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‘Why Abed Bwanika Hates Besigye’

Three-Time Presidential Candidate Wants Four-Time Museveni Challenger Out of Opposition

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Three-time presidential candidate Abed Bwanika used last week’s Democratic Party (DP) reunion to attack Uganda’s opposition kingpin Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party – revealing how divided the country’s opposition  is, and how wishful it might be for any coalition to wrestle power out of the grip of three-decade ruler Yoweri Museveni.

Bwanika’s attacks on DP, his former party, and its backing of Dr Besigye and former premier Amama Mbabazi in the 2016 presidential election continue to raise debate.

The president of the People’s Development Party (PDP) attacked DP of having great potential yet failing to take power.

“When Museveni came you supported him, even Besigye [you supported him]; and last time you were supporting Mbabazi,” noted Bwanika.

“How could you get the oldest party to support Mbabazi?”

Bwanika further noted: “You [DP] were the first to lead this country but right now you are fighting for small positions.”

In response, the FDC and its supporters have fired at Bwanika.

Kampala lord mayor Erias Lukwago, a member of the DP who snubbed the reunion, has hit at Bwanika for just choosing to attack the person of Besigye.

According to Lukwago, Bwanika and others at the reunion seemed to have been interested in “ganging up against Dr Kizza Besigye”.

“The central focus is about Dr Kizza Besigye being a stumbling block in the way of some of these political leaders who have ambitions,” claims Lukwago.

The lord mayor argues that there are political leaders that have “illusions that as long as Dr Kizza Besigye is still very active in the politics of this country, they have no chances of fulfilling their dreams”.

Lukwago most likely had Bwanika in mind when he talked about this kind of political leaders.

Besigye Overstaying in Opposition

Some in opposition have accused Dr Besigye of overstaying in opposition – just like some accuse Museveni of overstaying in power.

Besigye has been Museveni’s opponent since the two bush war fighters fell out with each other in the late 1990s and when Besigye stood against a man for whom he was a personal physician during a five-year bush war.

In a TV interview in January 2018, Besigye denied overstaying in the opposition – and was visibly angry with those comparing him with Museveni.

“You even hear some people – very disturbing – saying Besigye and Museveni are the same: Besigye has refused to leave opposition leadership; Museveni has refused to leave government leadership,” said Besigye while appearing on a Sunday night show on NTV.

“The reason Museveni holds onto government leadership is because of known factors: guns, state money which he uses to bribe everybody, control of media so that people don’t get the information they need. What does Besigye use to maintain control in the opposition? Absolutely nothing!”

Besigye also said he had not stopped anyone from emerging as opposition leader.

“Tell me what it is that I have that stops any person from coming up? How did I come up? Weren’t there opposition leaders when I came up?”

Lukwago was definitely aware of this attitude among some in the opposition when he attempted to poke holes in the DP reunion.

Bwanika, Lukwago Face Off over Attacks on Besigye at DP Reunion

When Lukwago and Bwanika met to discuss the reunion in an NBS morning show, the two DP ‘prodigal sons’, expressed their disagreement on Besigye’s role in the opposition.

Bwanika said coalitions involving Besigye had failed – and to him, only a DP-led coalition would help eject Museveni.

“I am a believer that we need to forge a new coalition and I am thinking a DP led coalition will take us forward,” said Bwanika.

“We invited Kizza Besigye for the reunion and I would have said what I said even if he had been in attendance.”

Bwanika, also a born again, pastor said Besigye had had his time as opposition leader  four times. Interestingly, Bwanika has also contested in a presidential election thrice.  

And does he have any personal grudge against Besigye? No, he said.

“We can’t avoid talking about [Besigye] because he was at the helm of the coalition.”

He even claimed to have voted the opposition doyen in 2001.

FDC not Interested in Opposition

But Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary general in charge of mobilization, told reporters at party headquarters in Najjanankumbi that Besigye and FDC were more interested in the power than the opposition.

“When you find us planning, you see a party that is in government. We have the arm that works as cabinet; we have the secretariat and the arm that is in Parliament to make sure that what we do is aimed at taking over government,” said Kaija.

“We are recruiting professionals every day; we have gone out to get contacts in foreign countries to touch base; that is our level. This level of thinking for opposition is not our kind of thinking.”

And Kaija is not worried by people like Bwanika because change can come even when a few people in the opposition are not of a coalition.

“Talking about opposition unity, this whole weekend, I have been trying to study different countries; I have not seen any country where there was liberation when all people that want to change the status quo were in the same boat,” said Kaija.

Enter Stella Nyanzi

Responses to Bwanika’s attack on Dr Besigye could definitely not be done without controversial academic, and activist Dr Stella Nyanzi’s input.

Nyanzi likened Bwanika to an “impotent ball-less dog without any teeth in Uganda’s political landscape” which barks loudly at icons of leadership in the struggle to liberate ourselves from dictator Museveni”.

“The spineless castrated and defanged snakes hiss loudly to draw some attention to themselves.”

She also accused the pastor of joining controversial journalist “Andrew Mwenda’s pathetic club of political jesters who denigrate and undermine Dr. Kizza Besigye’s iconic role of leading, inspiring, sustaining and growing the opposition.”

And she then wondered: “Can Abed balance the weighing scale when juxtaposed with the People’s President?”

This is the same comparison Kaija attempted to make when he talked of Bwanika “whose party is him and him is the party”.

And it seems Bwanika will have to prove to many that he is worthy of criticizing Besigye, of whom he is believed to be envious – at least in the eyes of his supporters.

Bwanika will have to answer some of these questions as raised by Nyanzi before he can open his mouth again to criticize ‘the people’s president’.

“Who is Abed Bwanika? Who knows him? Who are his followers? What has he done to motivate and expand the liberation struggle? How has he inspired the unwashed masses to boldly resist and oppose dictator Museveni? What has the struggle cost him? Why does he feel the need to undermine and downplay Kizza Besigye’s role as a towering leader of unapologetic active opposition to Museveni’s patronage, corruption and dictatorship? Why does Abed rely on discrediting and denigrating the People’s President in order to shine a little light on himself? How does this serve anyone?” Dr Stella Nyanzi.

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