Rocking the boat: Who will succeed Col. Besigye as FDC President?
Waving goodbye? Dr. Besigye rides in a limousine along a Kampala street while Maj.Gen. Mugisha Muntu follows on foot, keenly watched by scores of anti-riot policemen.

Rocking the boat: Who will succeed Col. Besigye as FDC President?


Besigye has become a god of sorts in the political opposition circles of Uganda.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: November 3, 2007


The President of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye has dismissed media reports that he is to resign soon from the leadership of Uganda's leading opposition party. He says that such reports are orchestrated by some 'elements' in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) who want to see him out of Uganda's politics. Fresh (or is it exhausted) from his October 2007 trip to the United States of America and the United Kingdom, Besigye outlined to his supporters the three ways in which he could leave party leadership, "I will leave the FDC leadership if you the FDC members think I am no longer a better choice to lead the party or if my two terms at the helm expire or if I personally feel like I want to quit the party leadership."


Despite Besigye spelling out all this on a TV talk show, the debate as to whether he should or should not step down before the next general election in 2011 rages on. Some commentators say that if he stands for the third time in 2011, it will make him begin to look like President Museveni, his former boss, who has stood for the presidency of Uganda for a record four times; 1980, 1996, 2001 and 2006. Besigye would be the first opposition politician to stand for presidency three times, having contested for the office in 2001 and 2006.

Although Besigye is now only in his second year of his first term as FDC president, he has been on the political scene in Uganda as an opposition leader since 2001, when he stood for the presidency of the country under the 'all inclusive' movement system, flying the Reform Agenda flag. In 2005, Besigye was elected president of FDC in absentia. At the time, he was in exile in South Africa, returning to Uganda later to contest for the presidency in the general elections that took place in February 2006.

Besigye has become a god of sorts in the political opposition circles of Uganda. Despite the fact that some rivals in his party are willing to 'inherit' his seat, most grassroots level supporters and FDC party leaders still strongly hunger for the leadership of the man who has tasted the wrath of the current Ugandan government. He was thrown into jail on his return from exile to stand for Uganda's presidency in 2005. However, unless the FDC party changes its constitution to allow him lead the party beyond the current term limits, Dr. Besigye will certainly have to leave the party leadership and hand over to another person.

As things stand now, it is not very clear whether Besigye will continue leading FDC beyond 2010, when the party will hold its next delegates' conference or will step down then. In case he pulls the latter stroke, Gideon Munaabi analyses the chances of likely contenders for the FDC presidency after Besigye.

Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo

From Pader district in northern Uganda is Prof. Latigo, the Agago County MP. He is the leader of the opposition in Uganda's parliament. A member of the Acholi community, Latigo is one of the leading political figures from that sub-region. The Professor also doubles as Dr. Besigye's Vice President, in charge of Northern Uganda. He stands out from the other Vice Presidents for being the leader of the opposition in the parliament. Latigo is now seen as the most popular of all three current FDC Vice-Presidents and had it not been for the strong character and humility of Dr. Besigye (which makes Besigye the most popular opposition leader in Uganda at the moment), Latigo would probably be much stronger than he is now.

Switched careers from teaching agriculture into politics: Prof. Ogenga Latigo
Switched careers from teaching agriculture into politics: Prof. Ogenga Latigo.

During his tenure as the leader of the opposition MPs in Uganda's parliament, he has kept the opposition shadow ministers, some of whom come from rival political parties, together and he is respected as a leader. The soft-spoken MP does not have a radical (confrontational) side, the reason he was able to walk with President Yoweri Museveni to raise aid for flood victims in northern and northeastern Uganda recently. Although this character has earned him criticism from some opposition personalities, who expect the opposition leader to oppose anything the Ugandan government proposes, Latigo has earned more backers for doing what he knows best - using a diplomatic approach. Because he represents northern Uganda, where the FDC is very strong, this is also another plus to Prof. Latigo and makes him a likely successor to Dr. Besigye.

Major. Gen. (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu:

Mugisha Muntu, the former commander of the National Resistance Army (now Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF) has been influential in strengthening the FDC party and has been shown on international TV beside Dr. Besigye, enduring bitter doses of tear gas from the Ugandan police. He is currently the National Mobiliser of the FDC party. Muntu comes from the same ethnic region of Uganda as Dr. Besigye the west, something that could have ruled him out of the contest for the FDC top seat. However, even people from northern Uganda will tell you that he remains a popular choice to replace Dr. Besigye if the latter were to give up the party's leadership.

A Pentecostal Christian, Maj. Gen. Muntu is one of Uganda's representatives in the East African Legislative Assembly. Gen. Muntu is one person that is good at studying the public mood. He knows when to show annoyance and when to show happiness. Despite his military background, he comes across as person you can mess with and easily get away with it. People who have worked with Muntu say that he is a very intelligent person and that is the reason why he was chosen to lead the army in the past by President Museveni. He is also said to have distinguished himself as a 'clean' officer when he was the army commander.

Because of the political turbulence Uganda has witnessed since independence, there has been a tendency by Ugandans and other observers to look at the presidency of Uganda as a preserve of characters with a militarily background. Mugisha Muntu's resume receives a boost on this scale. Although he is respected within the party, has all these good characteristics and generally owns a good political resume, the fact that he ethnically comes from the western region of Uganda could be his undoing.

Reagan Okumu:

He is the first member of the FDC party leadership to come out and openly express his interest in the party's top seat. However, his decision met stiff resistance from sections of the party. Although Besigye replied to Okumu's proposal by saying that it was okay for any member of the FDC to show interest in leading the party, he added that Okumu needed to sell himself to the entire electorate in Uganda first.

A founder member of the FDC following a merger between Reform Agenda and the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO), Okumu is good at making research and gathering political information/ammunition. This probably explains why he worked in the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) before joining active politics. He has been vocal in Uganda's Parliament, especially on issues concerning the people northern Uganda and human rights.

Not beating around the bush: Reagan Okumu
Not beating around the bush: Reagan Okumu.

Whenever he attends the party's weekly press conference, Okumu's presence is felt because he speaks with emotion. This character may earn him support from Ugandans who feel suppressed politically, but may make others think this character can turn him into a dictator if given a chance. It is argued that his input on debates about the economical north-south divide of Uganda while popular among northerners may cost him support from the south of the country. However, since great leaders are usually those who are eager to get to the top fast, Okumu has a chance.

Salaamu Proscovia Musumba:

She became somewhat less vocal after losing her parliamentary seat in the 2006 general elections but when she opens her mouth to speak, people will open their ears wide to listen to what she has to say. Proscovia Salaamu Musumba, wife to the current State Minister for Regional Cooperation attributes her failure to make it to Uganda's eighth parliament to President Yoweri Museveni, who camped in her constituency and de-campaigned her. Even when she stood to be elected LC5 Chairperson for Kamuli district in 2007, it took days of campaigning by President Museveni to make her lose the lection by a very thin margin. Musumba, the national Vice President of FDC, says that although she lost the elections narrowly, she was able to weigh herself against President Yoweri Museveni.

Musumba, who joined the FDC from PAFO, has become a political 'darling' of Dr. Besigye during his foreign trips when he meets Ugandans in the Diaspora. Because she is originally from eastern Uganda, whose politicians keep crying foul about marginalisation in top national leadership, this political aspect could work in favor of Musumba, should she decide to stand. As a masterstroke, Musumba talks authoritatively on any issue when addressing the party's press conferences. Her voice indicates she is a strong woman - a quality that many would look out for in any woman wishing to climb the political ladder.

Iron lady: Salaamu Musumba
Iron lady: Salaamu Musumba.

Her main problem is that she lost two elections in her own backyard in the recent past, something that raises questions about her ability win national political races. Nonetheless, count her in the race to replace Dr. Besigye.

Beatrice Anywar

Until this year, she was not widely known by many Ugandans. However, environmental issues in Uganda, particularly the proposal by the current government to give away Mabira forest to an investor to grow sugarcane gave the shadow Minister for Environment prominence. She is given kudos for organizing a demonstration in Kampala that rocked Uganda and made the Ugandan government sit up and pay attention to public opinion. The Kitgum district Woman MP was among the people who were sent to jail following the Anti Mabira Give Away demonstration that ended in the death of four people, including an Indian national. She did not give up the fight, however.

Today, she is referred to as Mama Mabira by some Ugandans. Her crusade yielded results. Although President Museveni had vowed not to bow down to pressure from environmentalists and the public, the Minister of Finance, Ezra Suruma, recently said that the Ugandan government had dropped the idea of giving away Mabira. This is a big achievement for Anywar.

Based on this and other environmental crusades she continues to lead, Anywar is one of Uganda's current shadow ministers who have shown that if their political party was in power, they would do things the 'peoples way'. Come the time to choose the next leader for FDC, some people are sure Anywar has shown the world enough of her mobilisation skills to take the day.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: November 3, 2007
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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.