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Migingo: Museveni has hidden agenda says Besigye

BUSINESS
By | June 18th 2009

By Maseme Machuka and Fatuma Fugicha

He strikes a relaxed pose as he answers questions in a lengthy interview, but the sustained stern facial expression and sharp, darting gaze at the interviewer, do little to cover his bitterness at the subject he is discussing.

Colonel (rtd) Kizza Besigye, Uganda’s leading opposition politician has many things that make him angry.

He discusses them in quick succession and often ends up letting his hands fall on the table, in a gesture of one who is helpless.

His main subject is Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on who he describes as the ‘alpha and omega’ of his chain of problems.

He minces no words as he advises Kenyans to be wary of Museveni in the ongoing Migingo island tussle, terming the President ‘an expansionist with a hidden agenda’ over the disputed Lake Victoria island.

Sinned against

Dr Besigye, the president of the Forum for Democratic Change, who was in Naivasha for a workshop on democracy last week, started the interview by terming himself the most ‘sinned against’ opposition leader in Africa.

Dr Besigye during the interview.. [PHOTOS: JACOB OTIENO/STANDARD]

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He picks the background of the interview from far, recalling better times in the mid-1980s when he was Museveni’s right hand man and also his personal doctor.

At the time, Museveni was waging a guerrilla campaign to oust then government of the late President Milton Obote.

"I treated him and I also kept some of his closest military secrets when we were in the bush," says Besigye.

But now, he says, the gratitude he gets from a former confidante and patient are numerous prosecutions in both civilian and military courts in Uganda.

Dr Besigye says he has been arraigned in court on treason, illegal possession of arms, rape and terrorism charges.

He has run twice for the presidency and, according to him, had his "victory stolen" by Museveni.

Undaunted, he has soldiered on to put up what analysts say is the most challenging opposition to Museveni’s iron grasp on power. Yet Besigye says Museveni has not seen the last of him in politics.

Family tribulations

Besigye says his tribulations have extended to his family, some of them, including his wife, former Mbarara MP Winnie Byanyima, having to flee Uganda.

The opposition leader tells Kenyans to be wary of Museveni whom he accuses of perpetuating his "expansionist tendencies in the region."

"He (Museveni) was forced out of Congo, he never wanted to leave. He also invaded Sudan in violation of Ugandan and international law. He is solving problems using military rule and not discussions."

He went on: "The Migingo island issue could not have arisen were Uganda to use civil and diplomatic approaches. It is outrageous to claim that the water is in Uganda but the island in Kenya. He is bullying Kenya to gain popularity at home and push for another term in office," he said in reference to Museveni’s recent remarks on Migingo.

He said of Museveni: "The reason why we went to the bush to fight was to install democracy, the rule of law and to bring back liberty to Ugandans. We were supposed to have a two-year transition government and thereafter constitute an independently elected government. Museveni has perpetuated his rule to date, dashing the hopes of the gallant fighters who had a dream to salvage the country and set it as an example of democracy in the region".

Where did the two former allies part ways and was it ideological or personal?

"My parting with Museveni was utterly ideological. The basis for it was a document I did in 1999 espousing a policy on how to liberate Ugandans and the minimum changes we needed to carry out. The 14-page critique of the NRM government did not augur well with Museveni. This warranted my arrest and detention," said Besigye.

"After the 1999 falling out campaigns were mounted against me. They were all false. There was nothing personal whatsoever," says the man who describes his former patient as a ‘despot’.

Personal scandals

During the 2006 campaign, Museveni and Besigye traded innuendo in allegations of personal scandals dating back to their bush war.

Besigye still claims victory in the 2006 elections in which Museveni was elected for another five-year term, with 59 per cent of the vote against Besigye’s 37 per cent.

"The Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the election was marred by intimidation, violence, voter disenfranchisement, and other irregularities.

Each time Besigye travels abroad he has to swear affidavits and get sureties to get his passport that is in the custody of the Judiciary.

Besigye now wants the international community, and the African Union, to put pressure on Museveni to leave power and bar him from vying for another term in the 2011 elections.

He says Uganda is headed for change, adding opposition parties are in talks to sponsor a joint presidential candidate.

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