Besigye, FDC, and the End of Political Reason

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Last week, the often colourful opposition politician, Kizza Besigye in yet another besmirched ceremony, unveiled what he described as a ‘peoples government and assembly’, with himself atop as the ‘peoples’ president. It is worth remembering that in 2016, soon after the elections, Besigye secretly took a fictitious ‘oath’ as the ‘peoples’ president complete with ‘cabinet ministers’. He then vowed that he would cause an international audit to the election results claiming had been stolen from him. After which, Besigye launched a campaign of civil disobedience (Tubalemese) which petered on its own. He has told Ugandans that it was an effort to bring government to a quick and unceremonious end. Many have forgotten that in 2001 Besigye boasted that he enjoyed ninety percent support within the UDPF and in 2016 appointed Gen. David Sejusa into his campaign task force as a cheap ruse to demonstrate his might.

Under the suppressed pomp, many analysts see last week’s energy as a very desperate, miserable, and yes, futile stratagem to reinvent himself and regain the political space he has lost in the past two years since the emergence of Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a. Bobi Wine, chorusing ‘peoples power’. Politically, many consider Kyagulanyi a passing wind blowing aimlessly hoping to captivate unsuspecting and probably gullible youths. Besigye has suffered sustained humiliating defeats and got consigned to insignificant media coverage with his outbursts used more as filler stories.

And yes, like you can possibly already seen, apart from scorn, even the usually gullible and partisan media has treated  Besigye’s comedy as serving no useful purpose other than perhaps to test who is still loyal to him personally. Also, it is a clear sign of his displeasure of the collective inability of the current FDC leaders in and outside parliament to offer coherent and effective leadership and direction to the opposition. At the same time, it also sends a message to Mugisha Muntu, Bobi Wine and their sidekicks that Besigye still has some people like Erias Lukwago staunchly behind him. Put together, the grandiose is calculated to preserve Besigye’s slot as the outright unchallenged opposition candidate in 2021. And, this is all the while when Muntu’s New Formation, turned Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) appears to have suffered a stillbirth.

In fact the NRM would be making a grave mistake if it takes eyes off Besigye as it did in 2016 when it spent so much time and resources trying to deflate a trial hot-air-balloon that Amama Mbabazi was, leaving Besigye, a hard-knuckle campaigner to resurge. In that election, Besigye gained one million five hundred thousand new votes which took him to 3,508,687 (35.61%) compared to the 2,064,963 (26.01%) he got in 2011.

On the other hand, President Museveni made a modest gain of 543,503 to reach 5,971,872 (60.8) votes compared to 5,428,369 (68.38) he got in 2011. In 2016 there were a total of 15,277,198 registered voters and turn up was 67.61%, while  in 2011 registered voters were 13,954,129 and 8,272,760 (59.29%) turned up. That said however, Besigye would need a miracle to climb to 50 percent plus one vote in order to win the presidency according to Uganda’s constitution. Never-the-less, it should be frightening that Besigye could make such a gain, implying NRM strategists, have their work cut out for them to mobilise for a massive turnout if indeed they still want President Museveni to their flag in 2021, and silence Besigye’s rumbling. Already, recent statements from the CEC retreat urging Museveni to continue has kicked up a storm which needs to be managed very carefully.

Like it has been in all the previous elections, people like Muntu, Bobi Wine and whoever else may come in 2021 while shouldn’t be completely ignored will only be outlier candidates and noisy detraction whose combined strength is unlikely to garner five percent of the total votes. This is because President Museveni and NRM remain in a strong lead and their supporters haven’t been crossing to join other parties and candidates. Muntu and Bobi Wine if they dared to persist in their political gamble will slice into the traditional and emerging opposition support base. The big talk, of a surging and restless youth population as a possible potent election game changer is a dim view because Uganda’s youth are unlikely to vote as one block. They will most likely, as has been the established tradition vote according to social and family patterns meaning a youth from an NRM family and social base will probably vote for President Museveni and NRM.

To many analysts, the indefatigable Besigye is certainly returning with his abrasive style in 2021 as the FDC presidential candidate. We should remind readers that previously Besigye used colourful rhetoric like political tsunami, Museveni ajjagenda, kigwa leero, walk-to-work, Power 10 and boasted that he would give President a knockout, but instead in each case, it has been him and FDC that got swept off. But like with many provocative tactics, Besigye’s ‘peoples’ government is a half-clever ruse in the hope of courting a government drastic response which can accord him misplaced public sympathy.