Uganda Elections 2006: Besigye Strong Contender for the Uganda Presidency

Uganda Elections 2006: Besigye Strong Contender for the Uganda Presidency

The man to beat Museveni.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: January 9, 2006

By now, many people know that the presidential election in Uganda is between two people although there are five contenders. To some people, the February 23, 2006 polls are more of a contest between President Yoweri Museveni and his former army officer, minister and personal doctor, Rtd. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye.

The FDC Presidential candidate, Warren Kizza Besigye was born on April 22, 1956 to Moses and Mariam Kifefe of Rwakabengo, Rukungiri district in southwestern Uganda.

He attended Kinyansano Primary School and later Mbarara Junior School for Primary Education. He went to Kitante High School and Kigezi High School for Ordinary and Advanced Level respectively.

In 1975, he joined Makerere University Medical School and graduated with a degree in Human Medicine in 1980.

Dr. Besigye worked at Aga Khan Hospital and later Kinyata Hospital in Nairobi to where he had fled the present regime. He joined the National Resistance Army bush war in June 1982 and became personal doctor to then rebel leader Yoweri Museveni.

After the NRA victory in 1986, Besigye was appointed State Minister for Internal Affairs. In 1988, he was given additional responsibility as the National Political Commissar, certainly a rising star in the Museveni regime. In 1991, Besigye became the Commanding Officer of the Mechanized Regiment in Masaka. In 1993, he was appointed Chief of Logistics and Engineering in the National Army.

In 1998, Besigye was appointed senior military advisor to the minister of defense. In the same year, Besigye married Winnie Byanyima, then MP for Mbarara Municipality. She is one of Besigyes leading assets, being a public darling herself, a fighter for what she believes in and she can open any door locally and internationally. She now heads the Gender desk at the African Union after resigning her position as MP having beaten a candidate whom President Museveni camped in Mbarara and publicly campaigned for.

In November 1999, Besigye published a document critical of the government, An Insiders View of How the NRM lost the Broad Base. The no party movement government was running on the philosophy of a broad base where people of all shades of political opinion work together without dividing themselves on party lines.

In 2002, he retired from the army and declared to stand in the 2001 Presidential elections, which he lost to Museveni but managed to garner 27% on the maiden try.

In March 23, 2001, Besigye petitioned the Supreme Court seeking nullification of elections but lost the petition on a three to two court ruling.

On August 17, 2001 Besigye fled to exile in South Africa citing state persecution after he was intercepted twice on his Journey by military personnel. Instead of distancing him from his supporters, the exile seemed to endear the horse voiced smiling colonel to his supporters. Everyone will remember that the FDC party he heads is a coalition between Besigyes Reform Agenda, the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum and the National Justice Forum, but Besigye was elected to head the party even when he was in exile.

The photo of multitudes of people lining behind Dr. Besigye poster to elect him as FDC representative in Rukungiri when a lot of doubts hang over his return can never be forgotten. It was perhaps an earlier indication of how his poster will be the one to sit on his seat in the campaigns when Besigye was still on remand in Luzira Maximum Prison.

On November 14th 2005, Besigye was arrested and charged with treason, concealing of treason and rape in the High Court. On November 24th, the day he was granted temporally bail in the High Court, Besigye was separately charged with terrorism and possession of illegal firearms in the General military Court Martial.

Besigye has denied all the charges against him and says they are all political charges by President Yowerri Museveni aimed at stopping Besigye who many agree is the only man that can give the domineering Museveni a credible challenge.

Dr. Besigye is bound to give President Yoweri Museveni a very hard time since he can match his intellectual abilities, military record and public administration experience. Unlike Museveni and most of his army officers, Dr. Besigye until his recent arrest did not have skeletons and has for long been seen as a clean and committed public officer.

Government says that Besigye has links with the Lords Resistance Army rebels which have been terrorizing northern Uganda for the last 19 years and is the head of the Peoples Redemption Army (PRA) rebels based in DR Congo. He has denied all allegations by government claiming the PRA is a creation of the government to taint his image and does not actually exist.

Besigye is also accused of raping 28yar old Joanita Kyakuwa in 1997 when he was still looking after her. But few people really believes these allegations against the colonel especially after the public leant that Kyakuwa stays at State House and is looked after by the state since 2001. The main witness, Besigyes former maid told Court on Friday January 6 that she was arrested by state agents in 2004 and told she will not be released until she agreed to incriminate Dr.Besigye. She is also being looked after by the state.

Besigye was finally released on bail on Monday January 2nd 2001 after the High Court ruled that he was being detained illegally. This followed an earlier ruling that the General Military Court Martial should not try Besigye. A case is being heard in the Constitutional Court (The Court of Appeal) on whether Besigye, who is not a soldier, can be tried by the military court and whether it is constitutional for an individual to be tried in two different courts over similar allegations. The man doesnt take anything lying down.

His release brought the crowds back to political rallies as the colonel seems to have a magnet to attract people. Not that attracting crowds equal to political support in elections, but Besigye has attracted multitudes of crowds since his return and his visit to upcountry districts before he was arrested. It is common knowledge here in Uganda that the President cant raise the same crowds in any place as can Dr. Besigye.

But for a man who has to divide his time between appearing in Court over three charges and campaigns in the 72 districts of Uganda by early February, you understand that the task before the colonel is not a simple one.

Moreover, to some people, Dr. Besigye is just a rebellious son of Museveni and they dont see any reason to vote him and leave the master.

His link to rebels and rape charges however unbelievable by many have done their considerable damage to his image and believe you me to some people, Besigye is a tainted man, a rapist and a rebel against a government he once served diligently.

You may blame it on his voice, but it wont take you long listening to the colonel to understand how forceful he sounds and may be once elected. His confidence and resolve is simply infinity and talks about President Museveni as the boy next door. Many people have said he should be more respectful unless the old allegations that the President and Besigye have grudges over Winnie Byanyima who was once a friend to Museveni are to hold. Dr. Besigye took Engineer Byanyima from Museveni. But will he take the national presidency from his former colleague?

If it were manifestos working the peoples vote, probably. Because as in 2001, Dr. Besigye has a good manifesto, which was ready in time. The Presidents formal manifesto is yet to be released, as was the case in 2001. The point is that while the political war seems to be between the two army men, there a lot of brains and maneuvers behind each of them and Dr. Besigye seems to have an excess on the brains side. Actually much of his manifesto of 2001 was later adopted and implemented by the President, a credit many Ugandans gave to the colonel. The only viable prediction on him is that he may win or lose. Ordinary isnt it? Because Besigye has support, but so does Museveni.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: January 9, 2006
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.