some of his supporters to key positions in the state security services?  Might the very evil that Museveni and his courtiers have visited on the land not be replayed by the new owners of the keys to the armoury?  What if a President Besigye was challenged by his prime minister in an election?

To be sure, the aggression, insults and overt anger directed at anyone who does not appear to support Besigye’s quest for the presidency gives us reason for deep concern.

People who substitute insults and intimidation for reasoned debate and persuasion should make us afraid -very afraid.

Equally worrying is the attempt to shift goal posts, three months after signing of the Alliance protocol.

Mbabazi’s continued membership in the NRM has suddenly become “a problem” for some in the TDA.

Yet the agreement three months ago was that Membership in the Alliance would be open to “recognized pressure groups and citizens’ formations,” as well as “eminent individual citizens vetted and admitted in accordance with the TDA protocol.”

The political homes of the groups or individuals were not deemed an obstacle to membership.

Mbabazi is the leader of the “NRM Go Forward” pressure group, which has been represented in TDA from the beginning.

Neither Hope Mwesigye, who represented the group before her leader came on board, nor Mbabazi were required to renounce their membership in NRM when they joined TDA.

Mbabazi’s conduct and statements since he declared his intention to seek the presidency have been fully consistent with the stated goals and objectives of TDA. The claim that he cannot be a member of the NRM and belong to the TDA is therefore false.

To achieve its main goal, the TDA must be an inclusive organization that opens its doors for an influx of card-carrying members of the NRM who seek genuine change. They do not have to relinquish membership in their party.

It is worth repeating that at its inception, the TDA committed itself to nominate a joint candidate for president of Uganda. The organization would do the same for all elective positions at all levels of government.

With the protests by Besigye supporters (who, incidentally, do not speak for the Forum for Democratic Change), it appears the TDA is now seeking to shift goal posts and bless two candidates – Besigye and Mbabazi.

There are perfectly good arguments that have been advanced by proponents of this measure. The key argument is that it would reduce the risk of implosion among the opposition ranks.

Furthermore, the hope is that a Besigye-Mbabazi-Museveni contest would force a second round of voting, in which case the opposition forces would rally behind whichever candidate qualified.

I think this is a pie in the sky. It would simply play into Museveni’s hands. His campaign would declare that a disunited opposition that could not stick to its stated objectives was not one to entrust with power. I doubt that the voters would take TDA seriously.

Furthermore, it would be hard to persuade candidates for other positions to rally behind a single person. There is already an entrenched culture of entitlement in Uganda’s politics.

Each one who aspires to elected office would therefore insist on being on the ballot. The idea of the TDA would abort.

Three months ago, the leaders of TDA made a solemn pledge “to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until we shall declare victory in our struggle against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation that have undermined our progress since independence to date.”

They should have the strength and courage to choose a single joint candidate who offers the country the best chance to bring together a winning coalition of voters from the traditional opposition and the ruling party. It is a risk worth taking.

Muniini K. Mulera’s letter to a Kampala Friend from Toronto

Published with permission []

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