During the 2011 opposition ‘Walk to Work’ protests that nearly brought Kampala on its knees, a police constable saluted one of its chief walkers-Maj. Gen Mugisha Muntu.
As this happened, majority of his colleagues, especially Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party President Dr. Kiiza Besigye, were violently brushing with the police and many of them got arrested and charged with different offences- but not Gen. Muntu.
Some of his colleagues were charged with the ultimate offence of terrorism that carries a death sentence upon conviction, and are still moving in and out of court- but not Gen. Muntu.
Others who peacefully protesting outside their party offices on Uganda House were sprayed with a pink substance and dispersed-not Gen. Muntu.
Later, President Yoweri Museveni and Police Chief Gen. Kale Kayihura, warned all protesters, especially Besigye, would be met with the full force of the state machinery if they continued disrupting business in the Central Business District- not Gen. Muntu.
Recently, I posted a view on social media that in changing their leaders through a democratic campaign process, the legacy that the opposition FDC party is planting on the Ugandan political turf is that it is possible to peacefully change leaders and also respect constitutional rule in Uganda. My friends-both within the FDC and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) immediately asked me to say something about the candidates vying to replace Dr. Besigye and especially Muntu who is currently campaigning for the FDC presidency. These friends share the belief that there’s something special about a Muntu presidency; something around the critical values of leadership such as sacrifice, service, integrity and courage. This means they have automatically boxed me into a corner but it is their right to hear from me about why this candidate bothers or intrigues them.
Muntu, a former Army Commander who crossed to the opposition to eventually serve as the FDC’s Secretary for Mobilisation, has been- and still is- very different in both the tactical and strategic dislodgement of President Yoweri Museveni’s government. On the tactical front, he rarely sounds vindictive, respects authority and the security forces and makes one believe change is possible without raising tantrums. On the strategic front, he crafts his cause for change as a national agenda- subjects we shall explore more in detail in due course.
To emphasize this point, on the first day of the W2W protests, he never sought to brush with the police. He sought to win them over. Indeed, a police constable who had moved to block him from walking to his office at Najjanankumbi- a Kampala suburb, shocked the nation when he ended up saluting before allowing him to proceed following what looked like a brief and friendly exchange. Muntu walked up to his office without attracting attention. He neither rallied anyone to follow him on his journey nor did he try to intentionally beckon a crowd around him. But this incident was a masterpiece for the rational oppositionists and the moderates in ruling party and the armed forces. Thus, unlike his colleagues who went physical with the police, sometimes visibly and violently defying their lawful orders against rallying everyone to walk with them-methods that disrupted traffic flow and business, Gen. Muntu was hardly noticed until he arrived safely at Najja.
The beautiful stuff about change is when that change happens constructively- not destructively. There are so many Ugandans on both sides of the political divide who resonate with this type of politics. This is the content-character in Muntu, now seeking to replace the outgoing FDC party president Dr. Kiiza Besigye. He is campaigning against another equally able candidate, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Nandala Mafabi and their political peg-boy Hon. Geoffrey Ekanya. It is important to understand why Muntu might pose a greater headache to NRM than Nandala. But it is also important to know why a Nandala presidency is necessary. To these two questions, we shall return next week.
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