Is it the end for Besigye after lukewarm reception in Mbale?

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Is it the end for Besigye after lukewarm reception in Mbale?
Opposition stalwart Kizza Besigye's popularity appears to have taken a hit | Gerald Matembu

Dr Kizza Besigye, a towering figure in Ugandan politics, recently experienced a starkly different reception during his visit to Mbale City, signaling potential challenges to his political career.

This departure from his usual enthusiastic welcomes in the region has ignited discussions about the evolving political landscape in Uganda.

For nearly three decades, Dr Besigye has been a formidable presence in Ugandan politics, commanding significant support and attention across various regions.

However, his recent reception in Mbale, described as minimal and lacking the fervor witnessed in previous years, underscores a notable shift in public sentiment. Similar scenes were reported in Teso, Lango, Busoga, and Sebei.

Since 2001, Dr Besigye has been accustomed to thunderous welcome by crowds in Mbale, with mammoth gatherings highlighting his popularity and influence in the region.

Yet, this time around, his reception was markedly subdued, with only a modest number of supporters turning out to greet him.

This unexpected turn of events has prompted speculation about the factors contributing to this noticeable shift.

Accompanied by notable party figures like National Council Chairman Waswa Birigwa, Salamu Musumba, and Harold Kaija, Besigye acknowledged the crisis but attributed the low turnout to fears over potential repercussions related to the government-funded Parish Development Model.

Besigye's critics have mixed reactions with some advising him to unite with the Patrick Amuriat faction while others think that it is time for him to retire from active politics.

Analysts James Wadada and Yassin Wabomba attributed Besigye’s diminishing political favor to his strained relationship with Nathan Nandala Mafabi, a notable figure mobilizer in the region.

Weak mobilization efforts, involving figures like former Mbale Municipality MP Jack Wamanga Wamai and Gershom Wambedde, further dampened Besigye's support base.

Diana Manake conveyed a sentiment shared by many, reflecting on the changing perceptions towards Dr Besigye and the FDC.

She noted that there was once a time when people had high hopes and expectations from the FDC, viewing Besigye as the embodiment of much-needed change.

“However, these aspirations have dwindled over time due to a series of failures in bringing about the promised change,” Manake said.

This loss of hope has been exacerbated by internal strife, which has fractured the once-united FDC into two factions, further undermining its credibility and effectiveness.

Besigye's visit in Mbale was for his sub-regional consultation on the divisions in FDC. However, his speech shifted focus away from intended consultation towards his usual civic activism against what he perceives as captivity of the citizenry calling for collective action to resist oppression and dismantle the entrenched system of control under Museveni's administration.

Besigye emphasised the broader struggle against Museveni's regime. He pledged to address internal divisions within the FDC after effectively confronting government capture.

“We shall restore our party, but we need to unite against captivity, thereafter we shall proceed with party politics,” he said.

“In prison whether you are in red, blue, green, or yellow you are all captives.”

Besigye highlighted the immense difficulty of resolving current divisions within opposition parties amidst what he described as the complete captivity of the country's institutions under the current government.

He stressed that addressing these divisions would require a concerted effort to dismantle the entrenched system of control exercised by President Museveni and his administration.

He rallied his supporters and fellow Ugandans to synergize and liberate themselves from what he perceives as the "captivity" imposed by the current government, urging them to resist oppression through collective action.

While acknowledging the internal challenges facing the FDC and other opposition parties, Besigye emphasised the need for a broader struggle against the entrenched system of control, characterized by the dominance of President Museveni's regime.

He pledged to address internal divisions within the FDC once the larger issue of government capture had been effectively confronted.

His message seems to match the audience beliefs.

Besigye's contribution to Uganda's political dynamics particularly in civic awakening and empowering citizens to demand for their rights can not be underestimated.

The subdued welcome in Mbale serves as a poignant reminder of the fluid nature of political fortunes and the need for adaptability in the face of changing tides.

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