Dr. Col. (rtd) Kizza Besigye will always be remembered for leading a party that became the first real opposition of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) just when multiparty democracy had been re-introduced in Uganda in 2005.
He has stood against Yoweri Museveni three times, and lost every time. The first time he contested was in 2001 under the no-party (Movement system) era, the second time was in 2006 under the first multiparty election and the third in 2011.
Besigye is married to former politician but now executive director of Oxfam, Winnie Byanyima and they have one child, a son called Anselm.
Besigye was born in 1955, the second child in a family of six, whose parents died when he was still in primary school. He had his primary education at Kinyansano Primary School and Mbarara Junior School. Then he joined Kitante High School for his O’levels and Kigezi High School for his A’levels. In 1975, he joined Makerere University and graduated with a medical degree in 1980. He worked briefly at Mulago and Aga Khan hospitals in Kampala and Nairobi, before he joined Museveni’s liberation struggle.
Besigye was a member of the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), formed to contest the 1980 elections with Museveni as party leader and presidential candidate. He had just graduated with a medical degree from Makerere University.
When Museveni rejected the election results, formed the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), and started a guerrilla war against the Obote II government, Besigye joined them after he was detained and tortured by security agents of the day.
After the NRA came to power in 1986, Besigye, then 29 years old, was appointed state minister for internal affairs, and later state minister for defence and the National Political Commissar. Between 1991, when he became Commanding Officer of the Mechanised Regiment in Masaka, and 1999 when he retired from the army at the rank of Colonel, he had also served as the chief of logistics and engineering, and a Senior Military Adviser to the Ministry of Defence.
Besigye who became increasingly critical of the Movement’s workings had a run in with army authorities before he was allowed to leave the army in 2000.
After the 2001 elections, Reform Agenda was merged with a number of smaller pressure groups that had emerged opposing the government, to form the political party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Headquartered at Najjanankumbi, FDC has gone on to become the country’s largest opposition party, with the biggest number of opposition MPs in Parliament since 2006.
After his loss in 2011 Besigye swore he would never compete again, stepping down as President of FDC. But in 2015 he had a change of heart and is canvassing for support to become FDC’s presidential flag bearer yet again.