Four time presidential candidate, Dr.Kizza Besigye has explained the fallout within the Forum for Democratic Change.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday, Besigye said the simmering situation started many years when he realized his colleagues within the FDC were comfortable with the way affairs of the party were being handled in the face of trying to oust President Museveni.
“In the FDC, I became completely convinced about the completion of state capture after 2011 elections. I was convinced that elections will never remove Museveni.I went back to my party where I was still a leader then and suggested to make adjustments to this new reality and proposed some of the adjustments needed. It was at retreat at hotel in Kiswa Bugoloobi I continued to make it in our organs. I was a sole voice and nobody believed me. All my colleagues said it would actually create dictatorship in the party,” Besigye said.
He explained that in this, he wanted the party to change strategy from merely participating in election activities but rather adopt a guerilla like style including going to streets to demonstrate but also boycott government services.
“The proposal was to change structure of party constitution and also change the engagement. It can’t be engagement for just elections and become some kind of liberation outfits. For some reason, I never attracted support for that proposal.”
He said when his proposal wasn’t bought by other party members, he sought to step down from the party leadership to “have more elbow space to pursue what I believed what right.”
Besigye said a few years earlier he had started realizing an invisible hand in the internal politics of the opposition party that he wanted to be fought.
He noted this came in form of commercialization of internal politics which meant some invisible hand was dictating who was being voted into positions within FDC.
“One time I wanted to raise concerns over the source of money coming into our internal elections. That was in the 2010 internal election. I was coerced by Rugundana(Augustine) that the inquest would undermine our brand and I kept quiet but large sums kept coming into our party at every internal election.”
“You find our delegates coming from upcountry accommodated in big hotels not by the party but by candidates. When you take that path, you know you are under state capture,” Besigye said.
Because of this state of affairs, Besigye said he contemplated not standing again in 2016 but noted he was convinced to once again give it a try as the face of opposition in Uganda.
He however said two years later, he convened a meeting of colleagues within the FDC to inform him of his decision never to stand again in any election.
“In 2015, I had come under huge pressure(to stand in 2016) and to avoid that, well in advance in 2018, I informed all our leaders I wouldn’t be available and they had better get somebody to contest.I was completely unequivocal. Regrettably no process went underway in the party for another candidate to emerge. When 2021 was knocking, they again told me I would be a candidate,” Besigye explained.
He noted that when he insisted on not standing, FDC literally had not candidate to stand for the 2021 general election, noting that Amuriat was a last-minute compromise to stand for president since he was the overall party leader.
“I was completely unequivocal. Regrettably no process went underway in the party for another candidate to emerge. When 2021 was knocking, they again told me I would be candidate. We literally got to election without candidate. Amuriat was a last-minute compromise since he was overall party leader.”
Besigye said whereas he was again asked by the party to stand in 2021, he stuck to his guns prompting the opposition party to send its president, Patrick Amuriat.
He explained that with a few months left to the election and without any preparations, the party asked him to help them raise funds, for the campaigns.
According to the opposition strongman, and four-time presidential candidate, this was a toll order since time was not enough.
This he said the start of the fall out with the party leaders who accused him of not helping them secure funds for the 2021 election campaigns.
“As a party, you have already set yourself for trouble(for not preparing for campaigns). They told me to help raise funds but raise them from who when there is no face for election? The time was ticking, election coming with other challenges like covid and there was crisis in which Amuriat emerged as candidate.”
“In that melee, it is where this thing that has been discussed as dirty money cropped from,” Besigye said.
He said when he became aware of it, he discussed it with close party leaders, adding that they were not happy with him for discussing the same.
“When I realized there was this attitude, I backed off and elections went on.”
Besigye explained that after the 2021 election, despite not having any position within FDC, he continued asking about what was happening within the party but noted he was told to back off since “ I had no locus.”
He noted that he realized there was bad blood between him and the party leaders after the 2021 general election, adding that when he got an opportunity to address party leaders during a national council meeting, he explained the decision for not being active during the election.
According to Besigye, since that meeting, the divide has grown and many allegations have been made against him.
“I was accused of undermining leaders from eastern Uganda and a tribal element clipped in and how I had not supported them yet they had supported me in the previous elections. From there, quiet evidently, war broke up.”
Besigye said whereas he was not attacking any individual within the FDC but rather all leaders, the party Secretary General, Nandala Mafabi fired back to him.
“I wasn’t accusing Nandala in person. It was the party leadership I was engaging over what had happened in the party. Nandala chose to reply at the national council meeting.”
The four time presidential candidate said the meeting however decided that there should be a committee of elders to investigate the matter and try to reconcile the members involved for smooth running of the party.
“It took some time for committee to be appointed and before it could be appointed, mobilization against me was in progress.It was eventually appointed by party president . I appeared before the committee. While the committee was sitting, they set up on a campaign across country and called leaders and started discussing what committee was supposed to handle. They discussed how Besigye was the problem, how I had received money and never accounted for it and how I was a tribalist.”
He said after meeting with party leaders from Busoga, the committee went to Mbale, Lango, Acholi and all parts of the country.
Doom for FDC?
According to Besigye, this state of affairs has continued within the party up to now but warned this might see the end of the once biggest opposition party in the country.
“There is now clearly confusion in the organs of the party.I think without leaders stepping back and taking break or calm down, the crisis will definitely escalate and I can’t predict where party will end but likely where others have gone. Once people in the party start acting against others and others resist them, quite often those in power tend to revert to state to protect them against their own members,” Besigye warned.
“It is a likely trajectory if leaders don’t step back and reflect. It is important for leaders step back because right now it is an outright war, of words for now but can escalate to a confrontation. I hear now to enter FDC headquarters you need to be screened. That escalation is likely to continue if leaders don’t step back to try and resolve the contradictions which are real.”
Besigye predicted that this state of affairs is likely to ensure the state further extends its hands into the internal affairs of FDC.