Four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye has declared that he will not contest for the presidency in the forthcoming 2021 general election.
Besigye announced the decision at the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) headquarters in Najjanankumbi on Wednesday, finally putting an end to the speculation about his candidature. He said he will now move to ‘Plan B’ and leave ‘Plan A’ [elections] for others.
Besigye has contested for the presidency since 2001, losing the race to incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni according to results released by the Electoral Commission but in all the three previous elections, Ugandan courts agreed that there was vote-rigging but fell short of declaring the elections null and void.
Besigye said he has decided to drop elections as a path for Uganda’s liberation, insisting that he will yet again legitimise Uganda’s sham elections when Museveni is still president. He reiterated his all-time commitment that he will never leave the struggle to overthrow President Museveni’s regime.
“Never ever imagine that I can leave the struggle, never. If we felt that again moving with both hands is the most efficient way, maybe we would have done that. But trust my judgement, this country will not be free by [Simon] Byabakama [Electoral Commission chairperson] or whatever he’s called going to Kololo to announce that there’s now a new winner who is not Museveni. And for Museveni to come with his hat and hand over power. Those who are waiting for that day when Mr Museveni will come humbly and thank Ugandans for all the things that we have done for him without our permission of course, he will not do so.” said Besigye.
Before the announcement, Besigye arrived at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi amidst ululations from diehard FDC supporters. He was received by party leaders including the party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA), spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, lord mayor Erias Lukwago, the party EC chairperson Toterebuka Bamwenda, the vice-chairperson Eastern Region Salaamu Musumba, and several others.
But mini chaos ensued when his supporters started erecting posters bearing his portrait and placards demanding that he picks presidential nomination forms and take part in the 2021 election. However, Nganda asked his supporters to calm down as he prepared to talk to them and the country at large.
He eventually told the supporters that the struggle to get Museveni out of power will not only rely on elections because Uganda’s democracy has been greatly tampered with.
“Ladies and gentlemen we’re at another crossroad when the junta, the gunmen are organizing another election to legitimize themselves. That is what they are doing. I told you that in 2016 both my hands were busy – this one engaging the election here, this one engaging the fighting here. That is not very efficient, the election here are our ‘plan A’, fighting here is our ‘plan B’. And ‘plan B’ is wide, it is involving, it is my humble decision that I have discussed extensively with my colleagues that we get somebody to lead ‘plan A’ and you leave ‘plan B’ for me.” Besigye said.
Besigye then commenced his formal speech mainly narrating his journey in elective politics since 2001. He reiterated that he has won elections all the time he has stood against Museveni, but the results were manipulated to keep the incumbent in power.
“As you know they took me to jail, charged me with treason for declaring myself a winner, and I went to court and I said yes; ‘it is true I declared myself, here I am. Try me, let me show you that it is I indeed who won that is why I declared myself winner.’ It is now five years, we’re going into another election, they have never tried me. I am a prisoner of treason, never tried because they don’t want the truth to come out. And since 2016 the then desperate Mr Museveni has been rampaging all over the place. He then created the new electoral commission this one. He created it when he’s not supposed to be in office himself. This Byabakama-commission is itself illegal because it was set up by an illegitimate man.” Besigye added.
Besigye assured his supporters that he has confidence in all the people who have picked expression of interest forms seeking nomination for the FDC presidential flag, among them, Wasswa Biriggwa the party chairperson and party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat. He added that he will align his support to whoever will be duly nominated and elected presidential candidate for the FDC.
He also pledged his support for other opposition political players both in the 2021 elections and in another strategy of defiance whose details he declined to dwell deep into.
“We’re building a strong front for change. In the ‘plan B’, we move with everybody who wants change whether you have a party or you don’t have a party. I can tell you without a shed of doubt that I have every confidence in our leaders that we have here today. Mulongo Wasswa Birigwa is not new to the challenges of ‘channel A’. I believe I don’t have to talk much about our president POA. POA has been in national politics for decades, there is no corner of this country that he doesn’t know. He also had experience in public service even before coming into election,” Besigye added.
Besigye’s decision not to contest in the 2021 presidential general elections has generated mixed reactions from several leaders and members of the FDC. Although the announcement was expected by Besigye’s inner circle, it took many party members by surprise.
Some FDC members said they will pursue other means to ensure that he appears on the 2021 presidential ballot. Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary general asked young party supporters and other members to rest assured that the party is stronger than ever before.
He said FDC will not only put up a spirited fight in the 2021 elections but also in the ‘plan B’ of defiance led by Besigye. He explained that Besigye’s declaration will only serve to clarify the roles and camps for two groups fighting for the same cause.
Doreen Nyanjura, the Kampala deputy lord mayor, said the fears of party members, especially young supporters who had high expectations in Besigye’s candidature are understandable. She, however, said Besigye’s announcement doesn’t mean that he is out of the struggle.
“Our commander is going nowhere, our commander is still around, he’s simply going to take on ‘plan B’ as other commanders take on ‘plan A’. So really this means FDC is going to get stronger because there is division of labour. KB is going to head ‘plan B’ and we’re going to get another commander to head ‘plan A’. I understand their emotions because personally I got emotional as well. But I had to understand his message that he’s going nowhere and he’s here for the struggle. So our fighters need to be encouraged, they need to give support to KB and to whoever is going to carry our flag because Museveni is still here and I think that is our major enemy.” Nyanjura said.
Amuriat said the party is set to work with other political organizations in the next elections but on three conditions.
“If there are agents of Museveni, we have nothing to do with them. The second factor is going to be on the basis of what they expect out of the struggle. The third is what they bring into the struggle. So those are going to be 3 main factors that will determine our operation with anybody who would like to coalesce with us. We’re doing this because we have been in the past been disappointed by some of our friends and how they have treated us. You remember what happened in TDA. You also remember what happened in IPC and so the English say once bitten, twice shy. We’re going to be a little bit shy when dealing with our potential allies, we’ve got to understand them very well,” said Amuriat.
Besigye’s declaration coincided with the conclusion of the issuance of expression of interest forms for FDC presidential aspirants. FDC Electoral Commission chairperson, Toterebuka Bamwenda described the concluded process as smooth and fruitful. He says they expect Amuriat and Biriggwa to fulfill the requirements and return the forms for nominations next week.
Besigye’s refusal to participate in the forthcoming elections will be good news to People Power and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine supporters who have always called on him to step aside for Kyagulanyi.