Kizza Besigye, the veteran opposition leader, and former President of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), remains a towering figure in Uganda’s political landscape, even twelve years after his departure from the party’s leadership.
His exit, however, continues to evoke mixed emotions within the current opposition party.
In this report, the Nile Post delves into the enduring impact of Besigye’s departure and whether it should have come at a different time.
As the political ambiance in Uganda evolves, it’s been over a decade since Kizza Besigye relinquished his leadership role within the FDC, leaving many who understood his distinctive style of leadership to ponder whether he should have stayed a little longer.
Patrick Wakida, a political researcher, recalls a conversation he had with Besigye and colleagues in 2012, where concerns were raised about the FDC’s readiness for his departure.
Wakida stated,”In 2012, we observed a problem in FDC when Besigye said he wasn’t coming back. We went to Besigye’s home in Kisanganti, and we asked, is he subjecting a young party to a contestation when the structures aren’t strong?”
Wakida emphasizes that Besigye’s exit, though democratic, dealt a significant blow to the FDC, as it became clear that the party still needed nurturing and grooming by someone of Besigye’s stature. He remarked, “Everybody believed in Besigye. There are people who left because they couldn’t see FDC beyond him. What you’re seeing is not by accident.”
Besigye was regarded as a nurturer, an icon, and a unifier with a clear agenda, and many still hold this view. The question arises: could his exit have initiated the downward spiral of the FDC’s disintegration?
Wakida points out,”Besigye left when senior leaders were also departing. Juba Kimero, Kiggundu – party elders were quitting. Who would you call as elders to solve the issues of FDC?”
However, Alice Alaso, the former Secretary General of FDC, and political analyst Mwabustya offer a different perspective.
Alaso stated, “We made a deliberate decision to inculcate a culture of transition. Besigye leaving was not a bad idea.”
Mwabustya added,”Even though Besigye had stayed, they would have found an excuse to dismantle the party. They would have harassed him for overstaying.”
These voices suggest that the problems within the FDC run deeper than just the Besigye factor. Alice emphasized, “There seems to have been a failure to accommodate the Katonga faction. Failure to harmonize the different tendencies.”
Meanwhile, Mwabustya noted,”There’s a group of leaders who came to seek office, and they have waited for too long, while there’s this faction that still clings to the agenda. Either way, it would have happened.”
The debate continues: would Besigye’s continued leadership of the FDC have mitigated or exacerbated the current chaos within the party’s ranks?
Ndebesa, a political commentator, suggested, “Maybe he could have protected the structures. Individuals would cause chaos, but the structures would stay.”
As Uganda’s political landscape remains dynamic, the legacy of Kizza Besigye’s exit from FDC leadership remains a subject of intense reflection among Uganda’s opposition.