President Yoweri Museveni’s main worry is Dr. Kizza Besigye’s strong stance and insistence on mobilising the masses to reclaim Uganda from what he calls “the bondage of 30 years military dictatorship”.
He knows that his 30 years hold on power has prepared fertile ground for such mass action.
In two instances [Masaka police ambush and Hoima car tyre incident], Besigye has raised concerns that the regime is hatching plots to assassinate him.
With or without Museveni’s approval, some of his hardliner cohorts may choose to ‘eliminate’ Dr. Besigye during this campaign period.
Such a scenario would plunge the country into a temporary political chaos but to the regime it would be good riddance of a serious threat to their hold on power.
They may prefer to handle the consequences than risking to lose power.
An assassination of Dr. Besigye wouldn’t be a big deal since even Dr. Andrew Kayiira (UFM) was killed by ‘thugs’, Moses Ali (UNRF) was incarcerated for years, Angelo Okelo (UPDA) died after signing the peace deal, Prof. Lule (NRM Chairman), Commander Magara and Sseguya (NRA Army Commanders died in the bush) so that their forces could be thoroughly integrated into the NRA and the regime moved on for 30 years now.
On the other hand, Presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s bid for a joint opposition presidential candidature was failed by Dr. Besigye’s failure to step down for him.
Both the Kenya’s Rails Odinga and the Koffi Annan mediated efforts for a joint Presidential candidate under the loose opposition alliance (TDA) could not bring either of the two to step down for the other.
That is why to some extent, it looks like the two are competing for opposition support.
Mbabazi is relying on the traditional opposition Parties for support.
The top DP leadership has wholesomely thrown its weight behind Mbabazi.
A faction of the UPC is also backing Mbabazi just as does JEMA, FA, and some sections of pressure groups and civil society.
Some few top leaders of the FDC have also backed Mbabazi.
For fear of dire consequences, moderate members of the regime party will only covertly support Mbabazi.
Therefore, Mbabazi’s candidature relies more on the opposition if it to make meaningful impact.
Therefore, in the event Dr. Besigye is ‘knocked off’, there is no doubt Mbabazi will inherit all the opposition support.
Much as we pray in the name of the Almighty God that such a scenario does not arise, Dr. Besigye has to remain mindful of his personal security.
The Museveni why regime celebrated Besigye’s nomination
Besigye’s nomination offered a sigh of relief to the military regime.
He was nominated as the FDC flag bearer in the February 2016 general elections.
He is a three time Presidential contestant against dictator Museveni.
There is no doubt, in all the rounds Dr. Besigye was rigged out before and during the polling exercise as confirmed by Courts of Law.
Following the violent general elections of February 2011, Dr. Besigye vowed never to participate in an electoral process where Museveni ‘is both a contestant and the referee’.
Instead, he embarked on mobilising the masses in demonstration against poor service delivery and economic hardships.
The military dictatorship reacted by unleashing its security machinery that brutally suppressed the Besigye led activism.
The brutality was so grave that some Ugandans lost their lives, were maimed, detained, tortured, while others fled into exile.
Dr. Besigye almost lost his life at the hands of the regime’s security machinery.
Dr. Besigye did not relent; instead he went ahead mobilisation of Ugandans with a clear message urging Ugandans to reclaim their country.
He spearheaded the formation of the proposed electoral reforms under the Citizens Compact for Electoral reforms.
To the regime, the proposed reforms amounted to treason and instead all efforts to popularise it were met with maximum brutality.
The regime rubbished all such proposals prompting Dr. Besigye to coin the “No Electoral Reforms, No Elections” stand.
This resolution sent the regime into panic fearing that the opposition strongman intended to mobilise the masses for mass action as had been the case with several African states.
Dr. Besiggye was since then subjected to 24/7 security surveillance, nasty harassment characterised by brutal arrest, detentions, curtailing of freedom of assembly and movement etc.
When he announced his intention to run for the presidency, the military regime felt some kind of relief hoping that his candidature would compromise the strong push for the “No Electoral Reforms, no Elections”.
Further relief was registered when Amama Mbabazi came on board and the subsequent opposition efforts to field a joint Presidential Candidate in the hope that this would make Dr. Besigye abandon the electoral reforms agenda.
On 4th November, 2016 when Dr. Besigye was nominated for the February 2016 general elections, it was the military regime cohorts who jubilated more than did the members of FDC and opposition in general.
They knew that the much feared “No Electoral Reforms, No Elections” agenda had been hurried.
However, these jubilations were shot lived when Dr. Besigye pulled mammoth crowds ever witnessed in Kampala but more so his declaration that he was in the race “by defiance and not compliance”.
The regime panicked thinking that he would straight away lead his mammoth crowds into storming regime establishments straight away.
Going by the enthusiasm and emotions demonstrated by ordinary Ugandans on that occasion, it is evident that his message was welcomed by the majority.
This time round what the regime usually called ‘Besigye hooligans never graced the occasion since there was no any acts of lawlessness; its the regime security operatives who had all along been orchestrating violence.
If indeed, Dr. Besigye means what he says, then the regime’s jubilation was misguided as they need to explore their only remaining option; the use of security forces to remain in power.
That is why since that time, Museveni is behaving like a wounded lion.
However, the main issue is the organization of such mass action as earlier cautioned by Gen. Muntu that without proper organisation, mass action will be neutralised by the regime with dire consequences.
For now, mass action is what Museveni fears most and not participation in sham electoral process.
Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political commentator