OP-ED: The Declining Influence of Col. Besigye in Mbale: A Call for Political Renewal


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By Steven Masiga, Researcher from Mbale

Mbale, a vibrant city with a rich political history, finds itself at the centre of a debate over who truly commands its political landscape. Is it Hajji Mansa Musa or Muhamood Masaba? What about Honourables Nandala and Nambeshe? Some observers wonder if Col. Besigye is still a force to be reckoned with or just a relic of the past with an old message that no longer resonates with the people.

Against these rumours, the recent visit of Col. Besigye to Mbale has sparked curiosity and reflection. Once, his presence could empty malwa joints and distract crowds from their daily routines. People of all ages, from old women and men to lactating mothers, once abandoned their tasks to catch a glimpse of him. Now, the political tide seems to have turned.

Col. Besigye’s recent rally in Mbale, held at the expansive cricket grounds, highlighted a stark contrast to the past. The once massive support base dwindled to fewer than 200 attendees, raising questions about his continued relevance. Political pundits suggest that many no longer view him as a viable alternative to President Museveni, whose political machinery remains robust.

One cannot ignore the nostalgia for the days when Col. Besigye’s rallies were grand spectacles. The decline in his popularity suggests deeper issues within the political landscape and Besigye’s political strategy. To regain his former glory, Besigye needs to address the internal challenges within his party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). The public squabbles and factionalism within FDC have undoubtedly tarnished its image, making it difficult for Besigye to present a united front to the electorate.

Moreover, the geographical and historical proximity of Besigye and Museveni complicates his political narrative. Both hailing from southwestern Uganda and with Besigye having served as Museveni’s doctor and minister, many Ugandans view them as two sides of the same coin. This perception weakens Besigye’s argument as a true alternative, particularly in regions like Acholi or Bugisu, where local identities and political aspirations differ significantly from those in southwestern Uganda.

Young voters, in particular, see Besigye as part of the old guard. His long-standing association with Museveni and his multiple unsuccessful presidential bids paint a picture of a politician stuck in a perpetual struggle without a clear path to victory. The new generation is looking for fresh faces and new ideas that align with their aspirations for a modern Uganda.

For Col. Besigye to reinvent himself, he must adopt a strategy of renewal and inclusivity. He needs to reach out to the youth, address their concerns, and present a vision that differentiates him from his past associations. This involves not just rebranding but also demonstrating tangible changes within his political approach and party structure.

Additionally, Besigye must navigate the complex dynamics of tribal politics. The perception that he and Museveni are “homeboys” from the same region diminishes his appeal across Uganda’s diverse political landscape. To overcome this, Besigye needs to build alliances and foster a national movement that transcends regional affiliations.

The recent police deployment during Besigye’s rally, despite the low turnout, indicates a recognition of his potential influence. However, to leverage this and rebuild his political capital, Besigye must focus on internal party cohesion, innovative policies, and a renewed connection with the electorate.

In conclusion, Col. Besigye stands at a crossroads. His ability to adapt, reform, and present a compelling vision for Uganda will determine his future in the political arena. The people of Mbale, and indeed Uganda, are watching closely. The question remains: Can Besigye reinvent himself and recapture the hearts of the masses, or will he remain a shadow of his former self? Only time will tell.

The writer is Steven Masiga, a Researcher from Mbale, Eastern Uganda and can be found on Tel: 0782231577

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