How do you unite a split opposition base and plot a winning strategy against President Museveni ahead of the 2021 general election?
That’s a central question, which rounds of talks between teams appointed by FDC strongman Dr Kizza Besigye and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi have failed to answer.
So far, the talks have also failed to yield signatures on any major cooperation agreement between the two groups as we stomp to the general election.
Besigye and Kyagulanyi announced in May this year that their respective political pressure groups; the “People’s Government” and “People Power” were engaging largely to find a common strategy of defeating President Museveni.
They later named teams that would meet regularly at different locations in and around Kampala. Their first meeting was held on May 3 at Bobi Wine’s home in Magere soon after he was released from Luzira prison.
The second meeting was held weeks later at FDC chairman, Wasswa Biriggwa’s residence at Kireka in Kira municipality, Wakiso district. Besigye attended with Wafula Oguttu, Betty Nambooze, Salaamu Musumba and lawyer Julius Galinsonga, among others.
Kyagulanyi, on the other hand, was accompanied by MPs; Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala), Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality), Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) and Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality) plus Joel Ssenyonyi and lawyer David Lewis Rubongoya, among others.
Sources familiar with the talks have told The Observer that problems started on the first day when Zaake told the meeting that time shouldn’t be wasted on discussions of who should be fronted as a candidate for the 2021 presidential polls. He argued that Kyagulanyi stood a better chance than Besigye who has lost four times.
The Besigye team, however, argued that having made four attempts, the colonel had the necessary experience to challenge Museveni once more.
“It appears that the issue of a joint presidential candidate will not be achieved since both men are more than determined to be on the ballot,” a source said.
The teams were narrowed to three people aside with Wafula heading the Besigye team and Rubongoya heading Kyagulanyi’s team.
From their engagements, a source said, it appears they have failed to agree on the basics. The Kyagulanyi team, for instance, has questioned Besigye’s commitment after his team asked for more time to allow FDC’s internal processes to choose a presidential candidate.
“Kyagulanyi’s team wants the issue of a presidential candidate to be discussed and resolved but FDC wants to first deal with their internal processes which are expected to be concluded in April next year and the fear from the other side is that April is too far, many things can happen between now and then,” the source said.
TWO MONTHS LULL
Since the two principals appear so much interested in being presidential candidates, suggestions came that talks should focus on other areas of co-operation.
Supporters of the two groups have consistently attacked each other on social media, a counterproductive move, according to insiders. But the difference in opinion plus some FDC activists’ declaration on social media that their party will not be bound by the outcome of talks, affected the engagements thus causing a two-month lull in the talks.
Such declarations, though not from recognized FDC executives resurrected the ghosts that tore apart the 2015 efforts for a united opposition front.
Then, opposition players had formed a loose coalition – The Democratic Alliance (TDA) but its aspirations fell flat after a group of FDC youths stormed the group’s meeting at Royal Suites hotel in Bugoloobi near Kampala and pulled out Besigye who had just won the party’s presidential flag.
Interviewed for this story, Oguttu said they were barred from talking to the media about the talks but refuted reports that they are no longer meeting.
“I don’t know about the months of no talks, what I know is that there are issues we are working on, on both sides,” Oguttu said.
Ssenyonyi too did not want to say much about the talks. He told The Observer that their engagements are not exclusive to “people’s government.”
“We continue to have engagements with all forces of change and I am sure that Dr Besigye is not the only one interested in change but we have also been busy with both local and international engagements. Maybe that is why some people view it that way,” Ssenyonyi said.
“Besides KB’s [Kizza Besigye] team, we also have similar engagements with Gen Muntu’s ANT [Alliance for National Transformation], Norbert Mao’s DP and some other smaller groups plus colleagues within NRM who are interested in change. So, it is not exclusive to Besigye,” Ssenyonyi said.