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It could be the perfect New Year gift to Ugandans.

Two influential personalities, veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda and a former media honcho, Conrad Nkutu, have come agonizingly close to bringing together President Yoweri Museveni and arch rival Dr Kizza Besigye for peace talks. Since they parted ways in 1999 after Besigye published a dossier chronicling the weaknesses of the ruling party, the dream meeting between the FDC leader and Museveni has always shimmered like a mirage.

At first Nkutu told The Observer that he is not aware of such an effort.

“I have never been involved in anything like that. It is not correct. Who gave you the information?” he asked.

But, pressed further, he acknowledged that he was involved in “something like that”, although he declined to divulge details. Similarly, on Mwenda’s part, although he was aware of the talks, he refused to confirm or deny his involvement. But our impeccable sources maintain that efforts to bring the two political rivals on one negotiating table are in high gear.

According to a highly placed source, the efforts began in May, a period of unrest when Dr Kizza Besigye was tormented to the point of nearly losing his sight.

“There was fear that things could get out of hand and if Besigye was killed in the walk-to-work protests, it could cause anarchy and upheaval,” said the source, trying to underline why the peace negotiations are important.

On April 28, police officer Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe, with the help of a motley gang of security operatives, intercepted Besigye’s vehicle at Mulago roundabout as he attempted to drive to town. Like a rehearsed Hollywood blockbuster scene, video footage captured a hooded man using a hammer to break the window of Besigye’s Land Cruiser vehicle.

Arinaitwe joined the fray, using the butt of his pistol to break the glass of Besigye’s vehicle before incessantly dousing the FDC leader with pepper spray. With remarkable ease, Arinaitwe later dragged Besigye out of the vehicle, before bundling him under the seats on the back of a police patrol pick-up truck. This incident projected Museveni’s leadership in bad light, both at home and abroad.

We have learnt that the peace talks were Nkutu’s idea, borne out of a belief that Uganda would be more prosperous and peaceful if the two biggest political actors buried their hatchet. Being close to Besigye, he reportedly sold him the idea. Our sources say the FDC leader was at first very apprehensive about the scheme, particularly because at one stage, it would have to involve face-to-face meetings with Museveni who he does not trust.

But after much explanation and assurances from Nkutu, Besigye finally warmed up to the idea. Aware that Mwenda could unlock doors in the marbled corridors of power, Nkutu then enlisted him to try to convince the President about the importance of the talks.

Mwenda, a journalist and proprietor of the Independent news magazine, has of late played the role of pacifist, bringing together Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Museveni in August — a meeting that strengthened the notoriously fickle ties of the two countries beyond peace overtures. In a video footage shot during Museveni’s visit, Mwenda is seen closely walking behind the two leaders who seemed to be enjoying his company at Kagame’s ranch on the shores of Lake Muhazi in Rwanda.

Mwenda is also closely linked to Kagame, who recently appointed him a presidential advisor on the media in the Great Lakes region. Nkutu, since his retirement from the prestigious position as head of broadcasting of the Nation Media Group colossus, has been engaged in private business. A former managing director of the Monitor Publications, Nkutu has been a close associate of Besigye since 2001.

The two handlers, according to a source, are attempting to broker a meeting whose agenda goes beyond the walk-to-work protests to encompass national reconciliation and healing.

“The meetings are highly secretive and nobody wants it leaked to the press,” said the source.
“Even the FDC leadership is unaware and Besigye does not want anyone to misunderstand him — that he is cutting a deal behind the back of his party,” argued the source.

The terms

So far, a number of meetings have been held, but Besigye and Museveni are yet to meet. What is happening, according to sources, is a formulation of terms and conditions in order for the meeting to take place. Information about these terms is scanty, but our sources said there are still some sticking issues on either side.

For instance, Museveni wants Besigye to stop engaging in any form of activities that breed chaos, such as the walk-to-work campaign. Museveni’s team also wants the FDC to formally recognise his government as the one legitimately elected during the 2011 February elections.  In the aftermath of the elections, Besigye said the party does not recognize the results.

Both sides, according to sources, have also agreed to act with civility towards each other, so Besigye and Museveni are not expected to trade personal insults.
On his part, Besigye has made it clear that other opposition political parties must also get involved if there is going to be a meaningful discussion about the country’s political and economic future.

Besigye also wants the talks to be transparent and for the media to be allowed unfettered access. We have also been told that initially there had been a suggestion during the preparatory meetings that Museveni is granted one last seven-year term on condition that he affirms publicly that after that, he will retire from politics. However, we have learnt that it has been dropped.

So far, according to sources, both Museveni and Besigye have agreed on a number of issues although there are other sticking issues yet to be resolved, including choosing an agreeable moderator to shepherd the talks.

Sources expect that by March next year, all issues  will be ironed out and the two political rivals could meet for the first time in more than 10 years, marking a new dawn in the country’s fractious political history.

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0 #1 IBUDI RONNIE 2012-01-02 08:47
We have all been waiting for such an acrimonious opportunity.
0 #2 nathan karugaba 2012-01-02 09:10
its very promising if the two have agreed to meet and discuss national issues. this country is for us all unlike before when president museneni tried to own the state. plz mwenda and nkutu continue
0 #3 Eddie 2012-01-02 09:31
Much as Mr. Nkutu and Mr. Mwenda are respected citzens capable of organizing such talks, I dont see these politicians (Kaguta and Kifefe) meeting eye to eye in the near future.

Fist, their views and approach of doing things are distinct that I see no hope of agreeing on a common thing however small it may look.

Secondary, Mr. Museveni doesnot see himself out of presidency, paying taxes (and probably his taxes being stolen....)like an ordinary citizen and Mr. Besigye no longer accepts living in Uganda comfortably with Museveni as the president.

Thirdly, the whos in either party (NRM & FDC) cannot and willnot allow such talks to suceed (if they can be there anyway). Fourth, as one of the top millitary guy in Ug put it "a national cake is never given, but grabbed", these guys after 'grabbing' a cake cannot allow anyone to come and share it freely. Trust them they will fail the talks, that's why they even reminded prof. Bukenya to stop bragging that he's a mahogany when he joined the 'thing' from city square. Happy 2012
0 #4 Blah 2012-01-02 10:16
Blah blah blah. Believe what you want. These politicians and their secret deals!!!
0 #5 Nkwanzi 2012-01-02 11:32
If they ever met, that would mark the death of FDC and the resurrection of NRM because political-wise i dont see it giving FDC any chances as a political party to re assert their prowess.

I dont see the big man bowing to the demands of his former defectors either, Like Besigye once told a gathering in london he knows his boss much better than me.

AS for the masses, I dont think that Mr Museveni is any different from the one that once pleased people, but people forget that he can not work alone, and much as for him he has had a good amount of savings so far to cater for all his dependants after retirements a few of his men have and so they would do all they can to veil their activities with his prolonged stay. That is why Kaihura would order Arinaitwe to do what he did.

Finally, it is a night mare for the change of govt for the better to big bulls from with in, even if power was handed over to another one from within NRM I would not see Kutesa surviving or Imagine if Amama is to be charged for Temangalo, CHOGM, Oil how many accomplices he would go with?
0 #6 petero 2012-01-02 12:23
Very good for Uganda but as a condition, Besigye must have his toxicologists nearby.
0 #7 Betty Long Cap 2012-01-02 14:46
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34

For the opposition to enter into peace talks, would be to forfeit the higher moral ground his party stands on. Dr Kizza Besigye has stood for anti-corruption and two-term limits. To recognize the current government would be tantamount to recognition of the legitimacy of a long-standing dictatorship.

To avoid further chaos, the president needs to resign. Calling for peace talks is his acknowledging success of the anti-corruption campaign. Do not compromise now, Dr.Kizza Besigye.
0 #8 Dr. Dennis Blick 2012-01-02 15:39
Ask Dr. Olara if Dr. Museveni can be trusted at all! Dr. Obote knew to say that whenever the man opens his mouth he lies, and to this, Ugandans including Dr. Besigye are witnesses. Unless Dr. Besigye has become dumb enough to be taken for a ride. That would be very sad indeed for Uganda.

On a lighter note for all those who think Dr. Museveni is not Ugandan. But, in many societies and religions, kids out of wedlock belong to the mother with all attendant characteristics and attributes like religion, tribe and what have you.
0 #9 mugisha 2012-01-02 16:06
If Besigye gives in to his historical tormentor history will judge him as a failed politician.

Mu7 is not the man and leader to be trusted,if i was Besigye i would not engage in this manipulating and scanderous venture. If Besigye dare gives in to Mu7,he risks being trimmed politically and eventually lose his credibility.

Soon Besigye will be a leader of Uganda,whether Mu7 wants it or not.

KB, please dont give in to this manipulative and scanderous activity as Mu7 is hanging on power by a few cronies and soon they will walk awy from him and eventually the uncoordinated troup movement will be the news of the day and eventually,this will lead to Mu7's capture Gaddafi style.
0 #10 ed jumba 2012-01-02 16:24
if they ever meet and "reconcile" this will be the saddest day in uganda's political struggle for genuine democracy>

it would mean that all along it has been a personal struggle between the two.the problem of uganda today is more than the personal differences of the two but the total decay of the political environment and the players>
0 #11 Titus Kiyingi 2012-01-02 17:37
u know u media guys u are good at reading any thing u come across, the content of this article is part of the story i wrote some time back after waking up from a deep sleep.
0 #12 James balikyebuuza 2012-01-02 18:00
The meeting between Dr. Besigye and Mr. Museveni or with all political parties may not be a long lasting cure to the political problems affecting a common Ugandan.

What I see as most important is for Mr. Museveni to meet all Ugandans and tell them that he has stopped his thieving ways. The thieving of public funds, elections and the underhand political methods he uses in administering this country.

The experience we have collected on Museveni is enough to give us the likely outcome of the Besigye/Museveni/Party talks.
I am among those Ugandans with a stiff belief that Museveni's tenure has been a costly venture to this beloved country.
0 #13 Lawrence 2012-01-02 18:18
In the lime light of things, what is affecting Uganda is beyond the egocentrism of the two political stalwarts.

If it were law, it is the "state against the incumbent" and Dr. Besigye a witness. If this were a catastrophe from a volcanic eruption, we are dealing with its aftermath, not the technical issues of magnitude on so called richter scales,

It might be true that besigye's volcanic walk to work erputions were pertinent, but today we are grappling with the very issues the campaign was trying to highlight, not besigye and walk to work.

Tomorrow, kasiata is threatening version two of walk to work, besigye is out of the limelight, but the issues that were behind walk to work are the subject matter.

Any meeting whose agenda addresses the genesis of the latter, against the back drop of egos, is a litany worth the faith.

Whether Dr. Besigye or not, Uganda needs "fdc", not the party, but democratic change from the pakalast slogans of governance; seeing the reinstatement of term limits, triming government public expenditure, kickstarting federalism,etc...if to such this meeting will address: all political parties need represenation.

The social bog , economic quagmire and political stalmate in Uganda is beyond meetings of egoistic stalwarts; until WE are the agenda, apart from them settling old scores, this meeting is of 19th century Agenda as opposed to the 21st Century challenges of tomorrow.
0 #14 alengo, jan. 2 .2012 2012-01-02 18:56
It is easier to squeeze water from a rock than to have that meeting between the tow politicians
0 #15 Mukalazi 2012-01-03 00:58
Can any sober person trust in talks with M7?????????????????????????????
Or can Museveni be trusted??????????
0 #16 na u 2012-01-03 05:26
all ugandans should reject this idea!
secret deals behind closed doors are bad for the country!
wait for next elections in 2016 and get the peoples mandate!
0 #17 kelem 2012-01-03 05:34
good for paper sales definitely .
0 #18 Faisal Saad 2012-01-03 12:45
It will be a very good thing to do for the future of political sanity in Uganda.Besigye must talk to Museveni and both should agree on what represents the Uganda political objectives.Besigye must learn that one cannot go about saying " I shall solve the peoples' and Uganda problems" by just being elected to the highest office.

Politicians around the world especially in well established democracies,alw ays are representing a common national objective defined by their chosen ideals. Museveni seems to be building an ideal suitable to an emerging Uganda while Besigye uses rhetoric and promises some kind of Utopia can be achieved often by disrupting the status quo.

Museveni has tried to give Uganda a real image that translates into goodwill and common good if all can understand what it means to be a citizen of this land and to protect that ideal in a sane democratic manner.

We do not have to just copycat "democracy" as perceived by outsiders.If the two great men of our land can sit down and talk Uganda, we shall see a real parliament in action and the best national development approaches initiated,imple mented, tested and analysed for the best outcomes.There is no shame in politics to talk peace.
0 #19 Topher 2012-01-03 13:01
Besigye derives his popularity from people and what he fights for. Once he is swallowed in the tsunami, he will be gone and people will turn to another person who they believe in.

If besigye wants to remain relevant, let him get rid of NRM corruption, nepotism, strealing of public funds, poor living conditions, etc.
He could end up like Zimbabwe's PM
0 #20 David Lubowa 2012-01-03 13:14
No substance in the story. This story is only for selling your paper and to give some kind of popularity to the fading Andrew Mwenda

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