Former FDC vice president Nuwe Amanya Mushega has been heavily criticised for his comments on presidential aspirant Kizza Besigye, published in The Observer on Monday.
The storm against Mushega was led by the FDC secretary for mobilisation, Ingrid Turinawe, who charged that Mushega was always in a camp opposed to Besigye.
In The Observer’s Monday interview, Mushega literally accused Besigye of being shameless, after he jumped into the race for FDC presidential election flag bearer despite earlier ruling himself out. Besigye is tussling it out with his party president Mugisha Muntu for the party’s presidential elections ticket.
“I will give you an example of FDC, where one of the leaders said, and it’s on record, that “I will not run again, I am going to organise civil society. As long as President Museveni is a president, I will not run, as long as Kiggundu is still organising [an election] I will not run, as long as these electoral reforms are not done, I will not run.” Then suddenly, you are running,” Mushega said.
But Besigye, also speaking in the Monday edition of the paper, described Mushega’s comments as “ridiculous”.
Mushega is not the first FDC leader to criticise Besigye; but the terse reaction by Besigye’s camp and the intense debate on social media suggest his comments could yet be the most divisive for Uganda’s largest opposition party.
Turinawe used her Facebook page to claim that Mushega had worked against Besigye. One incident, Turinawe claimed, was in the run up to the 2006 general election when Besigye was on remand at Luzira prison over rape and treason charges.
“We were organising to nominate him [Besigye] in absentia; FDC members from all over the country had fully signed and submitted required signatures for [his] nomination,” Turinawe wrote. “We were shocked! Mushega and his group circulated other forms to be signed, claiming they were not ready to nominate a prisoner.”
“They were fronting Gen Muntu, a matter that would have left Dr Besigye to rot in prison. Don’t joke with FDC members; people refused to sign, and in most districts, these forms were torn into pieces while others were burnt.” These are some of the details that Turinawe said make up a book that she is to release soon.
In our interview, Mushega also criticised Besigye for creating parallel FDC structures instead of helping Muntu to take the party forward, a charge Besigye denied. By last evening, his supporters were active on social media, hitting at Mushega, with some branding him an agent of the ruling NRM.
One critic, Agaba Babigumira, wrote: “I honestly didn’t expect this from a senior member of the party at this point in the campaigns. These Muntu-Besigye campaigns are going to leave the party more divided than ever before. Our only hopes are with FDC but look at this?”
Speaking to The Observer editor last evening, Mushega said he had seen Turinawe’s Facebook posts, but he did not want to respond to her.
“Let them comment on what I have said; is there any untruth in it?” Mushega said by telephone.
He also pointed out that he did not mention the name Besigye. Indeed, Mushega initially described the problem of FDC leaders who say they will not run and then turn around and contest, at which point reporter Deo Walusimbi prompted him to give his candid views on Besigye.
Our reporter had prophetically put it to Mushega that some party members would see his remarks as washing dirty linen in public. But Mushega said the linen was dirty, and it had to be washed wherever it could be washed.
And he was not without supporters. One Hillary Muhangi Karamaare agreed with Mushega, blaming Besigye for making a “big mistake” of announcing that he would not stand again only to make a U-turn a few months to the next elections.
Muhangi’s views were shared by Pius Seguya who argued that it was high time Ugandan politicians stopped making statements “out of excitement” that they contradict later.
“One wonders whether they think about the impact of their words, whether it is an issue of integrity or excitement of the moment, whether they just assume that they are smarter than everyone else,” Seguya posted.