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The dossier that got Besigye into trouble
He escaped court martial for engaging in politics

In November 1999, Col. Kizza Besigye, while still a serving Army officer, authored a document titled, An Insider’s view of how NRM lost the broad-base, which was very critical of the direction the NRM under President Museveni was taking.

Incensed by the document, the Army attempted to court martial the author but backed down amid protests that Besigye’s rights were being violated.

In our continuing series on the 10-year-contest for power between Museveni and Besigye, we reproduce a heavily edited version of that hair-raising missive.

I have taken keen interest and participated in the political activities on the Ugandan scene since the late 1970s. This was during a period of intense jostling to topple and later succeed the Idi Amin regime.

I am, therefore, fully aware of the euphoria, excitement and hope with which Ugandans received the Uganda National Liberation Front/Army (UNLF/A).

Ugandans supported the UNLF’s stated approach of “politics of consensus” through the common front.
It was hoped that the new approach to politics would be maintained and Uganda rebuilt from the ruins left by the Amin regime.

Unfortunately, instead of nurturing the structures, and regulations which bound the front together, we witnessed a primitive power struggle that resulted in ripping the front apart to the chagrin of the population.

Some of us young people were immediately thrown into serious confusion. We had not belonged to any political party before, and we did not approve of the record and character of the existing parties - UPC and DP.

Spontaneously, many people started talking of belonging to a Third Force. This force represented those persons who wished to make a fresh start at political organization, with unity and consensus politics as the centre pin.

With a few months left to the 1980 elections, the Third Force crystallized into a new political organization– the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM).

The population, to a large extent, expressed their appreciation of the ideas and opportunity presented by the young organization, but was pessimistic regarding its electoral success.

Pessimism was justified, because the new organisation simply had no time and resources to organize effectively nationally; and UPC was already positioning itself very loudly and arrogantly to rig the elections and seemed to have what was essential for them to do so successfully.

After the sham 1980 elections, when Paulo Muwanga, a leader of UPC (and chairman of the Military Commission) took over all powers of the Electoral Commission and declared his own election results, there was widespread despondency and tension.

While the “minority” DP Members of Parliament took up the opposition benches in Parliament, the rank and file of the party rapidly united behind the new forces of resistance to struggle against the dictatorial rule.

The Popular Resistance Army (PRA and later, NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni which started with about 30 fighters, was overwhelmed by people seeking to join its ranks.

The NRM was born as a political organization in June 1981. It was created by a protocol that effected the merger of Uganda Freedom Fighters UFF (led by the late Prof Y.K. Lule and Museveni’s PRA). The armed wing of the organization became the National Resistance Army (NRA).

The NRM political programme was initially based on seven points which were later increased to become the well-known Ten-Point Programme. The basic consideration in drawing up the programme was that it should form the basis of a broad national political and social force.

A national coalition was considered to be of critical importance in establishing peace, security, and optimally moving the country forward. The political programme was, therefore, referred to as a minimum programme around which different political forces in Uganda could unite for rehabilitation and recovery of the country.

To achieve unity, it was envisaged that the minimum programme would be implemented by a broad-based government.

After the bush war, discussions were undertaken with the various political forces to establish a broad-based government that would reflect a national consensus.

The NRM set up a committee led by Eriya Kategeya (then chairman of the NRM Political and Diplomatic committee) for the purpose of engaging the various groups in these discussions. This exercise was, however, never taken to its logical conclusion.

It would appear that once the leaders of the political parties were given “good” posts in the NRM government, their enthusiasm for the discussions waned, and the process eventually fizzled out.

In spite of the lack of a proper modus operandi, the initial NRM government (executive branch) was impressively broad-based.

Consensus politics conducted through elections based on individual merit and formation of broad-based government became the hallmark of the NRM.

Broad base undermined

However, the popular concept of the broad-based government, which had also received support of most political groups, was progressively undermined.

It ought to be remembered that due to the support and cooperation of other political groups, no legal restrictions were imposed –on political parties until August 11, 1992 when the NRC made a resolution on political party activities in the interim period.

In my opinion, there were three factors responsible for undermining and later destroying the NRM cardinal principle of broad-basedness, especially in appointment to the Executive:

The NRM had set itself to serve for a period of four years as an interim government, then return power to the people. However, it was not very clear how this would happen at the end of the four years.

Some politicians in NRM government who came from other political parties set out to use their advantaged positions to, on the one hand, undermine the NRM and on the other, strengthen themselves in preparation for the post-NRM political period.

Consequently, they fell out with the NRM leadership, and a number of them were arrested and charged with treason.

Historical NRM politicians who thought that they were not “appropriately” placed in government, blamed this on the large number of the “non-NRM” people in high up places, and set out to campaign against the situation. They created a distinction between government leaders as “NRM”, and “broad-based”.

If you were referred to as “broad-based”, it was another way of saying that you were undeserving of your post, or that you were possibly an enemy agent (“5th Columnist”).

After some years of NRM rule, some in the leadership began to feel that there was sufficient grassroots support for the NRM, such that one could “off-load” the “broad–based” elements in government at no political cost.

These factors were at the centre of an unprincipled power-struggle which was mostly covert and hence could not be resolved democratically. It continued to play itself out outside the formal Movement organs, with the results of weakening and eventually losing the concept of consensus politics and broad-basedness.

By the time of the Constituent Assembly elections were held in 1994, the NRM’s all encompassing, and broad-based concept remained only in name.

For instance, while the CA electoral law clearly stated that candidates would stand on “individual merit”, the NRM Secretariat set up special commercial committees at districts whose task was to recommend “NRM candidates” for support.

Not only did the logistical and administrative machinery of NRM move against the candidates supporting or suspected to be favouring early return to multi-party politics, it even moved against liberal candidates advocating for the initial NRM broad–based concept.

That is why many people were surprised and confused when some senior NRM leaders declared that “we have won!” after the CA results were announced. Who had won?

It was clear that there were two systems; one described in the law, and another being practised.
Moreover, the conduct of the CA, again exhibited the contradictions between the principles of NRM (and the law), and the practice.

I was quite alarmed when I read a document titled ‘Minutes Of A Meeting Between H.E The President with CA Group Held On 25.8.94 At Kisozi.’ The copy had been availed to me by my colleague Lt Col Serwanga Lwanga (RIP) who attended the meeting.

Present at the meeting were recorded as:
H.E. the President (Chair), Eriya Kategaya, Bidandi Ssali, Steven Chebrot, Agard Didi, George Kanyeihamba.

Miria Matembe, Mathias Ngobi, Mr Sebalu, Lt Noble Mayombo, Jotham Tumwesigye, Aziz Kasujja, Beatrice Lagada, Faith Mwonda and Margaret Zziwa.


+1 #1 Nuwabiine Jossy 2010-11-04 15:50
This was a good analysis of the prevailing situation. I was in P.5 by then so i cant really relate what Besigye wrote and what was happening in reality..But I wonder why it was not subjected to discussion..
+1 #2 Tumwesigye Peter 2010-11-04 19:09
This is a very interesting document and shows how brave and democratic Col Besigye has been! He tried to correct the selfishness of individuals who thought that their ideas would lead this country to glory rather than oblivion.

This should open the eyes of ugandans at such a critical time, let us not be selfish, lets think about Uganda today and tomorrow, lets take decisions that will benefit generations to come, decisions and actions that will save thiss country from abyss.

For God and my country
+2 #3 joseph 2010-11-05 16:28
initially, i thought besigye was just power hungry but thanks to the observer that i can now really see who besigye is. for sure i will vote for you.

you have a true vision for this country. in any case, if besigye had wanted to eat, he would not mention all of this. after all, he was in the system. but his desire to see Uganda better, took him to the bush and is now busy fighting for Uganda to be freed from the NRM hegemony. True statesman with a brillian vision.

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