INTELLIGENCE|How Besigye Gifted Bobi Wine Power


In early 1982 (around February), a year after Gen Yoweri Museveni had waged a war against the Obote government, something strange happened in NRA camp and it changed the course of the war. This was like manna from hell.

Why? The Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) fighters of Dr. Andrew Kayiira had received some weapons from the Libyan government. Out of excitement, they then decided to attack the Obote Government targeting the Lubiri barracks. They fired and fired mortars, machine guns and everything at their disposal aimlessly until they felt the enemy had been annihilated.

Government soldiers would later repel them back to an extent that Kayiira stopped in London. One UPM soldier the Late Lt. Colonel Ssonko Lutaaya, however, did the unthinkable.

According to accounts by Brigadier Pecos Kuteesa, when the UFM were defeated by the government soldiers after their attack on the Lubiri, Ssonko, who was then in charge of the truck that carried the weapons refused to allow the weapons to fall into the hands of the government. He instead drove the truck towards areas where he knew NRA camps were and handed them over to them. This act turned the course of the war:

According to accounts by Gen Museveni in the 2nd edition of Sowing the Mustard Seed, Sonko delivered 225 AK47 rifles, submachine guns, motors, RPGs and 200,000 ammunitions. This brought the number of guns that they had to around 400 and they then decided to create field mobile forces and the war breathed a new life….

According to political pundits, Kayiira handed over the crown to Gen Museveni.

BOBI WINE Vs OPPOSITION

Analysts now opine that what exactly happened in 1982, repeated itself in 2017 when Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine switched from music to politics: the opposition figures including FDC strong man Dr Kizza Besigye, DP supremo Nobert Mao, ANT’s Gen Mugisha Muntu handed the crown to the pop star knowingly or unknowingly. Insiders now say the opposition is currently racing against time to reclaim the crown from Wine before his nascent People Power Movement (PPM) which has now metamorphosed into a political party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), becomes Uganda’s leading opposition party.

Analysts say Dr Besigye in particular is currently uncomfortable seeing Wine run away with the torch of the opposition leader.

WHAT WENT WRONG

According to political pundits, when Wine announced his entry into politics by setting his eyes on Kyadondo East, opposition figures did not take him seriously and this is when they lost the crown.

The elites and the opposition’s cream de la cream underestimated him and saw him as a mere musician, an incoherent, marijuana-smoking-dreadlocked clown who had no idea about politics. They misunderstood his ability and most saw him as a pop star that had spent a decade speaking against corruption, impunity and a need for change.

They hoped they would always use him and his songs as curtain-raisers on their campaigns. Wine defied odds only to defeat NRM’s William Sitenda Ssebalu, FDC’s Apollo Kantinti and fellow independent candidates Nkunyingi Muwada and Dr Sowedi Kayongo Male. He bagged 25,659 votes, while his closest challenger, Sitenda Ssebalu, took 4,566 votes.

Insiders say, Wine requested FDC to ditch Kantinti and hand him the party flag, they refused. Besigye even joined the Kantinti campaign trail but it was late. To FDC, this was not unexpected and in failing to woo Wine to their side at the time he was entering politics they handed him the crown and the rest is history.

RED COLOUR

According to analysts, the opposition also handed the crown to Bobi Wine in 2017 at the peak of the Tojikwatako campaign. Tojikwatako, a Luganda word, means ‘don’t tamper with it’ [our constitution].

The opposition in parliament collectively adopted red colour during the fight to stop the removal of the Presidential age limits from the constitution. All opposition leaders including Besigye would later be seen donning red clothes. What they did not know was that they were handing over the crown to Wine as he would in the days that followed from the People Power Movement and only to adopt Red colour (Berets and clothes) as his signature.

Even when the army moved to ban them saying it was gazetting the red berets donned by Bobi Wine (which he defied) and his fans as military attire, Besigye was on Wine’s side. “Bravo! DEFIANCE is the way to end Junta rule. We shall overcome, sooner, rather than later!” Besigye tweeted in support of Wine. What Besigye didn’t know was that he was handing over the crown to Bobi.

BUGIRI, ARUA, RUKUNGIRI BYELECTIONS

According to analysts, the opposition again handed over the crown to Wine in subsequent by-elections that took place in Bugiri, Rukungiri and Arua. In 2018, Wine was part of the team that campaigned and delivered victories for the Opposition in Jinja Municipality in March and in Rukungiri in June where FDC’s Paul Mwiru and Betty Bamukwatsa Muzanira won the hotly contested races.

Following a disagreement between FDC and Justice Forum (JEEMA) on the possibility of fielding a single candidate for the Bugiri Municipality parliamentary seat, he supported JEEMA president, Asuman Basalirwa, who subsequently won the July 28 poll while Dr Kizza Besigye campaigned for the FDC candidate, Ms Eunice Namatende.


In Arua Wine campaigned for the eventual winner, Kassiano Wadri, while Dr Besigye campaigned for the FDC flag bearer, Bruce Musema. Ever since the Bugiri polls in which Dr Besigye’s and the FDC’s candidate came third, it was becoming clear that Bobi had started emerging as the new leader of the Opposition.

This seems to have gotten so much onto his head that he dared lead a procession past Bruce Musema’s last rally in Arua as Dr Besigye was addressing it. To analysts, the opposition should have tamed Wine by rallying behind his candidate of choice and in doing so they would woo him to their side—the crown was going. In Arua, Gen Mugisha Muntu also handed Bobi the crown when he teamed up with him to support Wadri.

ARUA CHAOS

Following the skirmishes that saw the presidential convoy pelted with stones, Wine was later arrested and days later paraded before the General Court Martial in Gulu and charged with two counts of possession of firearms and one count of possession of ammunition.

The events attracted international attention on Bobi, and this was a clear indicator that Besigye who had failed to tame him in the beginning was losing the crown. The charges seem to have also followed a script akin to the one that played out in November 2005 when Dr Besigye, who was a candidate in the general election due early the following year, and 22 other people were dragged before the same court and charged with treason and terrorism.

Bobi’s appearance before the General Court Martial set him off on a path similar to the one that Dr Besigye did tread and according to analysts state apparatus guns were shifting from the latter to Wine; a clear sign that Besigye’s crown had slipped off his head.

TWEBEREREMU CAMPAIGN

Last year, Wine introduced a campaign to get voter’s cards, slogans dubbed “twebereremu”. The campaign would later put him on a collision path with Besigye.

When the latter made some remarks about the campaign he was reportedly misunderstood and in this way he had to apologize and apologize: to analysts Besigye was handing over the crown to Wine.  A short 50-second clip of Besigye making the remarks caused mixed reactions among Ugandans on Social Media, with many of Bobi Wine’s supporters accusing Besigye of attacking the Kyadondo East legislator over championing a tribal campaign through his slogan.

“So shameful that Kizza Besigye can misrepresent a clear message by Bobi Wine. At least I have listened to Bobi saying, “be part of this struggle, don’t leave it to your leaders; mwebereremu.” How tribalistic is that message?” tweeted one Sadab Kitatta. 

Besigye would respond to Kitatta’s tweet, clarifying that his statement was misinterpreted.

Besigye added that his “brother” Bobi Wine was not part of the group propagating the hateful propaganda and apologized to the legislator and his supporters if his remarks had been misunderstood.

“A deliberate attempt by some interest to pit me against my brother Bobi wine isn’t lost on me. The clip of 50 seconds from a speech of one and half hours can do that. Bobi isn’t one of those driving a tribal campaign whoever understood my words be aimed at Bobi, my sincere apology,” Besigye tweeted.

During that time, Besigye also scoffed at Wine’s belief that a mere ID and elections can remove NRM from power. In what seemed as a rebuttal to Besigye’s comments, Bobi Wine later attacked opposition politicians who say President Museveni cannot be defeated through elections, branding them a disappointment.

“For a leader to say that a vote can never oust Museveni without offering another option, it is disappointing. We continue to call upon Ugandans like we have always said, what we politicians cannot solve, the people of Uganda can solve. They should go ahead and register as voters and be many,” Bobi Wine said.

Speaking during an event in which Democratic Party (DP) was signing a coalition agreement with Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Michael Mabike and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of Abed Bwanika, Bobi Wine also said that he and the rest believe in people democracy, unlike Besigye who keeps playing excuses whenever he loses.

“Don’t talk about democracy and stand four times and on the fifth time you say it doesn’t work, we believe it works,” he added amidst applause.

FIRST ALLIANCE

Realizing that Wine was taking the crown from Besigye, the supporters from each side last year started openly confronting each other. The two had to forge an alliance by announcing a MoU on cessation of hostilities. In doing so, analysts say, Besigye still was letting the opposition crown slip off his head.

Besigye under his People’s Government also went on to throw its weight behind the ID campaign led by Wine, to rally Ugandans to register for national identity cards. The two camps agreed to henceforth undertake joint political activities that sought to enhance unity within the opposition as well as reclaim the opposition political space which was shrinking at the hands of the ruling government.

Although the People’s Government could not detail which activities the two camps were planning to engage in, their spokesperson Betty Nambooze said the issue of ‘endagamuntu’ (national identity card) was part of the program. “We have agreed for example that this issue of ‘endagamuntu’ will be relaunched. When we tell Ugandans to go to get registered, we are telling them to get a document to show their ownership of this country,” Nambooze told reporters.

“But once you get ‘endagamuntu, you must fight for a system that will respect citizens, so that when you go to vote, you don’t vote in vain.”

The campaign was also a way of awakening vigilance among the citizens, to ensure that those that are ineligible do not acquire the national identity cards.

“We are telling them further, that you don’t get the I.D and keep quiet. Once you get your I.D, which means you have enrolled as a fighter in this war. It is a certificate of enrollment,” she added.

To analysts, Besigye was clearly handing over the crown to Bobi.

SECOND ALLIANCE

In June this year, Besigye and Wine again announced another new alliance against President Yoweri Museveni. The leading opposition duo appeared on the same podium on June 15 to announce an alliance; the United Forces of Change (UFC).  Its purpose appears to have been an announcement that the two leading opposition figures want their supporters to stop attacking each other; especially on social media.

Under the UFC arrangement, the two opposition political heavy weights agreed on a strategy for joint political activities starting with the “No, Nedda” campaign. The campaign is aimed at showing dissatisfaction over the manner in which the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a day before the Uganda Electoral Commission launched a revised 2021 election roadmap. The EC’s revised roadmap includes a ban on mass political rallies due to the coronavirus, arguing that it is following the Ministry of Health guidelines on social distancing. But opposition politicians accuse the EC of laying the ground for “mass rigging” in the 2021 presidential election.

The opposition politicians say the majority of Ugandans are suffering because of the measures brought about by the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

The “No, Nedda” campaign wants Ugandans who go hungry, are locked down in their homes, cannot open their businesses, or are dissatisfied with the government for what reason to make protest noises every day at 1 pm. They want them to bang empty saucepans, blow whistles, or honk a horn in protest against the government.

To some analysts, this was a last desperate move by Besigye to woo Wine but to others Besigye was officially handing over the crown to Wine as the opposition kingpin in the country.

The alliance announced on June 15, therefore, according to analysts, appears to be the latest strategizing by Bobi Wine to impose himself as the new bull in the opposition kraal.

Bobi Wine, as the new hope of the opposition appears to have the momentum and his supporters under the People Power movement dismiss Besigye as a four-time losing presidential candidate.

In rebuttal, Besigye says he has not blocked anyone from contesting for presidency. But he says he will not retire from the struggle. Political observers say that this impasse will lead to flopping of the Bobi-Besigye alliance.

DPs ROLE

Nobert Mao’s Democratic Party is also to blame for the rise of Bobi Wine. In 2019, Peoples Development Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Truth for Justice (TJ), announced a decision to consolidate efforts with the DP to form a political bloc capable of causing regime change. It was named DP bloc. The political consortium proposed an opposition election campaign strategy dubbed “one on one modal.”

On top of fielding a joint Presidential candidate, the strategy proposed opposition political parties to field candidates in the parliamentary and local council elections basing on their strength in the region.

The DP Bloc, a special purpose vehicle of the Democratic Party, would later start hobnobbing with Bobi Wine. Insiders actually say, it was meant to endear Bobi to DP. It promoted Bobi Wine and in the end he ended up swallowing it. DP Bloc missed the opportunity to Swallow the awakened Bobi Wine and they are now politically constipated since their “special purpose vehicle” as they have been calling it departed without them on-board. The group officially handed Bobi a crown last week when they endorsed Bobi Wine as their presidential candidate for the coming 2021 election. The announcement comes at a time when disagreements have rocked the oldest political party in the land.

Some of the party’s senior members have severally clashed with Norbert Mao, the party’s president general.

While addressing the media, the secretary general of the bloc, Medard Sseggona, said the bloc has already started to foster an arrangement with National Unity Platform (NUP), the political wing of Kyagulanyi’s People Power movement.

He noted that the discussion involves agreement on the symbols to use when fielding candidates.

“We have built consensus among ourselves inside the bloc to actualise our engagements under the People Power family in a formal structured understanding that we will leave no player out,“he said.

He declared their readiness to support Robert Kyagulanyi for the presidential seat but noted that they are not going to join NUP for now, unless otherwise.

“If we identify the need to join the party, we shall join and we shall let you know when and what to let you know,” he said. Abed Bwanika, a member of DP bloc said the question of who their presidential candidate will be has been fully settled and is non-negotiable.

Bwanika said in the current situation Bobi Wine provides the best opportunity to change this government.

“We have negotiated long ago. We have consulted the people of Uganda who have the voice and we have agreed that Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu will be our presidential candidate,”he said.

However, the secretary general of DP, Gerald Siranda, warned any member who intends to stand under another symbol that isn’t of DP that they would have left the party automatically.

“Initially we have seen posters with DP/People Power which was ok because by nomination you would be DP or independent but now with National Unity Platform, the moment you go and get nominated under NUP, you would have dropped DP automatically,” he said.

JEEMA ALSO SURRENDERS THE CROWN

The Justice Forum (Jeema) early this week also unveiled a new party logo and announced that they will not field any presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections but will rather rally behind People Power flag bearer Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine.

“We are here today to officially unveil our new symbol, which will appear on [the ballot paper],” party secretary general Muhammad Kateregga said at the party headquarters in Mengo, Kampala.
He said the previous logo was unclear for the electorate.

“Our candidates have been complaining that the symbol we were using is not visible and could easily be mistaken to be a football. That is why we decided to change the symbol and put the map of Africa in red colour in the middle so that it can easily be seen by everybody,” he added.

Kateregga said the party leadership chose the symbol of a weighing scale because it symbolises fairness and justice. The logo is an image of the map of Africa in red colour with a weighing scale across it.
However, he warned Jeema candidates against popularising the People Power logo because it will not appear on the ballot paper in the 2021 General Election.

“People Power is just a movement where we all belong but it is not a registered political party. I want to advise our candidates in advance that the earlier they popularise our logo and symbol, which is going to be on the ballot paper, the better for them,” he added.

Kateregga said the party recognises that they cannot singlehandedly get rid of the incumbent leadership.

“As the National Executive Committee, we are in total agreement that Bobi Wine is our candidate. We are sure as Jeema that we can’t get rid of this dictatorship unless we work together,” he said.

OPPOSITION IN DISARRAY NOW

FDC, DP and UPC are all in disarray. Political pundits now say, some FDC members knew the party was under state capture and it was being eaten from top to the bottom and there is a need to recruit a fresh. According to analysts, after suffering all these defections, Lukwago had to be hired to show that the party is still strong and it can attract figures like him. Analysts further add that in hiring Lukwago, FDC is now trying to survive but not thriving. Analysts also say, with Lukwago helping FDC consolidate Kampala and the central region at large under FDC, the threat of People Power on swallowing FDC will be minimal.

It is a showdown that should be watched unless Bobi Wine is now willing to sit down with Lukwago and iron out things.

BOBI MOVES ON

According to political pundits, Wine is determined to be the opposition flag-bearer in 2021 and beyond. 

According to analysts, Wine is aware that winning 2021 polls is an exercise in futility. However, he can scoop as many parliamentary positions and LCs as he can given that FDC, DP and UPC are in disarray. With this, the party can enjoy benefits like Leader of Opposition posts and as well members being allocated to some juicy Committees like PAC in parliament. This also gives him a chance to sit on a table of men (read other political parties) and discuss national issues. This will also give him relevance amongst the funders. There is money that the government always gives to opposition parties. Knowledgeable sources further told us that there are some wealthy organizations in Western capitals that previously funded opposition groups that are now willing to finance Wines party.

We have also learnt that Wine is looking at the post NRM era. To some analysts, once President Museveni ceases to be NRM’s visionary leader, the party may disintegrate and it is likely to remain in history just like Kenya’s KANU. Insiders now say, Wine is looking at 15-20 years ahead when the ground will be leveled for everyone to try their luck and by that time NUP will be a party to reckon.

Political pundits say, opposition is well aware that if it is well organized, they can get that 51% winning margin for them to be declared winners. According to 2016 presidential elections, NRM scored 5,971,872(60.62%).

means that 38% went to the opposition and independents plus invalid/blank votes. This means opposition needs only 12-13% to win. Out of 15,277,198 registered voters, only 10,329,131 turned up. This means about 5 million voters never turned up. Insiders now say, Wine will be targeting this group of voters on top of intensive recruitment to ensure future victory.

Among the strategies is to excite, organize and keep involving young voters (in the age bracket of 18-35) who mostly end up shouting but don’t line up to vote.  We have also learnt that the party strategists intend to change their characterization of supporters especially the ghetto youth to be an inclusive party including those who have gone to school.

Insiders also intimated to us that NUP will soon recruit a team of researchers, data analysts, free thinkers, academicians, and intellectuals etc who will keep the government in power on facts check radar on top providing alternative solutions.

According to sources, moving forward, there will be fewer confrontations with other change seeking forces, the gospel of tolerance will be emphasized. This explains why recently, Wine has on two occasions tried to ally with Kizza Besigye and the first one was purely on cessation of hostilities between the two groups.

We have also learnt that music will be the main channel of spreading the change gospel and less attention will be given to traditional TVs and radios; although internet penetration in Uganda is still low, a social media army will be maintained to complement other platforms. We have also learnt that NUP is embarking on massive recruitment, building structures and setting up party offices. However, there is a plan to set up mobile offices in order to elude state infiltration, interference and capture.

The NUP organs will include The delegates conference; the national executive committee; the executive board; the regional committee; the sub-regional committee; the district executive committee; the constituency committee; the sub-county committee; the parish committee and the village committee. NUP will also have administrative organs namely the National platform secretariat and the district executive committee.

On top of that there will be the Elders and advisory committee; the platform Parliamentary Caucus; The platform local government caucus; the discipline and reconciliation committee and the coordination and mobilization committee. All in all, insiders say the momentum is with NUP to lose.