Most of their senior leaders are under house arrest, their party headquarters is under police cordon, and a growing number of their supports are spending nights in jail.
But despite these and more handicaps, FDC leaders that have not yet been clamped down by security insist they will still conduct the “presidential swearing-in” of Dr Kizza Besigye at 11am tomorrow to coincide with that of President Museveni.
Ingrid Turinawe, a member of the committee organising the ceremony as part of the FDC’s ‘defiance campaign,’ said preparations are being done in secret but those who are expected to attend already know the venue.
“Considering the environment and the situation we are operating in, I will not be able to share [the venue] with you. But what you must know is that the swearing-in is on. It is going to take place,” she told The Observer yesterday.
Turinawe said their motivation to ensure Besigye takes oath is that they believe he won the February 18 presidential election but was rigged out by the government.
“We won the election. We were not declared [the winners]. We were denied the opportunity to petition court. We organised peaceful demonstrations to call for an independent audit so that the standoff can be solved but they were crushed. So, the final step is to swear in the president that won the elections,” said the FDC secretary for mobilisation.
However, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo described the FDC plans to swear in Besigye as “an exercise in futility” because it goes against Uganda’s constitution.
“What does the constitution of Uganda say? That the president shall be declared by the Electoral Commission and he will be sworn in by the chief justice. If Besigye and FDC say they are going to appoint their own chief justice, let us wait and see who they will appoint and what legal effect there is,” said Opondo, who is also the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre.
‘CHIEF JUSTICE’ LUKWAGO
In a statement released yesterday, Besigye noted that the decision to launch “a people’s government” was taken because President Museveni and his government have closed avenues for auditing the poll results.
“Since it is clear the path to amicably and conclusively establish the outcome of the 2016 elections has been ignored, we have no choice but to do what the people of Uganda mandated us to do,” he noted.
According to Besigye, his swearing-in ceremony will take place within Kampala and will be presided over by the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who is a lawyer.
By yesterday, however, nearly all senior FDC leaders – even Lukwago – were still detained at their homes. Those under house arrest include Besigye, Kawempe South MP-elect Mubarak Munyagwa and Kyadondo East MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda.
Ssemujju, who is also the FDC spokesperson, told The Observer by telephone that “it is not possible to come out” of his home. He described himself as “a prisoner” who can’t go anywhere because of the heavy security deployment around his home.
“I am inside my home surrounded by police,” he said. “They have blocked the gate with a patrol car and they have surrounded the fence. They don’t even allow visitors.”
In the absence of the senior party leaders, the chairperson of the FDC Youth League, Iddi Ouma, said they have been mandated to organise some of the activities, including inviting guests to their event.
“As a youth league, under the instruction of the organising committee headed by Madam Ingrid [Turinawe], we have reached out to friendly democratic forces,” he said.
Despite their efforts, Ouma says many of the people who would have been interested in participating in their activities are unlikely to turn up.
“There might be a poor turnout because of the heavy police deployment in town and because of the arrests of opposition supporters. That is one of the few challenges we are going to face,” he said.
On Monday, police chief Gen Kale Kayihura announced a security blanket over Kampala, saying they will do whatever it takes to ensure that President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony ends without any interruption. However, the likes of Ouma say they will forge ahead with their efforts despite the risks.
“We know what could happen,” he said. “But as you know very well, the current president did not get to power in a soft way; so, there have to be sacrifices and one of the sacrifices will be to try and get past security.”
Asked what happens after the swearing-in, Turinawe said the FDC will put in place its own instruments for offering leadership.
“After swearing in, we will form a government. The army to protect the president will be the people. The police to keep law and order will be the people. The manifesto is very clear and documented; so, we will be operating like any other government,” she said.
In his statement, Besigye said he will establish “a transitional government of national unity” which will “restore to the people of Uganda the control of our national resources and our national institutions.”
Turinawe said Ugandans are already showing their willingness to support a Besigye government through the different cash and related gifts that they give him whenever he goes out to meet members of the public.
Some members of the FDC, such as Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu and Agago Woman MP Judith Franca Akello are unlikely to attend the event, having publicly declared that they do not support the defiance campaign.
“When there is a family, not everybody will go to the kitchen to cook,” Akello told The Observer in a phone interview last week. “Some people will be doing something else; so, I am one of those who will not be able to be in the kitchen.”
However, Ouma said divergence of views is healthy. “Even in NRM, all people are not on the same page. It doesn’t stop them from being in the same party. Having different opinions is very okay and everybody is free to air out their opinions.”