For days last week, a select group of loyalists of Col Kizza Besigye and Kyaddondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyabulanyi aka Bobi Wine huddled inside a meeting room and worked to repair the damaged relationship of the two principals.
In the end, a peace deal was announced last week drawing applause and measured criticism from some opposition circles. This is how the deal was cobbled. Interviewed, one insider familiar with the deal said; ‘Bobi Wine has inherently been a Col Kizza Besigye admirer but he wanted to be his own man and to do that he had first to rebel and break away from him; otherwise, he would still be the colonel’s artiste just like Bebe Cool is to President Museveni.”
In his explanation, this person known to both men was giving sharp insight and context to the past animosity between Bobi Wine, the singer-cum- politician (Kyadondo East MP) and Dr Kizza Besigye, the long-time political nemesis of President Museveni who has tried and failed four times to dislodge the president.
Last week, Bobi Wine, the People Power maestro, through his newly appointed spokesperson, Joel Ssenyonyi, and the fiery Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze Bakireke, the mouthpiece for Besigye’s People’s Government, told the country the two opposing camps had agreed to bury the hatchet and work together to defeat Yoweri Museveni who is serving his 34th year as president.
The press conference followed two meetings of the two principals’ most trusted lieutenants. The Besigye team included Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Betty Nambooze, John Ken Lukyamuzi, former Lubaga South MP/ Conservative Party president and FDC chairman Wasswa Biriggwa. Bobi Wine’s side had his elder brother Fred Nyanzi, singer Nubian Li, lawyer David Rubongoya and journalists Joel Ssenyonyi and Raymond Mujuni.
In a statement signed by both men, they agreed to work together to confront the injustices meted out on them by security forces. Bobi Wine spent three days last month in Luzira prison.
He was sent there by Buganda Road court for allegedly inciting violence and holding an illegal assembly. The arrest came on the heels of the banning of his April 22 Easter Monday Kyarenga Extra concert at his One Love beach in Busabala.
Security cited lack of assurances from Bobi Wine to keep politics out of the music show. While in Luzira prison, a source said, Bobi Wine learnt of the arrest of his supporters, most of whom he couldn’t get released.
At the back of his mind then, a source said, Bobi Wine knew he could lean on Besigye for help because he has borne the harshest brunt of the security apparatus’ brutality for a long time.
Therefore, according to this source, it was agreed the two principals get a solution to their identical problems. Besigye said as much while speaking to FDC delegates from Lubaga division over the weekend.
“If we are to go far, we must all work together in fighting our common enemy...we cannot sit down and do nothing when they refuse Kyagulanyi to sing,” he said.
BUT WHY NOW?
An event will certainly happen at a particular time no doubt, but the rapprochement between Besigye and Kyagulanyi couldn’t have happened at any other time. The two sides have been under immense pressure from their supporters and admirers to work together.
Naturally, Bobi Wine is an admirer of Besigye and he has time and again said so. He told this writer in one interview that Besigye is his role model. He said he was inspired to rise up against the ruling NRM and President Museveni by Besigye, a man who has distinguished himself for the last 20 years as the most formidable and harshest critic of the government. But soon after he was elected MP in 2017 in a by-election he won with a resounding margin, Bobi Wine at the urging of some supporters, decided to take on Museveni all
This put him on a collision course with Besigye who hasn’t yet ruled out running for president in 2021. Bobi Wine started allying with groups that have traditionally been opposed to the candidacy of Besigye.
These include the Democratic Party; the faction especially allied to Norbert Mao, its president, DP splinter groups of Michael Mabikke’s Social Democratic Party, Walter Lubega Mukaaku’s Truth and Justice, and Abed Bwanika’s People’s Development Party.
The four have since come together under the moniker ‘The DP-Block.’ Bobi Wine is also on good terms with the Justice Forum president Asumani Basalirwa who he helped win the Bugiri municipality MP seat, and the newly formed Alliance for National Transformation promoted by former FDC president Mugisha Muntu.
“They wanted to become the third force, but naturally for the third force to gain ground, it had to first fight to replace the second force and I think it’s a battle they have managed to win,” our source said.
However, having succeeded in displacing Besigye at least in as far as the most sought-after and talked-about opposition figure in the media, Bobi Wine realised that he had a better ally in Besigye than in those politicians he had previously allied with.
One person close to Bobi Wine said a lot of pressure was mounting on the politician to bury the hatchet with Besigye. The calls became louder when a group of People Power youths attempted to assault Besigye at CBS FM premises in Mengo. The thinking was that the assault would portray Besigye as a spent force under attack by the very people who used to roll out the red carpet for him.
But the incident was instead widely condemned, forcing Bobi Wine to publicly apologise. He said the youths were not acting on his behalf. “Wherever we would go, people would tell us to unite with Besigye, you’re stronger together with him than those other politicians,” the source said.
However, the proverbial final straw that broke the camel’s back came from the donors who believe a united front of Besigye and Bobi Wine might be the masterstroke to loosen Museveni’s long grip on power. This information was corroborated by a prominent actor in the Besigye camp.
“They [donors] have been pressurizing us to come out and calm the tempers,” one person familiar with the matter said. The other issue that nudged Bobi Wine and Besigye to the negotiating table, another source said, were the emerging cracks in his once-powerful People Power wall.
Many MPs from across the political divide had embraced Kyagulanyi’s candidacy. However, his dealings with people known for dubious political dealings and others seeking to snatch parliamentary seats sent shivers down the spines of some of these MPs.
Muwanga Kivumbi, the MP for Butambala, Matthias Mpuuga (Masaka municipality), Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), Moses Kasibante (Lubaga North), Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira municipality) and Erias Lukwago, Kampala lord mayor, have a somewhat tightly knit relationship. An attack on one is an attack on all. However, Kyagulanyi had been unwittingly or otherwise drawn into supporting candidates against some members of this group, which railed many.
“How can I go to Kampala and support anyone against Lukwago or in Kira and support anyone against Ssemujju or in Mukono against Nambooze?” Mpuuga recently wondered while appearing on CBS FM’s Kkiriza Oba Gaana talk-show.
Bobi Wine was recently in Mukono promoting the parliamentary candidacy of George Fred Kagimu who is currently the mayor of the municipality. He has also been photographed many times with Latif Ssebaggala, the MP for Kawempe North, who has his eye on the Kampala lord mayorship.
Eddie Yawe, Bobi’s brother, is also still interested in the Kira municipality parliamentary seat. He lost to Ssemujju in 2016. So, joining forces with Besigye is seen as an attempt to avoid fighting wars on multiple fronts before the first electoral whistle is blown by the Electoral Commission.
Interviewed on the sidelines of the press conference, Betty Nambooze said, “The people want us to work together; we had no choice but to do that because we also feel it is in our best interest. Every side had to appreciate what it feels to work alone and I think we have learnt enough lessons,” Nam- booze said. For Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson of People Power, the principals realised they are stronger when united.
“We have agreed that we are both working for the same struggle and our enemy is the same, the NRM and Museveni, so, we shouldn’t point guns at each other. That’s a good point to start.”