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Can New Opposition Alliance Heed Besigye’s Warning?

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Can New Opposition Alliance Heed Besigye’s Warning?

Opposition leaders launching the Democratic Alliance

Opposition leaders launching the Democratic Alliance

Dr. Kizza Besigye poured cold water on the mood of excitement that arose from the newly formed though more cohesive group of political
parties and other forces opposed to President Yoweri Museveni’s continued stay in power when he warned them they will have to ‘endure
pain’ in resisting the NRM regime.

Besigye’s challenge came during the launch of the Democratic Alliance, a loose coalition of seven opposition political parties and other pressure groups galvanised against the NRM government with the intention to uproot president Yoweri Museveni in the coming 2016 elections.

Informed perhaps by the brutal experience of personal harassment at the hands of President Museveni’s forces, Besigye said in no uncertain terms that removing the NRM government from power, which is the number one target of the new alliance, will come from enduring ‘pain’ from forces that are determined to keep it.

Besigye said: “Simply dreaming that reforms will take place, is not enough. We must put our wishes into practice. The best is yet to come.”

Essentially, Besigye said that while they may not pick up guns as Museveni did to uproot the Obote regime in 1980, all Ugandans that want an end to the NRM regime must be able to sacrifice their lives, time or property because President Museveni is determined to cling on to power at ll costs.

While marking June 9, 2015 Heroes Day celebrations in Kiboga this week, President Museveni said no one can disturb the peace. Museveni’s critics howevr say that he has used the same argument of protecting peace to stifle peaceful popular resistance movements such as the Walk to Work movement in Kampala a few years ago. The president has also allegedly armed and militarised the police along with the introduction of oppressive laws such as the Public Order Management Act to stop public gatherings.

Besigye’s tough call for ‘painful’ resistance for change, almost immediately created an ideological split in the new alliance as to what strategies to use to dislodge Museveni.

Some observers argue that Besigye’s call was a direct challenge to his successor in FDC Gen. Mugisha Muntu, who constantly and perhaps cautiously punctuates his statements with the Will of God as some sort of divine intervention that will remove NRM and has shown less willingness to face the wrath of Museveni’s forces.

A number of people have expressed fears that the new alliance will soon or may already be infiltrated by Museveni’s operatives in a tactical move to weaken it. But Besigye insinuated that simply maintaining a submissive alliance is not good enough.

Critics of the cautious or ‘God Willing’ approach cite the government’s determined use of the Uganda Police Force to quell public gatherings including at funeral rites and deep in the villages, as a non starter.

In fact, for those who want the elites to make the move, argue that the opposition does not have money and time on its side to reach out to all the masses. In addition, they say that for as long as Museveni succeeds in preventing public gatherings and maintain a firm grip on the electoral process, he can stay in power for ever.

At Africana, Besigye repeated the statement he made about a month ago, when he said that: “We shall have elections only after reforms and those reforms are within our means.” Besigye urged Ugandans to demand their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to choose leaders in a Free and Fair election which comes around just once in five years.

Besigye philosophically referred to the present struggle to remove Museveni from power to a leadership crisis and the lack of willingness especially among the elites to sacrifice personal comfort for the common good.

“This country and all the problems that bedevil it both for ordinary people and challenges of governance are challenges attributable to a leadership crisis that spans the entire spectrum of society; in the Church, in the business community.” Besigye added: “The common good is an endangered species among the elites,” He however rallied his colleagues to get out of their comfort zones this time round; “and not let down Ugandans once again.”

Some analysts have however expressed reservations about the preparedness of Uganda’s opposition leaders and the elite class in general to face painful resistance to Museveni’s rule.

They argue that Besigye’s call bears a particularly high price on the leaders that may in fact be greater than the 1980-85 war that brought Museveni to power. They argue that while Museveni used the protection of guns, bushes and humans as shields, the opposition have nothing but bare hands in the open streets to face a ruthless, highly insecure and dangerous dictator.

But for Besigye and a few others including Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, that may be the price to pay. While launching the Citizen Reforms Now for Free and Fair Elections – a few weeks ago, Lukwago warned people to stock up on food and prepare for tough times ahead.

But others such as Buikwe County South MP Dr. Lulume Bayiga believe that the challenge is to reach out to the bigger masses, sensitize and reassure them that with their cooperation, they can uproot Museveni.

Bayiga says: “For me, it does not mean that somebody has got to put their life on the line. What you need to do is to reach out to the unliberated masses in the villages across the country, many of whom may not even know what is happening in Kampala.”

He added: “I agree with Besigye that we need concerted effort, but let everyone become a political force. It is time to have cadres who go back to the villages and sensitize the masses. It’s not a matter of shouting in Kampala. We have learnt from it that it does not work.”

Museveni’s 30 years in power have helped create a rich class that has amassed a lot of wealth and are increasingly averse to risk. According to lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, the fear of risk, is further compounded by a culture of subservience characterised by silent protests among Ugandans.

“The elite in Uganda are not like those in Kenya. We protest in silence, and we speak in innuendos. That is why we prefer guerilla wars because we cannot speak our mind,” said Rwakafuzi.

Rwakafuzi says he does not share Dr. Kizza Besigye’s optimism to rally people to openly resist Museveni. “The elite are not prepared for the painful moments we need to endure. This is illustrated by the inability of unemployed graduates to demand for jobs and yet they were active while at campus.”

Rwakafuzi worries that the NRM government will simply collapse under its own weight because the elites are not ready to stick their necks out, and yet the majority who have the will, are not well informed about the scale of the challenge.

“We are in a catch 22 situation. without many people participating, we may reach a situation where the government simply collapses under its own weight.”

And perhaps the view of Asuman Babumba, a resident of Wakiso, illustrates the conundrum. Commenting on the rapid weakening of the Uganda Shilling seen over the past few weeks, Babumba loudly wondered whether ‘someone’ in Uganda’s business community can salvage the shilling.

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