As President Yoweri Museveni marks 33 years in power, cementing his position in the annals of history as Uganda’s longest serving President, and arguably among the world’s longest serving leaders, his bush-war physician-turned-political rival Dr Kizza Besigye has praised the former for the landmark achievement on security. Besigye has also, in a surprise tone, hailed his commander-in-chief for being “visionary and thinking far above the ordinary.”
Besigye made these startling remarks at a wedding ceremony in Kiruhura District recently. As he delved into Uganda’s liberation history, the four-time presidential candidate attracted murmurs when he told the shocked audience that “no one loves President Museveni more than him [Besigye], and that “those who purport to love him [Museveni] are doing so not out of heart, but out of greed.”
He said: “I hear people saying that they love Museveni, what they forget is that some of us love him more since we risked everything including our lives to join Mr Museveni to the bush. I was working as a medical doctor in Nairobi where I earned too much money and lived a comfortable life, but left all that to join Mr Museveni’s cause for freedom in the bushes of Luwero. So, who should love Museveni more, the ones who risked their lives together with Museveni, or the ones who are hiding behind him to greedily enrich themselves with the trappings of power?”
Besigye hailed Museveni for the stellar performance in securing Uganda’s borders, but quickly added that accomplishments in peace and security shouldn’t mean that the country is on a democratic lane. “There is no denying the fact that Mr Museveni has done well when it comes to issues of security. I agree with him [Museveni] when he says that Uganda is experiencing real peace in the last 500 years. But what should Ugandans expect beyond peace? Shall Ugandans eat peace?” What Ugandans want is to live in a democratic world where they can freely exercise their God-given democratic rights without State hindrance, this is what we fought for. Ugandans want a country where there is equal social justice; where the children of the poor will compete evenly with the children of the rich; where systems and institutions are fully functional and working to deliver public goods and services to the satisfaction of the wananchi, a system which works for all, not just a system which works for a few. This is what I mean when I talk about Museveni beyond nominal achievements of peace and security.”
This is not the first time Besigye is appreciating Museveni’s consolidated achievements. About two weeks ago, while meeting a select delegation of FDC leaders and supporters from Kitgum District at his John Akibua office in Nakasero, Besigye hailed Museveni for the latter’s visionary leadership, and called on Opposition leaders to emulate the man who has recently told-off the Opposition leaders that he is not about to leave power until Africa achieves her total strategic interests in security and freedom.
He said: “Museveni is a strategic thinker and visionary in the way he does his things. He constantly looks far ahead, and this is what has kept him in power. The Opposition need to emulate Museveni; let’s try to look beyond our petty politics and ambition if we are to dislodge the current regime out of power.”
Besigye continued his Museveni-praise address to his guests some of whom were utterly shocked at his pronouncements, calling on Museveni, who will have ruled for 35 years by 2021, to leave power before he is booted out by forces of change: “The world is replete with leaders who have done exceptionally well just like Mr Museveni, and have left power. Why can’t Museveni leave power?”
It’s worth noting that Museveni has often reminded those challenging his hold on power that he [Museveni] is not about to relinquish power to people seeking to enrich their CVs with descriptions such as “eyaliko pulesidenti” (former president).
Remarks anger guests
One of the guests who couldn’t hide his disappointment at Besigye’s praise for Museveni charged: “I couldn’t believe my ears that it was Besigye praising Museveni. I don’t see much of what Museveni has done to warrant such applause, even the strategic visionary thinking he [Besigye] is talking about, I don’t see it. Instead Museveni’s vision is to die in power.”
The guest continued: “Besigye’s change of tone towards Museveni suggests that the man has lost hope of ever taking power in this country, and he talks like one who is utterly defeated and dejected.”
Another delegate speaking on condition of anonymity wondered if Besigye and Museveni haven’t been playing political gimmicks from the time the two went separate ways in the last 20 years. “I think these two gentlemen just came up with their own game of confusing Ugandans, what I see and from what I have heard from Besigye’s remarks is that the two are one and the same.”
Besigye’s praise-tone for his nemesis comes at a time his political fortunes and influence is under threat by the emergence of other political formations such as the People Power movement spearheaded by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. Bobi Wine has swiftly emerged from the ghettoes as the new face of Uganda’s opposition politics, quickly eclipsing old-timers including Dr Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Nobert Mao, and among others.
According to analysts, Bobi Wine represents a new movement largely comprised of young people who know nothing about Uganda’s history, and who would only care about food on table. The young people are looking for alternatives to the change movement, they have been following and supporting Besigye, but without much results. So with Bobi Wine, they see one who understands their plight and shares their story since he has been one of them,” says a Makerere University political don, who faults Bobi Wine for coming out too early without the requisite political experience.
With a seemingly dejected Besigye, a weak and divided Opposition including the FDC, and whose former leader Gen Mugisha Muntu who is trying to get a new footing, one wonders whether Museveni will meet any stiff challenge in the 2021 elections. Some analysts say that Bobi Wine is no more than a mere side-show commanding a movement of urban young people most of who won’t turn up to vote.