Friday, April 16, 2010



Thursday, 15th April, 2010
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Besigye talking to Mugisha Muntu during the delegates conference at Naboole in Kampala yesterday

Besigye talking to Mugisha Muntu during the delegates conference at Naboole in Kampala yesterday

By Cyprian Musoke and Jude Kafuuma

FORUM for Democratic Change (FDC) president Kizza Besigye yesterday defeated Mugisha Muntu to become the party’s flag-bearer for next year’s presidential elections.

Besigye decisively won the party ticket with 845 (84%) of the votes compared to Muntu’s 115 (16%) during a heated delegates’ conference at Namboole stadium.

There was deafening applause when Dan Mugarura, the party’s electoral commission chairman, declared Besigye the winner shortly before 6:00pm.

During the same conference, it was announced that the party had officially expelled MPs Beti Kamya and Alex Onzima for alleged desertion. It is not clear whether they will lose their parliamentary seat as the Constitution is silent on the matter.

Besigye supporters stayed in the sports field dancing to drums and music from loudspeakers as the results were being announced.

In his acceptance speech, Besigye thanked the delegates for giving him resounding support to be the party flag-bearer despite his shortcomings in the past years.

He urged party supporters to begin preparations for the next elections, stressing that there is no time to celebrate since they are running behind time for 2011.
“If we are to take power in the next 10 months then we must fold our sleeves and hit the ground running. There are a lot of activities like reactivating our party structures in every district. We must use these structures to compile our voters’ register,” he said.

The absence of a party voters’ register, he added, was one of the

reasons they were cheated, since they do not know the number of voters they have.
He thanked Muntu for going with him all the way, urging the party not to let go of him in subsequent elections.
“It would be sad if he withdrew to deprive the party of his immense capabilities,” Besigye said.

Muntu, who conceded defeat, said he was going to rally behind Besigye for the 2011 elections.
He argued that with the discovery of oil and the NRM’s penchant for misuse of state resources to keep itself in power, allowing Museveni to stay in power beyond 2011 would be entrenching life dictatorship.

The FDC, he added, has planted seeds of peaceful competition for power that will be reaped by future generations. “We had the party at the forefront of the exercise which elevated FDC beyond the two of us. To run a smooth campaign without acrimony and throwing of stones are lessons we have taught.”
In his opening remarks, the party national chairman, Sam Njuba, described the campaign as an expression of mature and constructive political debate.

However, he expressed dissatisfaction over the action of certain security agents.

“I wish to express my disappointment with some government agents, who have interfered with an internal process of the party under pretext that they were acting on orders from above. These are acts of a dying horse we should stand firm against.”

Among other political party leaders at the FDC conference were Norbert Mao (DP), Olara Otunnu (UPC), John Ken Lukyamuzi (CP) and Mathias Nsubuga (DP secretary general).

A five-member delegation of the Conservative Party of the UK was also in attendance.

Before the elections, the delegates were treated to a key note address presented by Prof. Elisa Olweny from Makerere University.
Olweny said the major causes of insecurity in the country are social exclusion, unfairness in resource allocation, neglect of sections of society and indefinite clinging to power.
Why Besigye won
One of the main factors that led to Besigye’s victory was his improving performance in the past elections, according to several delegates.

In 2001, Besigye received 27.8% of the votes against 69.3% attained by Museveni. In 2006, he increased his percentage to 37.4%, while Museveni’s dropped to 59.2%.

Most of the delegates believed that if Besigye emerges as the joint opposition candidate, it could give him the edge to beat Museveni.

During the pre-election campaigns, Besigye capitalised on this. “I have in the past garnered the necessary support and won the last two elections, even my colleague (Muntu) recognises that our support has been increasing,” he said.

Another reason for Besigye’s high score, some said, was the fact that he had been summoned and grilled by the Police over remarks that the Government sold Lake Kyoga to South Africans.
The incident, which coincided with the arrival of the delegates, earned him the sympathy vote.

“The summons set back our campaign to have Muntu as flag-bearer. By summoning Besigye, they created a lot of sympathy for him,” said Odo Tayebwa, a Muntu campaigner.
The other factor was Muntu’s campaigning style which appeared to support Besigye. A number of delegates felt Muntu had already conceded defeat long before voting.

Parties react
Political parties welcomed the news that FDC returned Kizza Besigye as the flag-bearer, with the opposition saying the win is good for the Inter-Party Co-operation (IPC).

The ruling NRM deputy spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, described Besigye as “an old candidate whose tactic is well known and therefore easy to beat”.

He said Besigye does not pose a threat to the party, adding that the NRM is gaining tremendous support in the FDC strongholds of Teso and Lango.

“We welcome his win so that we can finally beat him and he can go and rest in peace,” said Ofwono.

UPC flag-bearer Olara Otunnu said: “I am looking forward to working closely with him in the context of coalition. I also pay tribute to Maj. Gen. Muntu for the courageous fight to the end.”

DP secretary general Matthias Nsubuga called it a ‘manifestation of democracy’ within the opposition parties. He said the opposition has a lot to learn from Besigye. “If you have passed through a certain road, you get to know the ups and down of the path,” Nsubuga said.

The DP, who has in the past expressed skepticism about the IPC, yesterday indicated that they might still join the coalition.

“We are partners and we are competing against Museveni. That doesn’t mean we may not come together. We can decide to go together or go multiparty,” said Nsubuga.

The IPC plans to file a single candidate for the 2011 presidential elections. It is composed of four parties: FDC, UPC, JEEMA and the Conservative Party.
Besigye has been a strong advocate for the .

Additional Reporting by Barbara Among