In review of Daniel Kalinaki’s ‘Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution’ The book can be broadly divided into two; the NRA during the war, and the NRA/M after the war.During the war, perhaps in an attempt at making virtue out of necessity, the NRA was a well-oiled and disciplined machine.The leadership admonished the rank and file for minor misdemeanours like stealing the locals' food, lest people see them as an incarnation of the monstrous Amin and Obote army.After the war, however, the NRA/M was unrecognisable; incurably corrupt, inimically unaccountable and deeply a one-man circus show.During this evolution, which boils down to the fight to save the soul of the once venerable movement in particular, and broadly modern-day Uganda, two men - Museveni and Besigye - were a constant.The contest was not only between personalities but also values and principles - where Museveni was pragmatic and even devious, Besigye was principled, and rigid.
The deep-rooted patronage system that Museveni ran after his election as the president started in the bush, of course on a less pervasive scale.During the bush days, Museveni was ready to tolerate some of the senior military leader’s nefarious activities just to win to the war.Such flexibility cannot be said of Besigye who saw himself as an egalitarian moral crusader and the NRM’s ideologue in-chief.
From his perch, a clear sign he took his job seriously, Besigye saw NRA/M as a movement to end all of the Uganda’s ill, a broad umbrella under which all views could be accommodated.He was a doctrinaire ideologue who could not brook any breach of law and procedure.Museveni’s willingness to compromise even his core beliefs, as long as he accesses power, and Besigye’s obduracy - even if it will cost him power and friends, make the difference between the two.One is a successful politician and the other an incessant crusader against what he deems egregious broken promises.The battle line between the two has determined the contours of contest in modern Uganda.
From her vantage point, no one is qualified to judge that than Winnie Byanyima, who dated Museveni and is now Besigye’s wife.Byanyima’s assessment of Museveni is thus: “Museveni has great things about him but he is unable to overcome some major weaknesses… like really lacking sheer decency; you can want power but you need decency and some values to be able to say, ‘I cannot cross the line’. Sometimes I think he lacks them.” (page 271)
About Besigye, Byanyima said: “He is so correct in how he works, he is so legalistic, it has cost him support and friends over the years but that is who he is.” (Page 314).
Museveni is undoubtedly the winner - he has defeated Besigye in three straight elections. Symbolically,however, each of Museveni’s electoral victories looked hollow and insecure - the more he won, the more he and Uganda lost.In the end, Museveni’s victory in the long term looks pyrrhic while Besigye’s electoral and personal losses - and they are innumerable - look like victories for him and for Uganda.