Friday, January 7, 2011

Besigye leaves Acholi happy to find landmines in Luwero

Observer's Edris Kiggundu reports about Dr. Kizza Besigye's reception in Acholi on his campaign and what it means for the opposition

No change, IPC candidate tells Acholi

Gulu, Luwero– The opposition alliance flag bearer ended his campaign tour of Acholi last week with an appeal to the people to vote for him, again, saying the country is united in its desire for change.

Dr Kizza Besigye also used the campaign to make one of the biggest political pronouncements that had little to do with the political dynamics of the sub-region. The FDC leader announced during a couple of rallies in Amuru and Nwoya districts that Erias Lukwago was the favoured opposition candidate for mayor of Kampala.

Besigye’s passionate plea for the Acholi vote came amid fears that the ruling NRM could dig into his stronghold – going by the last two elections – following restoration of peace here after 20 years of insurgency.

During the week the IPC leader spent in Acholi, he kept saying that the NRM adamantly championed the military option rather than a peaceful resolution of the conflict, thus inflicting severe damage on the populace.

He said Yoweri Museveni’s government accepted to talk peace with the LRA after coming under pressure from religious leaders and donors.

If the sub-region votes for the NRM, Besigye said, its fortunes shall not improve just like the other sub-regions that have consistently voted for Museveni but which continue to wallow in poverty.

“There is no reason why you should not vote for change like you have been doing. This time the whole country is behind us and we shall protect our vote,” Besigye said.

Besides trying to stem NRM’s growth here, Besigye also had to contend with the prospect that the opposition vote could be split by the two presidential candidates who hail from this sub-region— DP’s Norbert Mao and UPC’s Olara Otunnu.

As of last week, it appeared as if Mao and Otunnu had not yet made the needed political penetration to threaten Besigye’s hold onto Acholi. In districts like Nwoya, Lamwo, Amuru and Pader, DP and UPC do not have enough grassroots structures to counter the FDC.

Also, FDC has the highest number of candidates vying for political office at all levels in the districts of Acholi. The IPC flag bearer was careful not to criticise these two opposition candidates publicly, and instead devoted more time on pointing out the failures of the NRM.

Judging from the reception he got, Besigye remains the sub-region’s favourite candidate. Wherever he went, cheering crowds looked destined to keep behind their man.

However, it is doubtful he will repeat the 2006 feat when he scored 77% of the vote here. Simon Oyet, the Nwoya County MP, told The Observer last week that Besigye will win resoundingly in the sub-region because most people are still skeptical about Museveni, despite the peace.

“This talk of peace does not work here. Look at the people, they are still in misery. They have not benefitted from government’s resettlement programme,” Oyet said during a campaign stop in Nwoya.

Towards the end of the Acholi campaign, Besigye was joined by former Buganda Katikkiro, Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere, Kampala Central MP, Erias Lukwaga, Mukono North MP, Betty Nambooze and Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, who is contesting for the Kyadondo East Parliamentary seat.

The four are all key members of Ssuubi 2011, a pro-Buganda pressure group allied to the IPC. Ssemwogerere told the people of Nwoya and Amuru that Buganda first placed its faith in Museveni after he restored the kingdom in 1993, adding that later the NRM leader turned against the Kabaka.

“That is why we are supporting Besigye because he is trustworthy and does not go back on his word,” he said in Pabbo sub-county, Amuru district.

Besigye also used the presence of the four individuals in Acholi to make a big political pronouncement that had little to do with the local politics here.

The FDC leader, while addressing a couple of rallies in Amuru and Nwoya districts, introduced Lukwago as “the Mayor of Kampala”. It is the first time Besigye has openly sided with one of the opposition candidates in the race that pits Lukwago against Michael Mabikke, leader of the Social Democrats Party (SDP).

The issue of Kampala mayoral candidates has split the IPC, with some leaders backing Mabikke while the mainly Ssuubi-leaning officials support Lukwago.

The IPC electoral affairs committee chaired by Rubaramira Ruranga announced Mabikke as the official coalition candidate, but Ssuubi which signed a memorandum of understanding with IPC last year, rallied behind Lukwago.

In backing Lukwago, Besigye appears to have realised that he is the stronger candidate. But it remains to be seen how Mabikke, a fellow member of the IPC Summit by virtue of being SDP leader, will react to the move.

What is clear is that the announcement will further deepen the rift within IPC.

Back to Buganda

On Sunday, Besigye started his second leg of his Buganda campaign in Nakaseke district on an unfortunate note. Two vehicles belonging to one of his local party supporters, Moses Kabarema, were burnt.

At Ngoma sub-county headquarters where the IPC candidate had his second rally, the venue was surrounded by Police officers.

Later in the evening, Besigye was blocked under unclear circumstances from accessing the premises of Nakaseke FM where he was scheduled to have a talk-show.

The IPC campaign team had paid for a two-hour talk-show but after Besigye’s rally at Nakaseke sub-county headquarters, he found the radio premises padlocked. The radio proprietors, afraid that Besigye’s team could use force to access the premises, had deployed Police for protection.

On Monday, Besigye took the campaign to Luwero district. During the rallies, Besigye attacked Museveni for his continued criticism of past governments, saying he had not performed any better.

“He went to the bush because of rigging but today NRM is specialised in rigging,” Besigye said. He urged his supporters not to fear and to resist any form of intimidation from security agencies.

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