Around June 2015, the Mbale FDC district structure had preparations to open our office ahead of the two campaigns i.e. the Party Primaries and the general elections. Our program was ready. Apart from opening offices, we had a netball tournament, there was a procession to the stadium and our usual Bagisu kadodi fanfare.
A day to the event, the DPC and his team stormed our district office. As District Party Chairperson, I asked them what they wanted and their response was that we could do everything except hosting Dr. Besigye in Mbale.
I have never been so incensed. I felt anger taking the better of me. I shouted at the DPC why Dr. Besigye should not be allowed in Mbale, whether there was a crime he had committed and whether he wasn’t a citizen of this country entitled to free movement? Police blocked Dr. Besigye from coming to Mbale.
Again, in March this year, Dr. Besigye was in Bugisu Region for the FDC Elgon regional retreat. He had come a day earlier and together with the Party Secretary General; Nathan Nandala- Mafabi, went to attend a family function in Manafa. On their way back to Buwalasi-Sironko where Dr. Besigye was to spend a night, police barricaded the road at Bungogho and stopped Dr. Besigye from accessing Mbale Town.
I could go on and on narrating the injustices committed on this single person called Besigye. Alluding to Shakespeare’s King Lear, I would say Dr. Besigye has been sinned against more than he has sinned against any one.
While one would appreciate the regime actions because they are angered because of a man who has stood his word, remained consistent and therefore endeared himself to many ordinary Ugandans unlike Gen Yoweri kaguta who has to pay people to gather around him; it is surprising that the hate against Dr. Besigye should also be coming from his backyard, the FDC party.
The FDC Presidential nomination were concluded on Tuesday 15th August 2017 and clearly, Dr. Besigye is not among the candidates but his name is being discussed more than any other candidate.
Commentators from both within and without are out to ‘eat Besigye like a sambusa’ his crime being he has supposedly planted people against the sitting Party President Gen Muntu. Dr Besigye is also accused of having created factions in the party. In addition, he is accused of not letting Gen Muntu to shine. Again, I could go on and on.
Dr. Besigye has not planted anyone. The candidates in the race chose to contest for their own reasons just like Gen Muntu consistently ran against Dr. Besigye in three previous races but was never accused of dividing the party.
In my own view, Dr. Besigye has given a lot of leverage to General Muntu. Dr. Besigye resigned as Party President upon informing the party that he wanted to concentrate on activism. The party allowed him and there followed campaigns where amidst contestations, Gen Muntu ascended the FDC Presidential seat.
In his campaign, Gen Muntu said that FDC needed a three-pronged strategy, where he the General would build party structure, his opponent and then Leader of Opposition Nandala- Mafabi would concentrate on the legislative front and Dr. Besigye would mobilize citizens along the activism front.
Sticking to his word, Dr. Besigye indeed left Najjanankumbi, and not wanting to disturb or interfere with the new President of the party, he set up his own offices where he has continued to coordinate his activities. Those who love Besigye and continue to follow him do not do so blindly as some people have opined.
It is therefore perturbing when one hears voices accusing Dr. Besigye of failure to give Gen Muntu space to operate and accusing him of setting up parallel offices. It is the kind of “damn if you do and damn if you don’t”. If Dr. Besigye had remained hovering around Najja as they call it; the same people who accuse him of opening parallel offices would be saying indeed he suffocated Gen Muntu. What exactly should Dr. Besigye do? Isn’t he free to have an office to himself where people who value him can find him. Why don’t they try to understand why people follow Besigye, do they follow a person or the ideas he stands for or both?
Let’s also engage with the question of Dr. Besigye having a grip on the party as some people allege. I am personally convinced that Dr. Besigye and other founding fathers and mothers of the FDC party have let down the institution in quest for democracy. FDC sometimes is too annoyingly democratic courtesy of the foundation laid by Dr. Besigye and his fellow founders.
My view is that founders of this party should continuously give guidance and direction of this party. You can’t just let ‘democracy’ to prevail especially under a dictatorship like the one we live. Where hired mercenaries can easily use their dirty money to filter through to the highest positions in the party.
My views are based on the lessons and history of how founding fathers in other parties have used or continue to use their influence to guide their parties.
Until Nyerere died, he continued to influence things in Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). In the contest between Benjamin Mkapa and Jakawa Mrisho kikwete, he sounded out Jakaya Kikwete and told him to wait. Calm was restored in the party. No one accused Mwalimu Nyerere of having an overbearing hand on the affairs of CCM.
In South Africa, till today, the name of Nelson Mandela is invoked by the African National Congress (ANC). At the time Thabo Mbeki was concluding his second term, ANC was faced with a dilemma, Mbeki was illegible for another term yet the likely successor Zuma, was rocked by corruption scandals. ANC had to either use their majority in parliament to amend the constitution and allow Mbeki to run for the third term or retire Mbeki and go with the scandal -rocked Zuma. Mandela went with Zuma and that was settled.
In Namibia, the founding father of South Western People’s Organisation (SWAPO) Dr. Sam Nujoma, in 2015, threw his weight behind the candidature of the current President Hage Geingob to replace Pohamba against many SWAPO members who favoured another candidate from the tribe of the Ovambo. The influence of these founding fathers did not weaken the parties but rather strengthened them. CCM, ANC and SWAPO are among the strong parties on the continent.
I therefore don’t see why people continue to castigate Dr. Besigye unfairly if he chooses to support one FDC candidate against the other.
A political party like any organization is founded with vision to drive a certain mission based on guiding principles. While there can be trained managers to run the day to day errands, there should be trusties to ensure that the institution does not lose track of its founding mission and that the institutional image is not brought to disrepute. The founders while they still live are the best trustees of the party principles and mission.
Margaret Wokuri- Madanda
FDC District Chairperson Mbale
Minister for Education in The People’s Government