KAMPALA - Former FDC president Kizza Besigye was late Wednesday declared the party’s flagbearer for the 2016 presidential elections after a sweeping victory over his predecessor and challenger Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu.
The retired colonel, who has run for president three times before, won with a convincing 68.5% of the total number of votes at an FDC delegates’ conference staged at Namboole Stadium.
He got 718 votes while Muntu, who was Uganda's longest serving army chief (1989 - 1998), received 289 votes.
Besigye’s supporters, predicting victory, had started jubilating way before the vote counting had even reached midway.
It will be the fourth time the FDC stalwart will try to unseat his political nemesis President Yoweri Museveni of the NRM from power. He has unsuccessfully tried three times before – in 2001, 2006 and 2011.
Following his victory, Besigye, 59, now stands a chance of becoming the joint opposition candidate under The Democratic Alliance.
But he will again have to contest against candidates fielded by other opposition parties in the alliance.
Who is Col. Kizza Besigye
The name Kiiza Besigye is synonymous with opposition politics and rightly so. The 59-year old medical doctor has been in the trenches of opposition politics for 15 years - playing a central role in the formation of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and later contesting for president three times.
The second born in a family of six siblings, Besigye studied at Kinyasano Primary School, Mbarara Junior School, Kitante Hill Secondary School (O-level) and Kigezi High School (A-level) before joining Makerere University School of Medicine in 1975.
But Besigye's association with the opposition belies his role in the armed struggle that brought the NRM government to power in 1986.
In the early 1980s, Besigye left his job at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to join the armed struggle that brought NRM to power in January 1986.
Besigye was the 'bush doctor' tending to sick and injured guerrilla fighters, but more specifically, to then guerilla leader Yoweri Museveni's as his personal physician.
Many former guerilla fighters, including Gen. Salim Saleh, have extolled Besigye for his life-saving interventions during the armed struggle, saying they owe their lives to him.
At 29-years (1986) when many of his school contemporaries were hopping from one place to another in search of gainful employment, Besigye was appointed minister of state for internal affairs.
Two years later, Besigye was appointed minister of state in the president's office and first National Political Commissar.
In 1991, he became Commanding Officer of the Mechanized Regiment in Masaka, and in 1993 Chief of Logistics and Engineering.
Before his retirement from the army in the run-up to the 2001 polls, Besigye had risen to rank of Colonel and his influence was evidenced by his position as senior military adviser to the ministry of defense.
Besigye had also been part of a crop of young military officers that were members of the Constituent Assembly.
In numerous interviews, Besigye fondly reminisces on that period citing his collaboration with Gen. David Sejusa and Lt. Col. Serwanga Lwanga (RIP) in pushing for political reforms tailored to opening up space for political parties that were at the time in abeyance.
Then, the acrimonious divorce with NRM began in 1999. Besigye penned a sting dossier in which he accused NRM of veering "incorrigibly off course."
In the dossier, Besigye averred that NRM had lost its broad base saying: "The NRM is not a state but a political organization that tries to welcome all Ugandans. It therefore cannot coerce all Ugandans to be loyal to it. Loyalty to NRM is voluntary."
Upon surviving being court-martialed for breaching the army code that bars serving officers from commenting on politics, Besigye's main preoccupation has been wrestling power from his former commander, Museveni, through the ballot - in 2001, 2006 and 2011.
FDC DELEGATES' CONFERENCE AS IT HAPPENED
Reporting by Norah Mukimba
11: 40pm Besigye declared winner
11:34pm Muntu gets 289 votes
11:23pm Besigye gets 718 votes
11:10pm Besigye in early win as counting continues
11:02pm Besigye’s supporters break into jubilation, singing and dancing around the venue even before counting is mid way
10:58pm tallying ends, counting each candidate’s votes starts
10:37pm Besigye’s supporters break into singing as more votes are being tallied.
10:31pm One of the delegates takes charge of holding Besigye’s votes, while another delegate identified as Kasule holds Muntu’s
10:28pm First vote for president is being tallied and it is Besigye’s. Others follow and Besigye’s are many
10:27pm All the votes have been poured out of the box to create a clear view for all
10:11pm Muntu and Besigye’s box has been shifted to the centre as delegates keep a close eye of the tallying process
10:07pm Other stations have no people, except where the votes for the presidential flag-bearers are being tallied from
10:05pm As tallying goes on, all the delegates’ eyes are on the ballot box
9:54pm Tallying starts and supporters of different candidates camp close to the ballot boxes to protect their votes
9:44pm Voting closes, counting about to start
9:38pm Voting is almost done and the officials are calling upon all those who have not voted to come and vote.
7:29pm Many supporters are now shouting Mutekeko amatala tebaba obululu bwaffe. Switch on lights so that our votes are not rigged.
7:27pm No lights in the stadium as yet and the delegates are already unhappy with lack of light, especially at the time when they want to follow their support of their candidates to the last dot
7:07pm I think the results will be announced immediately and I am eagerly waiting for the outcome, says Gen. Muntu after casting his vote.
6:56pm Mugisha Muntu is casting his vote.
6:55pm We shall support whoever wins this poll and we shall work together with the winner for the betterment of our party, Besigye says after casting his vote.
6:41pm Voting still going on according to districts
6:37pm Besigye supporters shout out his name and sing as he casts his vote
6:35pm Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye is casting his vote
6:34pm Many of the delegates have already voted. Officials are also voting
6:26pm Delegates lining up and moving from station to station to vote candidates vying for various posts of the 17
6:11pm Voting has started. Delegates are being called according to their districts.
Amudat delegates have have voted, delegates from Amuria are following and the commission is following an alphabetical order
6:02pm Ballot papers being given out at the polling stations, which are about 200 metres from each other. There are 17 NEC posts to be filled
5:38pm Delegates lining up to verify serial numbers
4:53pm Delegates speak out:
Abdu Katuntu, Bugweri County MP
We are going through a family contest and after today's elections, we should plan how to win the presidential elections next year. So, we need to be careful with the life of our party and we should make a choice as a party. The leader we should choose today is Gen. Mugisha Muntu.
Geoffrey Ekanya, Tororo County MP
This is a historical moment and my thanks go to the delegates and supporters who have been with us through the campaigns for Dr. Kizza Besigye. We are not going to allow dictators to rob us while we are watching. I request all the people to vote Besigye because he is the right man to lead us.
4:51pm Delegates are having lunch and interacting with the candidates. Some are taking pictures and selfies with Besigye
4:37pm Delegates break off for lunch
4:35pm Muntu concludes speech, moves and shakes Besigye's hand. Everybody now preparing to cast their vote
4:34pm Please vote me because humility is not a person, but a strength and ideas, plus ability, Muntu concludes speech.
4:31pm FDC is not only going to win, but will take power and we should not have a divided party because that will make us lose
4:30pm We must look for solutions rather than lament about the past elections
4:27pm Muntu: We should be organised in order not to be cheated the way they have been cheating. Because I am a good candidate, Besigye's support can be transferred to me.
4:23pm Muntu: If you vote Besigye, I will be at pains to rally the party behind him because I am not sure about his plans for liberating this country
4:18pm Muntu says he reads Museveni just like a book. Museveni and his crew fear any of us, not just one person. We need to check our leaders because you cannot keep what is not yours.
4:14pm We as FDC want to take power so I am the best person whether you believe me or not. I am a very patient person, tough talking Muntu tells the delegates.
4:13pm Mugisha Muntu speaks: I have not heard any plans of how to take power from Dr. Besigye in his speech
4:00pm Gen. Mugisha Muntu moving to the stage to give his speech
3:55pm Kizza Besigye concluding his speech
3:47pm Besigye We are still in Egypt and Moses has to lead us to the promised land before Joshua takes over
3:41pm Besigye says Ugandans trust him, the reason they have been fundraising for him throughout his campaigns. He says this is very significant for politicians. He insists trust is built and not inherited
3:35pm Besigye woos voters, says his support base across the country cannot easily be transferred to Mugisha Muntu
3:15pmDelegates speak out
Lydia Tumusiime: We really need change in the party. The right person now is Gen. Mugisha Muntu
Isaac Napokoli: Dr. Besigye has to win and we are going to vote for him because he is the only person who can galvanise the efforts of the opposition
3:11pm All the delegates have been verified and are now back into the conference hall waiting for voting
3:08pm Dr. Besigye comes in as his supporters clap and dance
3:01pm Mugisha Muntu and his wife have returned to the hall
2:59pm Almost all the delegates are back in the hall after screening. Looks like voting will start immediately as the electoral commission officials are already arranging voting materials
2:28pm Screening still going on. Delegates entering the conference hall according to their districts. Those without cards are checking in the register and if their names are there, they will be allowed to vote
1:31pm Rumour going around is that most of the delegates were blocked from entering the conference hall, while non-delegates entered. Everyone has been sent outside except the international and local observers
1:18pm Delegates told to go out of the conference. According to a delegate Richard Wadumba, the FDC electoral commission suspects some people who are not delegates have entered the conference hall. They will be screened again before they enter.
1:08pm Confusion reigns as eager voters wait patiently to vote their candidates before they (candidates) speak
1:03pm Col. Kizza Besigye stands up to speak. His supporters are singing: our man, Besigye
12:44pm Kassim Kyazze steps down in favour of his colleague for the post of secretary for ethics and religious affairs
12:22pm Mukasa Mbidde, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly arrives
12:06pm Former Kampala mayor Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala and Uganda Federal Alliance president Beti Kamya arrive for the conference
11:55am Gen. David Sejusa arrives for the conference
11:44am Some aspiring candidates are stepping down in favour of their colleagues. This is reducing competition in the other elections as we wait for the major one between Mugisha Muntu and Kizza Besigye
After the campaigns for the pending 17 NEC positions, Muntu and Besigye will speak to delegates to solicit their support.
11:34am Campaigns by candidates intending to fill different party offices still going on
11:10am Campaigns going on for different party offices
10:52am Officials from other parties present include Ken Lukyamuzi, Rubaga South MP and leader of the Conservative Party
10: 50am Embattled Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago arrives for the conference
10:49am Mugisha Muntu settles on his seat. He is accompanied by his wife
10:48am A roll call of the districts being done
10:43am Dr. Besigye supporters still singing, saying their man will win the elections
10:41am More Police officers, some in anti-riot gear arrive at the stadium
10: 38am FDC president Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu arrives for the conference in his Toyota Landcruiser UAT 758X. Supporters surround him singing praises
10:20am Former FDC president Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye arrives. His supporters are cheering and escorting him to the conference hall
10:15am Former president of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) Dr. Olara Otunnu arrives for the FDC delegates’ conference
9:43am Many people still held outside because they do not have IDs. Some claim to be delegates who did not get their cards yesterday. They look worried and are trying to talk to the officials to let them into the stadium
9:27am FDC delegates are arriving. Conference is yet to start
Security at the entrance very tight, people without delegates’ IDs or accreditation are blocked
Beehive of activity as vendors sell printed T-shirts of candidates, keyholders, books magazines and badges
Outside the stadium, Kizza Besigye’s posters dot almost the whole perimeter of the stadium