Uganda Elections 2016: Besigye Power Blankets Kampala With People

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Besigye's crowd. No one could rig these numbers -- they were real

[Africa Commentary: Uganda]

After 30 years in power, Uganda's Gen. Yoweri Museveni hasn't shown any sign of relinquishing the baton.

He's a man who has seen five U.S. Presidents and five British Prime Ministers. He came to power, whilst Ronald Reagan was in office. He's lorded over Uganda through the eras of the following presidents: George Bush H.W. Bush; Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; and, now Barack Obama.

On the other side of the Atlantic prime ministers: Margaret Thatcher; John Major; Tony Blair; Gordon Brown; and now David Cameron.

The rest of the world moves forward; he's kept Uganda frozen in 1980s politics with his tyranny.

Even his East African neighbors are wary. During Uganda's October 9 independence celebration not a single president from neighboring Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan or DR Congo came to visit.

Overseas while the U.S. still supports Uganda due to the troops it has sent to Somalia to help fight al-Shabab the administration is distancing itself. When Obama addressed the African Union last July he ridiculed African presidents who cling on to power and change constitutions; Museveni is the poster boy for this form of dictatorship. During the United Nations General Assembly Obama refused to see him privately but he slipped into the line up of leaders greeting the U.S. president who spent no more than 30 seconds with him but pointedly spoke longer with other leaders next to him.

At home Gen. Museveni faces formidable challengers. Yesterday his former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi was officially nominated to run against him and was accompanied by swelling crowds.

Today and even more mammoth crowd escorted Dr. Kizza Besigye the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president who also became an official candidate.

Unlike the supporters of candidates that were ferried from different parts of the country on top of facilitation promises, Besigye receives money from the supporters themselves instead.

Like Obama during his 2007 campaign, Besigye's election war chest has swollen from contributions through the Internet and directly wben people hand money to him and his staff at rallies. This is a new trend in Uganda's politics where Gen. Museveni travels with sacks filled with money to ensure turnout at his rallies.

When images of the mammoth crowds started streaming in on live networks today, of peoplecovering every inch of the 8 miles stretch from Namboole National Stadium to Kampala, the capital, Gen. Museveni panicked. He called a hastily arranged press conference so as to divert media from covering the countless supporters who marched with Besigye for his nomination at the stadium.Gen. Museveni at his news conference said if given another five years, after 30 years in power, he would finally unleash his plans to enhance job creation and fight corruption. He blamed his regime's failures on former prime minister, now candidate as well, Mbabazi.

While local media didn't cover Besigye's big day with the same intensity devoted for Mbabazi and Gen. Museveni himself on Tuesday, the masses spoke with their feet.He also tried to co-op Mbabazi's slogan "GoForward," claiming he's the one "“Going Forward.”"Dr. Besigye, 56, nominated today, contends that he's been robbed of electoral victories by Gen. Museveni on at least two occasions in past elections.Among Dr. Besigye's supporters who received thunderous applause today was the former coordinator of Intelligence Services, Gen. David Sejusa, who didn't go to Namboole but waited at Nakivubo World War II Memorial Stadium.Gen. Sejusa said he wanted to address the many people who had asked why Dr. Besigye had decided to run when he had vowed not to so long as the elections were overseen by Gen. Museveni himself and his hand-picked election commission headed by Badru Kiggundu, its chairman.

"“I went to his home and he told me he will never come back into Museveni elections,”" Sejusa said, of Dr. Besigye. “"He told me he will not go back in Kiggundu elections. I convinced Dr. Besigye that, this is not Kiggundu or Museveni elections.”" Sejusa added: “I begged him to come back because this is not Kiggundu's; it's your elections to liberate your country."

”"Come and stand behind a good commander," he told the crowd, referring to Besigye.  "I am with you. I will be with and I will fight with you.”"

During his period of brief exile in the U.K. in 2013, Gen. Sejusa, who had been a close Museveni aide before he fled confessed that Dr. Besigye had won the 2006 election by 69% and that he and other intelligence chiefs had coordinated the manufacturing of the fake results in favor of Gen. Museveni.

Before the MC, Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, invited Besigye, he introduced Conservative Party President John Ken Lukyamuzi, and FDC members who included outgoing Leader of Opposition in Parliament Phillip Wafula Oguttu, Chapa Karuhanga, Reagan Okumu, Ms. Cecilia Ogwal, Ms Salaam Musumba, and many others.

"Thanks, thank you for coming,"” Besigye said. "“I have come to stand with you to regain our power.”He added: “I want to assure that, if we stand together we shall liberate our country. You don't have power, it is in the hands of individuals. All government institutions work for the few individuals. Police, Courts of Law, and our country are in the hands of our captors."

The jubilant crowd couldn't get enough of it, and Besigye added:

"“Liberation is the first task, second task is to Restructure our state and third, Develop our country including everybody, but not individuals.”"

He continued: “"I registered and got nominated to come and stand together with you to fight for our power back in our hands. I want to assure you that, we shall liberate our nation."

He also said: “"We are slaves, all the institutions work for the few individuals, police is not yours, Electoral Commission is not yours, Parliament is not yours. From the moment we get back our power, all those institutions will be back in our hand.”"


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