Talks between the teams appointed by Opposition figures Dr Kizza Besigye and Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka, Bobi Wine, to discuss the possibility of working together in the 2021 elections, are taking place in the background.
This follows a public announcement by the ‘People’s Government’ led by Dr Besigye and ‘People Power’ led by Mr Kyagulanyi in May that the two outfits were exploring avenues of cooperating in their effort against President Museveni.
The two principals, we have learnt, had held a number of meetings before that announcement, and continued to hold some more meetings after that, but much of the talking has been done by the appointed teams.
Dr Besigye assigned Mr Wafula Oguttu, a former Member of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, who also served as the spokesperson for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
A close confidant of Dr Besigye’s, Mr Oguttu is currently designated as the minister for the presidency in the ‘People’s Government’.
The ‘People’s Government’ is for all intents and purposes the campaign platform for the FDC, and also includes a sprinkling of other Opposition forces.
The symbolic government, which Dr Besigye and his allies founded after they claimed to have won the 2016 presidential election and their victory was stolen in favour of President Museveni, has Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago as its deputy president.
Mr Lukwago, who says he holds life membership of Democratic Party (DP), but is currently not in agreement with the party’s leadership, has an activist platform of his own, Truth and Justice (TJ), under whose banner he and a number of other politicians, especially in Kampala, campaigned for the 2016 elections.
Mr Lukwago’s TJ is one of the smaller parties to the ongoing talks between People Power and ‘People’s Government’, we have established.
The other party to the talks is the Conservative Party led by former Lubaga South MP Ken Lukyamuzi.
Mr Lukyamuzi is a member of the ‘Presidential Council of State’ whose job is to advise the ‘People’s President’, Dr Besigye. The council also has FDC party chairman Wasswa Biriggwa, FDC president Patrick Amuriat Oboi, former presidential candidate and FDC member Chapaa Karuhanga and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Betty Aol Ochan.
On his part, Mr Kyagulanyi first assigned Butambala MP Muwanga Kivumbi the task of leading his negotiating team and later appointed Mr David Lubongoya to replace the legislator in the role.
Mr Kivumbi is a member of the DP and has been an anti-National Resistance Movement (NRM) government activist, a member of the now not-so-vibrant Uganda Youth Democrats (UYD), an outfit attached to DP, since his student days.
The talks have been conducted as a highly secretive operation, our sources say, and very few people, even within the ranks of the concerned organisations, know about them.
Those who know the finer details of how the discussions are progressing are even fewer. Both the leaders of the negotiating teams – Mr Oguttu for ‘People’s Government’ and Mr Lubongoya for People Power – refused to discuss the matter with our reporter, saying they were assigned to work in strict confidence.
Mr Kivumbi, who initially led the People Power negotiating team, also refused to discuss the matter.
A number of players close to the discussions said the secretive approach that was chosen this time was a result of lessons picked from previous attempts for the Opposition to form a united front against President Museveni.
They especially cite the botched process in the lead up to the 2016 elections which saw the Opposition forces fail to get either Dr Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to cede ground for the other.
A knowledgeable source said the careful study of that process is being carried out, with the dominant thinking being that infiltration by the State and the ruling party has been a key impediment to how the Opposition operates.
One source pointed at the existence on the negotiation high table for a possible joint candidate for 2016 of Ms Beti Kamya, who at the time was head of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) party but nearly immediately afterwards defected to the ruling party and is now the minister in charge of Kampala Affairs, as a reason for the parties to a now act more cautiously.
The source also talked of how former vice president, Prof Gilbert Bukenya, who had claimed to have defected to the Opposition, was also a member of the top decision-making body of the Democratic Alliance (TDA) whose job it was to pick a joint candidate for the Opposition in 2016. In that same election, Prof Bukenya announced that he supported President Museveni.
The parties are so preoccupied with fighting infiltration by the ruling party that FDC mobiliser Ingrid Turinawe, during a talk show on NTV with People Power spokesperson Joel Senyonyi last week, said People Power needed to deal with fifth columnists from the ruling party, which she said had infiltrated it and were causing disharmony in the Opposition.
Our sources say the ‘People’s Government’ demanded very early in the process that if any talks were to take place with People Power, Mr Kyagulanyi needed to distance himself from some of the individuals who said they backed him and on the other hand publicly badmouthed Dr Besigye.
The individual most talked about in this regard is Dr Abed Bwanika, a three-time presidential candidate and leader of the People’s Development Party (PDP). Dr Bwanika, a panellist on a political show on the Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio, on multiple occasions, declared that his intention was to block Dr Besigye from running for president again.
Dr Bwanika spent much of his time on radio and other platforms speaking against Dr Besigye and lit up ‘reunions’ organised by DP led by Mr Norbert Mao with anti-Besigye rhetoric.
Sources familiar with how the talks have gone so far have told our website that those who wish to see a joint Opposition candidate in 2021 can at best only be cautiously optimistic.
The sources say Mr Kyagulanyi’s team has been categorical in their request for Dr Besigye to back the singer-turned politician for a shot at the presidency in the coming election. The sources say Mr Kyagulanyi’s team insist that if Dr Besigye accepts to back their man, the Opposition will nearly certainly sweep President Museveni off the presidency.
To this, we have been told by highly placed sources, Mr Kyagulanyi’s team has indicated that their prospective candidate would even be willing to consider vying for the FDC party ticket if that is what will guarantee him Dr Besigye’s support.
Within FDC, available information suggests, Dr Besigye has a clean run to the presidency with party president Amuriat unlikely to seek the flag for the 2021 election.
Speaking to a number of players involved in the process, it would appear that they don’t expect a challenger against Dr Besigye to emerge from within the party, and although Dr Besigye has not said that he will run come 2021, many of his loyalists take it a given.
And in any case, FDC as a party and the ‘People’s Government’ have indicated that they will not hinge their hopes on the 2021 elections.