Fr Musaala to Besigye: Did I visit the next president of Uganda?

Anthony Musaala

About four years ago I visited Dr Kiiza-Besigye – he of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)  and possibly  the next President of Uganda.

I was  surprised and not  a little intrigued when an aide to the great  Opposition-warrior had  phoned me up a week earlier  to ask if I could meet his boss.

Being a secret admirer, I went Nicodemus-like to attend to his presence.

Arriving at his modest home  one afternoon somewhere off a dusty road that heads to  Matugga from Kasangati, I saw five or six unarmed police standing not very much at attention around the entrance of his house, and some  on the road..

They keenly watched who came went, no doubt, while a couple more inside with guns slung on their shoulders  checked my car and smiled us in without a word.

It had  been just  after  the famous (or infamous ) ‘Walk-to -work” protests – our attempted intafada  against the incumbent’s endless occupation of  State house, and it had been conceived and orchestrated by the restless Dr Besigye himself… who nevertheless suffered greatly for it.

Those protest walks, you remember, always started in Kasangati but ended up anywhere en-route to Kampala with ugly though  somewhat  glorious run-ins with the  militarized police.

Who exactly provoked who, on those tumultous campaigns no-one remembers. But the baton-wielding,gun-toting  police force in blue-grey fatigues  frequently  rained  down blows on anyone “obstructing the way” , man woman or child,, while tear- gassing entire neighbourhoods.

Gas cannisters would fly in every direction oozing their  irrtatants into the eyes and throats of all and sundry. Occasionally there would be gunfire crack cracking in the air. Some  people died from gunshot wounds.

As we sat alone with the very calm Kizza Besigye peacefully sipping tea and chatting about the state of the nation on that day of my visit, I wondered about this tough fifty-ish man and how he came through all of that.

I wondered how he felt about so much of the humiliation and the violence which  he had endured as a result. Actually one to one, there is strangely no hint of toughness about KB, quite the opposite.

And I asked myself, where was the impressive Winnie to soothe his bruised head and other parts, after a bouts of thrashing by the gnome-like  police? She was so much not there, for this good hearted man.

I looked around at the meticulously clean and tidied living-room. Perhaps this embattled soldier was really a secret ‘house-husband’ who spent hours lovingly arranging  cushions on the sofa and polishing the cutlery. There seemed to be no one else in sight and everything was perfectly arranged.

At close quarters anyway, Besigye seems  a gentleman, talking to you in calm measured tones about anything you ask, smiling frequently, listening to you wide-eyed like a young boy listening  to his dad with admiration and respect to learn something new. Those popping  eyes of his do penetrate you a bit, but  not as fiercely, as they seem do  in  pictures of him.

The ‘retired colnel’ wanted to know if I would consider taking part in, or help to organize a  national conference of some sort, involving religious, cultural and political leaders to discuss an exit strategy from the vice-like grip of His Excellency and former patient. I said I was honoured to have been asked by him and that I would be happy to consider it.

He even admitted to me that the confrontational ‘walk-to-work’ was too costly and unsustainable. More interestingly he said he now wanted to be part of something less strictly political, something broader and more consensus building.

I went home ever so slightly gob-smacked at how much I really liked, yes and admired Mr Besigye.  I  wondered what he thought of me. I wondered what we would both do next. We have never spoken to each other again but the memory is a good one.

So,dear Mr Kizza Besigye you’ve got my vote on the 18th Feb. 2016. Your former patient may need sedation.

Fr Anthony Musaala, the author, is a controversial catholic priest.

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