Besigye and Latigo: Will the Real Opposition Leader Please Stand Up?
Opposition leader, Prof. Ogenga Latigo addreses an FDC rally.

Besigye and Latigo: Will the Real Opposition Leader Please Stand Up?

Latigo comes from northern Uganda where the party has majority support.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: July 19, 2006

The 2006 Presidential elections seem to have become history and many political players, both in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the opposition (save those who may be thinking of 'other methods'), are looking at the 2011 polls. In fact, barely six months after the polls, the contest for political supremacy is not only between General Yoweri Museveni and his former personal physician who stood against him twice in a Presidential election, Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye.

A new name is coming to the surface- Professor Morris Ogenga Latigo, the deputy to Dr. Besigye in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party. Indeed, you now need to be specific when talking about the leader of the opposition in Uganda. Whereas, Dr. Besigye is the main opposition leader by virtue of coming second after President Museveni in the February polls, Latigo was elected the leader of the opposition in Parliament and heads the opposition government (the shadow cabinet). This leaves many people wondering which of the two is the leader of the opposition. In fact, when news spread that Latigo had been elected the leader of opposition (in Parliament), many people thought he had toppled Besigye in the FDC internal elections.

However, the two are firmly in their offices with Besigye as the FDC Party President and Latigo as the Party Vice President (northern Uganda). Latigo however stands out among the other Vice Presidents because of being the leader of the opposition in Parliament. That is why some people believe that Latigo is the true leader of opposition having been constitutionally elected to that office and the fact that he heads the shadow cabinet (which is sometimes called 'the government in waiting').

To these people, this was brought about by circumstances resulting from the embracing of a multiparty democracy where the leader of the main opposition group may not be a Member of Parliament. That is probably the reason why another FDC Vice President, Sam Kalega Njuba wanted to resign his seat so that Besigye contests the seat and if he wins, he becomes the leader of opposition in Parliament. Besigye however turned down the offer.

FDC Secretary for International Affairs and opposition shadow Minister for International Affairs, Reagan Okumu says that the party is facing a challenge even when it comes to the shadow cabinet. Okumu says that although a person like Wafula Oguttu would have been chosen to be the party Minister for Information since he has been the party spokesman and Secretary for Information, they were barred to do that because Oguttu is not a Member of Parliament.

"However, as far as we are concerned, Oguttu is the official party spokesperson," he said during a recent press conference.

This may be the same reasoning the party is using when it comes to Besigye and Latigo. As a party, Besigye is the leader of the opposition even if constitutionally, Latigo is the leader of the opposition.

Being a Constitutional office, Latigo is in a more favorable position than his boss something that may help him (if he is interested) in taking over the party leadership and being the favorable party presidential candidate come 2011.

In addition, Latigo comes from northern Uganda where the party has majority support even when it comes to the composition of the FDC Party. With Latigo having the floor of parliament and Besigye having to speak during rallies or social functions, it will be easier for the former lecturer to be seen as the true leader of opposition than his boss.

FDC supporters
FDC supporters.

Besigye's advantages are that he has already showed the public that he is the best challenge to President Yoweri Museveni in any election and that even Latigo at the end of the day has to report to him.

However, his continued talk that he cannot engage in any other election may force some people in the party to start preparing Latigo for the polls should Besigye hesitate and this may win the professor more popularity especially from northern Uganda which is an opposition stronghold.

Latigo's obstacle though is that Besigye has become like a "god" to some party members as President Museveni is to the NRM Party. Aruu county MP, Odonga Otto thinks that Besigye remains the party choice even for the 2011 polls.

Otto, who comes from the same district (Pader) as Latigo, is a strong critic of his leader in Parliament (Latigo). He has been accusing Latigo of under looking young party members like him after he (Otto) was not named in the opposition shadow cabinet.

All that Latigo needs to do is to use his office and deliver so that he is not just a constitutional opposition leader but also a 'real opposition leader' with the acceptance of those Ugandans mainly in the opposition.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: July 19, 2006
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Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.