By Watchdog reporter
Controversial journalist Andrew Mwenda has responded to the barrage of insults from Forum for Democratic change supporters who he accused of being ‘retarded’ in a recent podcast.
Mr Mwenda who has made it his mission to scorn Dr Kizza Besigye and his supporters says in his Tuesday submission that Besigye and President Museveni were Uganda’s biggest problems and stumbling blocks to the country moving on. He just fell short of submitting that the two should be sacrificed for country to move forward.
Mwenda backed up his assertion with figures from past elections, showing increasing supporters but not enough to make him president. Mwenda also added that Museveni’s key constituency is the military, police and radical groups who are mobilized with the possibility of a Besigye presidency.
BELOW IS MWENDA’s submission
Finally I have the attention of my FDC friends and allies after calling them mentally retarded. Since they have hit back at me with vitriol, its time to clear the air. They have accused me of being gay. I accept this honor. Not only that, to avoid all future exposes, let me also come clean and say all the evil about me: I am bisexual, transsexual, a defiler, a rapist, a serial murder and a cannibal – yes I test human flesh on occasion and it is salty I must say. Having come out of the closet on all my evil let me return to the subject.
I think that Dr. Kizza Besigye, a personal friend of mine (unless he has lately changed) is actually a great man. He is principled (critics would say dogmatic), courageous (critics would say, reckless) and has great passion for the good of this country. I also recognize that he has made enormous sacrifice for the cause he so passionately believes in – democracy, freedom, human rights and prosperity for Uganda and its people. But I also think Besigye is deluded. And if anyone has made it difficult for Besigye to become president, the job he believes he is singularly qualified to handle, it is Besigye.
Okay, I give it to you that Museveni has also put many roadblocks in his way. True. But that is what Museveni the evil dictator is supposed do. Besigye’s failure has been to do exactly what an opposition politician in a fledging democracy should do – outmaneuver his enemy. In fact, the things that bring Besigye the heroism he enjoys in the ranks of the opposition are the very things that make it difficult for him to take power. While I don’t believe he has ever won an election, I think he has always gotten a higher percentage than is often declared or Museveni (except for 2011) gets a higher percentage than he would otherwise get were there no rigging.
Here is my point. Besigye appeals to the most passionate haters of Museveni by driving their hopes with his belligerence and charisma. But this advantage, for which you are willing to die for him, also turns away many independent minded, moderate Ugandans including NRM fence sitters who would otherwise want Museveni to retire. Thus, while Besigye is able to solidify his base, he does not grow his audience. Now I know that with time, as Museveni fatigue becomes more acute, many more Ugandans may become radicalized thus handing Besigye a decisive advantage. But we are yet to see this happen, the removal age limits may be the spark.
However holding other factors constant, I suspect that Museveni prefers Besigye to other opposition politicians because of the point I have raised above. No wonder in the last election the Museveni machine devoted more of its efforts on destroying Amama Mbabazi than Besigye. It seemed to me that it was the intention of the NRM to make Besigye the principle opponent of Museveni not Mbabazi.
Election statistics give credence to my argument. In 2011, voter turnout was at its lowest (58%) in spite of Museveni having high momentum and the president got 68% of the vote (5m votes) against Besigye’s 2m votes (26.1%). In 2016, the momentum was on Besigye’s side and voter turnout grew by 10% to 68%. Besigye’s vote grew from 2m in 2011 to 3.5 in 2016 i.e. by 75% while Museveni’s grew by 400,000 votes to 5.4m i.e. by less than 10% while his overall support fell to 60%. If we subtract the rigging Museveni’s vote was lower, may be 53% while Besigye’s could have been about 40%.
Yet even then we should ask why the 32% did not show up to vote. In here lies the question the FDC radical faction that has captured Besigye and the entire party hates to address. The obvious reason was that while the opposition may have had a majority, it lacked the organization infrastructure to get such voters to the polling booth. This is most acutely reflected in the fact that FDC was only able to field 201 out of 290 candidates in directly elected MPs, 61 out of 112 Women MPs, 43 out of 112 district chairpersons, 520 out of 1,403 directly elected district councilors, and it gets worse the lower the levels of local government one climbs. Basically, FDC as an organization was not on the ground. If it had any support there were no structures to get it to the ballot box.
I believe that about 30% of Ugandan voters support Museveni, about 70% I suspect would most likely not vote for him if properly organized. Besigye is excellent at mobilization; that is why even without organization he is able to get 3.5m votes. But he is abysmal at organization. In fact Besigye has killed the organizational growth of FDC by his dominant personality cult that has made him (like Museveni) a substitute for institutional development. Thus the party simply lacks the institutional infrastructure to rally real and potential voters to show up at the polling station.
Why is FDC weak organizationally. It is true that Museveni has put a million huddles in the way of FDC organization. But the most successful political parties at fighting dictatorships that I now – ANC in South Africa is a good example – organized in spite of (and also because of) the millions of huddles placed in their way by a superior apartheid state. Uganda lacks the financial, diplomatic, institutional, and intellectual resources of the apartheid state. The failure of Besigye to dislodge Museveni is a failure of his leadership ability to surmount existing obstacles within the context of the strategy he adopted to gain power.
He is my other point: although Besigye is subjectively Museveni’s biggest opponent, he is objectively the president’s best ally. Museveni needs Besigye for his political survival. Ironically Besigye also needs Museveni to remain politically appealing. Besigye has a powerful message that resonates with those tired of Museveni – radical change. Yet this message also carries risks, especially in the context where Museveni enjoys effective and personal control over the security infrastructure. For as long as Besigye is the opposition candidate, Museveni is able to rally the army, police and many other powerful interests in Uganda afraid of radical change on his side. Therefore the president needs Besigye to run against him to keep is creaky NRM coalition together.
If Uganda is in a political cal de sac, it is not because of Museveni alone but the toxic combination of him and Besigye. The two are the problem and neither is the solution. Their competition is the factor that best mobilizes their fanatics for them. Without Besigye as his challenger, it is possible Museveni may fail to generate enough fear in his camp to fight hook and crook to retain the presidency. How about Besigye? Without him in the race there is a real possibility that while voter turnout would be low on both sides, Museveni’s rigging machinery can go to sleep.
But there is a problem I raised in my podcast regarding Besigye and his fanatical supporters. If it is true that he has won all the last four elections, why has he not captured power? Why should FDC supporters continue to be called upon to sacrifice to elect a man who wins and remains on the streets? The day FDC leaders address this issue is the day they will overcome their party’s inability to gain power. Just like Museveni needs Besigye and vice versa I also notice that I need you my FDC friends to keep my candle burning. As a new year present, I hereby invite you to also become gay.