Museveni Vs Besigye

SPECIAL REPORT: Museveni, Besigye (III) Print
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Written by Michael Mubangizi
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 20:25
Today marks 10 years since FDC president, Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye, formally announced that he would contest for the presidency against his former boss, President Yoweri Museveni.  Besigye made the declaration in a press release issued on Saturday, October 28, 2000. His move had come a week after his October 20, 2000 retirement from the Army, and a year after his November 1999 hard-hitting dossier titled, An Insider’s  view of how NRM lost the broad-base for which he was to be court-martialed until he “regretted” the controversy it created in a letter to President Museveni. In the highly publicised document, Besigye accused the Movement of being undemocratic, corrupt, opportunistic, dishonest and sectarian. He also accused it of reneging on its core principles of individual merit and being broad-based. Besigye further said that the Movement had been manipulated by people seeking to gain or retain political power, and that it was behaving like a political party contrary to what it professed to be. Ten years later, it appears only time has changed but not the actors. Besigye is making a third attempt at dislodging President Museveni from power, having lost in the 2001 and 2006 elections. Both Museveni and Besigye were nominated on Monday to contest in the February 2011 elections. Starting today, The Observer shall run a series of articles on the 10-year struggle for power between these two men. These must read articles shall examine issues that have always shaped the Besigye- Museveni contests. In the first offering, MICHAEL MUBANGIZI traces the origins of Besigye’s disenchantment with the Movement that saw him seek to eject his former comrade.

When did it start?

The source of disagreement between President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his political nemesis Col. (Rtd) Dr. Warren Kizza Besigye Kifeefe remains a matter of public debate, varying in opinion, depending on who you talk to. Some say it is personal, driven by ego and vengeance, while others say it is based on principle. Yet many others have no clue, wondering how it came to this. They ask: did it start in 1999 when Besigye, who earlier served in senior positions as minister and National Political Commissar, wrote a strongly worded critique of the Movement titled An Insider’s view of how NRM lost the broad-base or was this document simply the final straw? Did the fall out start when Besigye’s star in national politics started fading, as some people point out, or was the fading itself because he had already been marked as a threat? One of the 38 NRM historicals, Besigye served as Director of Medical Services in the National Resistance Army –NRA- (1985). He was later appointed minister of State for Internal Affairs and National Political Commissar in 1988. Pundits say that thereafter, Besigye’s standing in the Museveni government started taking a down word-spiral. In 1991, he was removed from Cabinet and appointed commander of the NRA Mechanised Regiment in Masaka, and later NRA’s Chief of Logistics and Engineering (1993-1998). The Colonel’s last office in the NRM was that of Senior Military Advisor to the Minister of Defence –who was then President Museveni – in 1998. Besigye’s 1999 dossier, which The Observer will publish next week, offers insights into how the former political allies became foes. A review of the document shows that the seeds of discord were sowed in the early 1990s, matured during the Constituent Assembly debates (1993-1995) and came to the fore in 1999. In the memo, Besigye claimed that the Movement had lost its broad-base character in early 1990’s. He wrote: “The popular concept of the broad-based government, which had also received support of most political groups, was progressively undermined.” This is similar to what he told The Observer about his prison experience I feared being poisoned while in Luzira Prison in The Weekly Observer, February 8-14, 2007.


Besigye (circled) with other NRA bush war fighters 

Losing track?

In the interview, Besigye said the Movement started losing track in the early 1990s, the time he had planned to retire from the army. “When I joined the army (NRA), my objective was limited to seeing the removal of the dictatorship and establishing democratic governance in which each of us would peacefully thrive. I had therefore hoped to leave the army by the time of the making of the new constitution in the early 1990s to do my own things. “But then, that is the time things started going seriously wrong. We went to the Constituent Assembly (CA); it was manipulated and really sabotaged by NRM leaders, in fact by Museveni himself. Things have since that time moved in some kind of un-controlled manner.” By 1994, Besigye further states in his dossier, “The NRM’s all encompassing, and broad-based concept remained only in name.” While the CA electoral law provided for individual merit as the basis of standing for political office, Besigye said, the NRM Secretariat set up special committees to recommend NRM candidates for support during the CA elections. He also took a swipe at the declaration by some senior NRM leaders that they had won the CA elections, yet legally all Ugandans were assumed to be part of the Movement. “Who had won? It was clear there were two systems; one described in the law, and another being practised.” During the CA deliberations, Besigye, together with Lt. Col. Serwanga Lwanga (RIP), and Gen. David Tinyefuza, were among the army officers who opposed the extension of the Movement rule and supported the return to multi-partyism and federalism. Quoting minutes of an August 25, 1994 meeting between President Museveni and a section of CA delegates at the President’s Kisozi farm, Besigye says the Movement formed a group to represent its positions in CA, yet all people were assumed to be Movement supporters. “The arbitrarily handpicked group went ahead to take positions on major areas of the draft constitution, which we members of CA, considered as “NRM supporters” were supposed to support in the CA.” Ironically, the 16-member team comprised people like Miria Matembe, Bidandi Ssali and Justice George Kanyeihamba who have since fallen out with the Movement, or are critical of President Museveni. Both Matembe and Bidandi were sacked from Cabinet for opposing attempts to amend the constitution to lift term limits. Bidandi now heads an opposition political party – People’s Progressive Party. Eriya Kategaya, who was National Political Commissar, and attended the meeting, was also eventually sacked from Cabinet for opposing a third term for President Museveni, only to be re-appointed later. Others who attended the meeting were Steven Chebrot, the late Agard Didi, Mathias Ngobi, Michael Sebalu, the late Noble Mayombo, Jotham Tumwesigye, Aziz Kasujja, Beatrice Lagada, Faith Mwonda and Margret Zziwa.

Mixed reaction

The Besigye document evoked mixed reactions. While some welcomed it, others like President Museveni and the army command were enraged. In fact, there was a threat to court-martial Besigye for making controversial statements in public while still in active military service. But local leaders from Besigye’s home area, Rukungiri, opposed the move, forming forums like the National Task Force Besigye Rescue Group to intercede for him. They also asked the army to honour Besigye’s request to retire. Having achieved their objective, many of the leaders involved in that struggle have since abandoned Besigye. Robert Ndyomugenyi formed the little-known Reform Party, while former Kinkiizi West Parliament aspirant, Iddily Kwijuka Baryareba, remains an NRM activist. Baryareeba was secretary general of the National Task Force Besigye Rescue Group. “We now know that Besigye may be arrested anytime…and if anything like that happens, we are planning bigger action,” said Kwijuka who was also mobilisation secretary of Rukungiri Development Committee in 2000 Besigye group now plans bigger action; The Monitor, October 20, 2000 Such statements enraged President Museveni who ordered security agencies to decisively deal with people threatening violence in the name of defending Besigye. In a memo to the then minister of State for Defence, Steven Kavuma, Museveni wrote: “I continue to see newspaper reports quoting some civilians that are supposed to be defending Col. Besigye….working with the appropriate organs of the state, warn the leaders of those groups that they will come to grief if they are to disrupt public order in the defence of Besigye.” The National Task Force Besigye Rescue Group, Kwijuka said, believed the army was insincere in investigating remarks attributed to Besigye during the burial of DP’s publicity secretary, Anthony Ssekweyama, on October 3, 2000. Besigye had reportedly stirred controversy during Ssekweyama’s burial at Buwungu, Mitala Maria, when he told mourners that he stood by what he had written in his missive. Besigye likened himself to Ssekweyama and asked people to emulate his (Sekweyama’s) principled, straight forwardness, upright and resolute character in pursuing what they believe in. These remarks re-ignited trouble for Besigye. Gen. Jeje Odong, army commander at the time, noted that although they had begun considering Besigye’s retirement, his statements at Sekweyama’s burial had taken them back to square one Col. Besigye in more trouble with the army, Sunday Monitor, October 8, 2000.

Personal agenda?

Commenting on his support for Besigye in 1999/2000 and returning to the Movement fold, Baryareeba told The Observer that he opposed Besigye’s trial but didn’t support him politically. “Mine was a cause. I was saying Besigye shouldn’t be court-martialed because of his views. I wanted people in NRM to rebut what he had written but not to court-martial him,” he said. Baryareeba also spoke of the hypocrisy of some of Besigye’s supporters who he says privately supported him but never publicly identified with him. He added that he was later to realise that Besigye’s opposition to Museveni was based on personal ego, vengeance, anger and pretence. He, for instance, argues that while Besigye accused Museveni of nepotism and family rule, most of the former’s campaign teams have been dominated by members of his family. He cited Besigye’s wife, Winnie Byanyima, her sister Martha and brother, Anthony, among others. Kwijuka also alleges that Besigye’s political pursuits are driven by personal interest, citing his decision to ignore some NRM historicals who suggested that he let Museveni complete his term after 2001, before challenging him for the presidency. “What was so much at stake that he had to contest?” Baryareeba asks. Before announcing that he would stand for the president, Besigye held private talks with key NRM leaders such as the late James Wapakhabulo, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Eriya Kategaya and Amanya Mushega on the direction of the Movement. One such meeting took place at the ministry of Public Service, which was then headed by Mushega. Besigye, however, told The Observer in an interview about his prison experience that his bid for the presidency wasn’t driven by personal interest. “Even in 2001, it wasn’t my intention at all to join politics. My intention was to go into private life outside government. I had however hoped that some of our colleagues, in the circumstances, would take over the challenge to challenge the regime. But as it turned out, they did not consider it the right time. Many of them said we should wait since Museveni was serving his last term. But I felt strongly that it was the right time to challenge him because any day that he continued unchallenged would be compounding the problem.” It is indeed believed that during one of these meetings of historical NRM leaders who wanted change, Besigye urged Jaberi Bidandi Ssali or Kategaya to take on Museveni but they declined, saying the President was after all going for his last term. Four years later, the constitution was amended and term limits removed, exonerating Besigye who had argued that Museveni would not leave. As the amendment chorus gained momentum at around 2003, disappointed Kategaya and Bidandi Ssali, among others, tried to resist it, but ended up not only failing but also losing their cabinet jobs. Another historical, newly elected NRM chairman for Buganda region and former Luwero district chairman, Abdu Nadduli, says the current political trends show that Besigye’s accusations against the Movement in 1999 had no merit. “If he says that the NRM was corrupt, how come he was not corrupt if he was part of it?” argues Nadduli. On Besigye’s accusation that the Movement was undemocratic, Nadduli asks, “If he is democratic, are we the ones chasing away Beti Kamya and Nabilah Ssempala from his party? Aren’t people leaving his party accusing it of being undemocratic?” Nadduli also insists that CA delegates were elected on merit contrary to Besigye’s claims that they were supported by some special movement organs.  

Museveni – Besigye III (PART 2) Print E-mail
Written by Michael Mubangizi
Wednesday, 03 November 2010 19:55
Article Index
Museveni – Besigye III (PART 2)
Museveni -Besigye III (continuation)
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Gen Museveni taking oath in 1986

The dossier that got Besigye into trouble

He escaped court martial for engaging in politics In November 1999, Col. Kizza Besigye, while still a serving Army officer, authored a document titled, An Insider’s view of how NRM lost the broad-base, which was very critical of the direction the NRM under President Museveni was taking. Incensed by the document, the Army attempted to court martial the author but backed down amid protests that Besigye’s rights were being violated. In our continuing series on the 10-year-contest for power between Museveni and Besigye, we reproduce a heavily edited version of that hair-raising missive. I have taken keen interest and participated in the political activities on the Ugandan scene since the late 1970s. This was during a period of intense jostling to topple and later succeed the Idi Amin regime. I am, therefore, fully aware of the euphoria, excitement and hope with which Ugandans received the Uganda National Liberation Front/Army (UNLF/A). Ugandans supported the UNLF’s stated approach of “politics of consensus” through the common front. It was hoped that the new approach to politics would be maintained and Uganda rebuilt from the ruins left by the Amin regime. Unfortunately, instead of nurturing the structures, and regulations which bound the front together, we witnessed a primitive power struggle that resulted in ripping the front apart to the chagrin of the population. Some of us young people were immediately thrown into serious confusion. We had not belonged to any political party before, and we did not approve of the record and character of the existing parties – UPC and DP. Spontaneously, many people started talking of belonging to a Third Force. This force represented those persons who wished to make a fresh start at political organization, with unity and consensus politics as the centre pin. With a few months left to the 1980 elections, the Third Force crystallized into a new political organization– the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM). The population, to a large extent, expressed their appreciation of the ideas and opportunity presented by the young organization, but was pessimistic regarding its electoral success. Pessimism was justified, because the new organisation simply had no time and resources to organize effectively nationally; and UPC was already positioning itself very loudly and arrogantly to rig the elections and seemed to have what was essential for them to do so successfully. After the sham 1980 elections, when Paulo Muwanga, a leader of UPC (and chairman of the Military Commission) took over all powers of the Electoral Commission and declared his own election results, there was widespread despondency and tension. While the “minority” DP Members of Parliament took up the opposition benches in Parliament, the rank and file of the party rapidly united behind the new forces of resistance to struggle against the dictatorial rule. The Popular Resistance Army (PRA and later, NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni which started with about 30 fighters, was overwhelmed by people seeking to join its ranks. The NRM was born as a political organization in June 1981. It was created by a protocol that effected the merger of Uganda Freedom Fighters UFF (led by the late Prof Y.K. Lule and Museveni’s PRA). The armed wing of the organization became the National Resistance Army (NRA). The NRM political programme was initially based on seven points which were later increased to become the well-known Ten-Point Programme. The basic consideration in drawing up the programme was that it should form the basis of a broad national political and social force. A national coalition was considered to be of critical importance in establishing peace, security, and optimally moving the country forward. The political programme was, therefore, referred to as a minimum programme around which different political forces in Uganda could unite for rehabilitation and recovery of the country. To achieve unity, it was envisaged that the minimum programme would be implemented by a broad-based government. After the bush war, discussions were undertaken with the various political forces to establish a broad-based government that would reflect a national consensus. The NRM set up a committee led by Eriya Kategeya (then chairman of the NRM Political and Diplomatic committee) for the purpose of engaging the various groups in these discussions. This exercise was, however, never taken to its logical conclusion. It would appear that once the leaders of the political parties were given “good” posts in the NRM government, their enthusiasm for the discussions waned, and the process eventually fizzled out. In spite of the lack of a proper modus operandi, the initial NRM government (executive branch) was impressively broad-based. Consensus politics conducted through elections based on individual merit and formation of broad-based government became the hallmark of the NRM.

Broad base undermined

However, the popular concept of the broad-based government, which had also received support of most political groups, was progressively undermined. It ought to be remembered that due to the support and cooperation of other political groups, no legal restrictions were imposed –on political parties until August 11, 1992 when the NRC made a resolution on political party activities in the interim period. In my opinion, there were three factors responsible for undermining and later destroying the NRM cardinal principle of broad-basedness, especially in appointment to the Executive: The NRM had set itself to serve for a period of four years as an interim government, then return power to the people. However, it was not very clear how this would happen at the end of the four years. Some politicians in NRM government who came from other political parties set out to use their advantaged positions to, on the one hand, undermine the NRM and on the other, strengthen themselves in preparation for the post-NRM political period. Consequently, they fell out with the NRM leadership, and a number of them were arrested and charged with treason. Historical NRM politicians who thought that they were not “appropriately” placed in government, blamed this on the large number of the “non-NRM” people in high up places, and set out to campaign against the situation. They created a distinction between government leaders as “NRM”, and “broad-based”. If you were referred to as “broad-based”, it was another way of saying that you were undeserving of your post, or that you were possibly an enemy agent (“5th Columnist”). After some years of NRM rule, some in the leadership began to feel that there was sufficient grassroots support for the NRM, such that one could “off-load” the “broad–based” elements in government at no political cost. These factors were at the centre of an unprincipled power-struggle which was mostly covert and hence could not be resolved democratically. It continued to play itself out outside the formal Movement organs, with the results of weakening and eventually losing the concept of consensus politics and broad-basedness. By the time of the Constituent Assembly elections were held in 1994, the NRM’s all encompassing, and broad-based concept remained only in name. For instance, while the CA electoral law clearly stated that candidates would stand on “individual merit”, the NRM Secretariat set up special commercial committees at districts whose task was to recommend “NRM candidates” for support. Not only did the logistical and administrative machinery of NRM move against the candidates supporting or suspected to be favouring early return to multi-party politics, it even moved against liberal candidates advocating for the initial NRM broad–based concept. That is why many people were surprised and confused when some senior NRM leaders declared that “we have won!” after the CA results were announced. Who had won? It was clear that there were two systems; one described in the law, and another being practised. Moreover, the conduct of the CA, again exhibited the contradictions between the principles of NRM (and the law), and the practice. I was quite alarmed when I read a document titled ‘Minutes Of A Meeting Between H.E The President with CA Group Held On 25.8.94 At Kisozi.’ The copy had been availed to me by my colleague Lt Col Serwanga Lwanga (RIP) who attended the meeting. Present at the meeting were recorded as: H.E. the President (Chair), Eriya Kategaya, Bidandi Ssali, Steven Chebrot, Agard Didi, George Kanyeihamba. Miria Matembe, Mathias Ngobi, Mr Sebalu, Lt Noble Mayombo, Jotham Tumwesigye, Aziz Kasujja, Beatrice Lagada, Faith Mwonda and Margaret Zziwa. The introduction of the meeting reads in part as follows: The National Political Commissar introduced this committee as a Constituent Assembly Movement Group which wants to agree on a common position. The arbitrary hand-picked group went ahead to take positions on major areas of the draft constitution, which we members of CA, (considered as “NRM supporters”), were supposed to support in the CA. It is interesting to note that among the 16 hand-picked members of the group, only six were directly elected to represent constituencies in the CA. The others were presidential nominees and representatives of special interest groups. One member was not even a CA delegate. We strongly resisted this approach, and after intense pushing and shoving, this group was replaced by the “Movement caucus” under the chairmanship of the National Political Commissar, Kategaya.

Changing movement

The Movement caucus acted very much like an organ of a ruling party. All ministers (except Paul Ssemogerere who later resigned from government) were members. The hand-picked group, and the Movement caucus after it, both undermined the principles of the Movement and the law. The Constituent Assembly was negatively influenced by executive appointments. In the middle of the CA proceedings, a cabinet reshuffle saw Speciosa Kazibwe elevated to the vice presidency, Kintu Musoke to premier and several other delegates appointed to ministerial posts. Many others were appointed to be directors of parastatal companies. It is my opinion that after these actions, some CA delegates took positions believed to attract the favourable attention of the executive. Most CA delegates also intended to participate in the elections that would immediately follow the CA.

This had two negative effects:

Being aware of the previous role of the NRM Secretariat in elections, some CA delegates would be compromised to act in such a way as to win the support of the secretariat in the forthcoming elections. Some CA delegates saw themselves as the first beneficiaries of the government structure and arrangements that were being constitutionalised. So, they took positions which would favour them, and not the common good. As a result, the CA progressively became polarized, and its objectivity was diminished, especially when dealing with political systems. For example, at the commencement of the CA, every delegate made an opening statement highlighting major views on the draft constitution. Analysis of these statements shows that few delegates supported the immediate introduction of multiparty system while the majority supported the continuation of the “Movement system” for a transitional period of varying length. The positions expressed were very much in line with the views gathered by the Constitutional Commission. The commission noted in its report (paragraph 0.46) that a consensus on the issue could not be attained. This was demonstrated by the statistical analysis of views gathered from RC 1 to RC V, plus individual and group memoranda. It will be seen that nationally, at RC 1, “Movement” supporters were 63.2% and this percentage decreased progressively as they went to higher RCs until RCV (District Councils) where Movement supporters were only 38.9% and multiparty supporters were 52.8%. Among the individual memoranda, 43.9% supported a multiparty system, while 42.1% supported Movement. Among the group memoranda, 45.1% supported multiparty, while 41.4% supported Movement. It is important to note that these views were gathered at a time when there was no impending election, and therefore, no campaigning. Accordingly, the Constitutional Commission proposed the following, as the only limitation on political party activities (in Article 98 of Draft Constitution): “For the period when the Movement is in existence, political parties shall not endorse, sponsor, offer platform to or in anyway campaign for or against any candidate for public office.” The CA under the influences outlined earlier ended up with restrictions contained in the highly contentious article 269 of the Constitution. The character of the Movement gradually changed, and the process of change was not determined democratically. Instead, it was continuously manipulated. Established Movement organs were continuously undetermined, and others completely ignored. For example, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NRM was the organ supposed to be coordinating change in the NRM, yet NEC had not met for more than three years prior to the promulgation of the 1995 constitution – in spite of a requirement for it to meet at last once every three months. Instead, covert and arbitrarily constituted groups came in, like district election committees, special CA groups, Movement political High Command, Movement caucus, Maj Kakooza Mutale’s group, etc. The Movement created by the CA and completed by Parliament (through the Movement Act 1997) was different from the one of 1986-1995. The Movement Act 1997 created a political organization with structures outside the governmental structure. For the first time, the Movement was a political organization distinct from government, the only remaining link being that it was funded by the government. Unfortunately, instead of describing the Movement as a political organization, the CA chose to call it a political system – distinct from “Multiparty Political System”, and other systems that may be thought of later. This was, in my opinion, a grave error. We even ignored advice given to us through a letter by President Yoweri Museveni (chairman NRM and Commander in Chief NRA) to the CA-NRM caucus delegates, dated June 21, 1995. In the letter, the chairman says, “the NRM is not a state but a political organization that tries to welcome all Ugandans. It therefore cannot coerce all Ugandans to be loyal to it. Loyalty to NRM is voluntary.” The reality of the Movement today is that it is a political organization in much the same way as any political party is. Having no membership cards does not make it less so. In fact, in the letter referred to above, President Museveni further explains: “then some people may ask the question. If NRM could be already to compete for political office with opposing political forces in future, why not do it now? Do not support doing it now because it is not in the best [interest] of governance and fortunately now the people still agree with us. It is only when the majority of the people change that we have to adjust our position. It would be something imposed on us by circumstances.” So the NRM/Movement system is a convenient and, for the time,  popular means to political power.


The characteristics which made the NRM government popular, such as the broad- based strategy, principle of individual merit, and the 10-Point Programme have been seriously eroded. This is evidenced by the bitter antagonism and animosity which exists between Movement supporters in many parts of the country, e.g. Kabale, Ntungamo, Kasese and Iganga. After more than 13 years of NRM rule, armed rebellion rages on in northern Uganda, and has also become entrenched in the western part of the country. All in all, when I reflect on the Movement philosophy and governance, I can conclude that the Movement has been manipulated by those seeking to gain or retain political power, in the same way that political parties in Uganda were manipulated. Evidently, the results of this manipulation are also the same, to wit: Factionalism, loss of faith in the system, corruption, insecurity and abuse of human rights, economic distortions and eventually decline. So, whether it’s political parties or Movement, the real problem is dishonest, opportunistic and undemocratic leadership operating in a weak institutional framework and a weak civil society which cannot control them. I have shown that over the years the “Movement System” has been defined in the law in a certain way, but the leaders have chosen to act in a difficult way. This is dishonest and opportunistic leadership. I have also shown how changes have been made to the Movement agenda, and other important decisions have been made outside the Movement structures. This too is undemocratic leadership. In my opinion, the way forward in developing a stable political situation is to do the following: Urgently revisit the legal framework with a view to making an equitable law and regulation for all political organizations. The Movement should be treated as a political organization. Implementing this would need amendments to the Constitution, including amendment of articles 69 and 74. This requires the approval of the people through a referendum and the forthcoming referendum could be used for this purpose. In any case, laws are a reflection of the political will, so if there is political will to correct a situation, finding a way is easy. The primary guarantor of democracy, human rights and the rule of law must be the civil society. Its capacity should, therefore, be quickly developed. Focus on a programme that could quickly raise the standards of living of our people to a decent level. This is an essential antecedent for our society to build a viable democracy. Of course, the approach to raising the standards of living is highly debatable. I have personal views that I hope to share with the public at another time. I pray to the almighty God to guide us so that we do not tumble again. Next week; Besigye announces that he would contest for the presidency in October 2000. You can’t miss the drama this announcement caused. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Museveni – Besigye III: Col Besigye flees to exile News Written by Michael Mubangizi Wednesday, 24 November 2010 19:46 A youthful Besigye In the fourth part of our continuing Museveni- Besigye (III) series, Michael Mubangizi writes about Besigye’s flight to exile, how government linked him to rebellion, his return from exile and eventual arrest as he prepared to contest for the 2006 elections. On April 21, 2001, the Supreme Court upheld Yoweri Museveni’s election, dismissing Kizza Besigye’s petition that sought to have the elections annulled. Addressing journalists shortly after the ruling, Besigye had a word for President Museveni: “We are ready to enter dialogue with you and your government about how to undertake the necessary reforms to move the country forward…should you choose the path of repression, you will face stiff resistance.” Besigye also vowed to use all means available to have the changes he wanted effected. However, this was never to materialize because five months after the March 12, 2001 elections, Besigye fled to exile, citing threats to his life. Details of his August 17, 2001 flight remain unknown, and Besigye himself has declined to divulge anything. All he told this newspaper in an interview some time back is that his sudden departure followed increasing threats to his life after the hotly contested polls. “After the election, 24-hour surveillance was put on me. These were people who were not just surveilling me from a distance but vehicles which drove surrounding me and making me know that they were with me 24 hours wherever I went,” Besigye told us in an article published on January 31, 2008. Besigye also cited the two times he had been blocked from traveling out of the country, and a June 30, 2001 incident at Lukaya on Masaka-Mbarara road, when security officers blocked him from traveling to Mbarara to congratulate his wife, Winnie Byanyima, who had been reelected Mbarara Municipality MP. Government later denied involvement in the Lukaya incident. On the same day, Museveni linked Besigye to terrorism in his address to journalists at his Kisozi country home. “You remember the bombs in Kampala? Intelligence reports linked them to Nasser Sebaggala and Besigye after they had lost the election,” he said. Museveni also challenged Besigye to denounce Colonels Samson Mande and Anthony Kyakabale who he alleged had declared war on Uganda and had supported him. “Besigye should denounce their acts, if not, security will take interest,” Museveni said. Earlier on March 17, 2001, security operatives, acting on the orders of Noble Mayombo, who was then Chief of Military Intelligence, ordered Besigye off a South African Airways flight at Entebbe Airport as he prepared to leave for a short holiday. Two months later, on May 25, 2001, CMI officers again blocked Besigye from boarding a Kenya Airways plane to Nairobi for what he said was a business trip. In the said interview, Besigye said the government had linked him to the bomb attacks in Kasese and Kampala shortly after the 2001 elections so as to charge him with terrorism in a wider bid to criminalise his opposition. “All this was to create a base for my arrest and also to scare our supporters [into fearing that] support for Besigye is support for terrorism,” he said. The decision to flee the country, he said, was prompted by reports that he would be arrested. “That is when I considered whether I should allow to be arrested or not. It was a very serious debate in my mind because I clearly knew that going away had serious disadvantages for what we were doing as Reform Agenda. But I also considered the disadvantages of being incarcerated and indeed possibly being killed there as may have been, and I opted to step out to safety and plan from safety rather than plan from danger.” News of his flight was first reported in the media on August 21, 2001 although he had fled the country on August 17. “He had spent the week concerned about his safety and said security was following him all around,” his wife Byanyima was quoted in the papers. She later told Parliament that since Mayombo had been tasked to ensure that Besigye doesn’t leave the country, he should “produce” him. Besigye reportedly went through Kenya, South Africa and later the US. He only broke the silence about his whereabouts on August 27, 2001 during a Straight Talk Africa programme on Voice of America (VOA). During the show, Besigye said he didn’t find trouble escaping. “It wasn’t difficult at all to leave. I knew all along that I could easily slip away,” he said. FDC formed While in exile, Besigye’s political outfit that had campaigned for him was transformed into a pressure group, the Reform Agenda, launched in July 2002. This was partly because political parties were still banned in Uganda. Later, after the return to pluralism in 2005, the group later merged with the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO) and Karuhanga Chapaa’s National Democratic Forum (NDF) to form the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). The merger brought on board new opposition figures such as Salaamu Musumba, Mugisha Muntu, Augustine Ruzindana and John Kazoora. Besigye returned to Uganda on October 26, 2005 to contest for the presidency on the FDC ticket. But days before the presidential nominations, on November 14, 2005, he was arrested and charged with rape, treason and concealment of treason in relation to the Lord’s Resistance Army and People’s Redemption Army rebel outfits. The courts have since cleared him of all these charges. Besigye’s arrest, barely a week to the presidential nominations, caused uncertainty among his supporters. This was compounded by Attorney General Prof Khiddu Makubuya’s counsel that Besigye couldn’t be nominated while in jail. The move was, however, overruled by his deputy, Adolf Mwesige, allowing for Besigye’s nomination while in jail. He was later granted bail on January 2, 2006 but he would divide his campaign time with court appearances. In the February 23, 2006 elections, Besigye again lost to Museveni. He polled 37.36% votes compared to Museveni’s 59.28%. This was a major improvement for Besigye who had scored 27.7% of the votes in the 2001 elections, and a significant decline for President Museveni who had earlier garnered 69%. Dissatisfied with the results, Besigye again took the battle to the Supreme Court which unanimously agreed that the election hadn’t been free and fair. But the court upheld the election, saying the irregularities hadn’t affected the results in a substantial manner. This enraged Besigye who vowed never again to petition the court over his election. With Museveni beginning his new term in office and Besigye now firmly back into the country, there was no end in sight for the rivalry. Indeed Besigye and his FDC focused their attention on galvanizing all opposition political parties to dislodge President Museveni at the next elections. These efforts were eventually snubbed by the Democratic Party and Uganda Peoples Congress, leaving FDC as the only major party together with SDP, CP and JEEMA in the so-called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC). Besigye was consequently anointed IPC flag bearer, paving way for his third contest with Museveni. In the last part of these series next Thursday, we shall examine issues that have always shaped Museveni-Besigye campaigns since 2001.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kenneth K. Kataryeba
    May 30, 2011 @ 09:35:50

    Interesting stuff but of course the reader needs to be able to sieve fiction from facts. KK

  2. george mutuku
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:13:00

    captivating piece of writting though seems there are some underlying truths not mentioned.cheers

  3. musa kwehangana
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 10:44:05

    logical info.,indeed

    Mar 24, 2013 @ 01:53:40

    No matter if some one searches for his required thing, so he/she
    desires to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over

  5. 403 B Plan
    Oct 20, 2013 @ 14:25:58

    I hardly leave remarks, however after reading a ton of comments
    here Museveni Vs Besigye | Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba.
    I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be only me or does it appear like a few of the comments come
    across like they are left by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are writing on
    other online social sites, I’d like to follow
    everything new you have to post. Would you list of every one
    of all your social community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed,
    or linkedin profile?

  6. Oakley Frogskin Noir
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 12:59:22

    I will right away seize your rss feed as I can’t
    find your email subscription link or newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Kindly permit me recognize so that I may
    just subscribe. Thanks.

  7. Amanya Rolland
    Oct 09, 2015 @ 06:26:29

    I ve nothing to say only to thank Rtd Dr Col Kiiza Besigye 4 the struggle!/!

  8. opio daniel
    Dec 20, 2015 @ 14:57:58

    i think this time he will go thru considering his large crowd in most of his rallies i wish him de best . the struggle continues KB

    Mar 24, 2016 @ 21:04:59

    nyc 2 all candidates who participated, God bless u all

  10. alinaitwe
    Apr 03, 2016 @ 21:58:15

    itz good

  11. alinaitwe
    Apr 03, 2016 @ 22:03:26

    noth’g to say,we are just to keep quiet and listen to what is taking place btn them.

  12. Kalibala esau
    Apr 19, 2016 @ 09:56:20

    its so clear that Besigye won the 2016 general presidential elections

  13. henry gahskl
    May 26, 2016 @ 15:28:21

    Those people were the same but your just playing this country

    Jul 19, 2016 @ 04:36:54

    so Dr.Besigye became an enemy when he decided to follow the ten point program agenda? uganda zaabu.But be blessed Dr.Besigye for being there for the voiceless

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Semuwemba Calendar

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Semuwemba is a Ugandan residing in the UK

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"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. "~ Martin Luther King Jr. ~

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