Its ok to compare Besigye/FDC with Bobi/ NUP, but the wrinkle here is that it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Besigye is a whole, Bobi is broken – he has created a colossal mess in opposition politics that will take years to clean up.
First, Besigye first stood for elections in 2001 at the time nobody, even in NRM, could dare stand against Museveni. Actually, if any popular musician at that time had tried to stand against Museveni, I believe most Ugandans would have laughed at him or her. But Besigye dared, ended up in exile in south Africa for 4 years, attempts were made on his life even while in exile, but he dared again to come back to Uganda to context in 2006.
As expected, he was arrested after a few days in the country. Andrew Mwenda is on record saying that Besigye’s arrest then was supposed to end into his assassination, but he survived due to a few sympathetic friends inside the army and intelligence organs. He only campaigned for three weeks in 2006 but he allegedly won the election, according to Gen. Sejusa(now Tinyefunza).
As a very young lad, 2006 was my first time to intently follow an election, and it was a year of so much pain in my life at a personal level. On polling day, my eyes were glued on a computer screen throughout the night monitoring the results coming on both Simba Fm and Daily Monitor websites, and everything pointed towards a Besigye win. Then, suddenly, both sites were offline, and I was gutted. I later came to learn that an order from above had stopped them from relaying results.
Then that very night, Chelsea was playing Barcelona in the Champions league, and guess what? It also ended in tears. I remember a Chelsea player, Del Horno, getting a red card after a corner, but Chelsea kept pushing. The referee, like Uganda’s Electoral Commission, seemingly rigged it for Barcelona as he added more unnecessary minutes that led to a Messi goal pushing Barcelona through.
Even up to that point, Besigye and others in FDC still believed in elections, and thought they would give it another try in 2011. Trust me, FDC and its friends put every resource in the book into that election. FDC nominated 288 candidates for MP. But like they say, if you don’t have a plan, your rival has a plan, and it will manifest itself into your defeat. Besigye got only 26% while Museveni got 68%, and nobody could understand how he could have got that without figures being shaken up.
The head of the EU monitors, Edward Scicluna, said, ‘’We have found the power of incumbency was exercised to such an extent as to compromise severely the level playing field between the competing candidates and political parties,”. But all that didn’t help or save the day. General Museveni matched on and is still matching on. The worst part is, none of that was Besigye’s fault.
2016 was another similar story as the above, but all in all, Besigye won the election, again according to Gen. Sejusa, but winning didn’t help him become president, or change anything. And that’s when Besigye swore never to involve himself in Museveni’s fraudulent elections. The population had been charged up towards the same belief of ‘no - more – elections’, though elections help to build momentum towards plan B and C.
Its like Museveni knew how determined Besigye was with threat not to participate in elections again. Guess what? He directly or indirectly created a decoy in the names of Bobi Wine. There was a string of By-elections between 2017 and 2018, and all Museveni needed to do was to help one group win against the other. NRM needed to lose most of them for the plan to work, and it worked.
Bang, everyone was singing, ‘Bobi Wine, Bobi Wine’. They even later named him ‘Principal’ (whatever that means). Museveni had got his 2021-21 candidate and, therefore, he didn’t need Besigye anymore. And whatever Besigye was planning, his cord connecting him to the public had been cut off. So, Besigye’s plans were for Besigye alone without too much public support. Bobi, in the meantime, made the public believe in the elections again. Bobi’s political fights ultimately became a ruse to entrap innocent people –yes, many have been killed. Bobi’s plan had something in it to annoy almost every party leader.
Somethings need time to marinate before they can be grilled. Besigye had stood all those times to grill Uganda into knowing that elections cannot remove Museveni from power. Bobi’s supporters, on the other hand, thought opposition politics was more about passing batons. So, what happened in Kayunga a few days ago, is something to be celebrated, in the context of going back to the original ideas and plans. My worry is that Museveni will likely let the opposition win a few byelections again, to make them believe in elections again. He always sneaks up on you like a tiny Ninja when it comes to political moves.
By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba, UK