PEOPLE TO WATCH
By Joshua Kato
If politics was like a school setting and Francis Wazalahi Bwengye was one of the students, he would qualify for the bullied, canned, battered and hated student. Even with the effort he puts in to improve his mark, Bwengye would never be apprec
By Joshua Kato
If politics was like a school setting and Francis Wazalahi Bwengye was one of the students, he would qualify for the bullied, canned, battered and hated student. Even with the effort he puts in to improve his mark, Bwengye would never be appreciated by other students and school administrators.
He has been scorned and insulted in his political life. Bwengye has even tried rebellion to fight for his political rights, but all has gone to naught! He remains one of the â€œlongest-servingâ€ politicians in the country, who have never held any elective political office.
If Bwengye stands for presidency in 2006, as he has hinted, this will be the second time he is contesting for the highest office in the land. This will also be the third time he is directly engaged in an election process.
In 1980, Bwengye was elected secretary general of DP. Since the presidential elections were around the corner, he had the task of re-organising the party for elections.
â€œI had to move around the country monitoring the progress of our party. This exposed me to the population,â€ Bwengye says.
It was a trying moment since he had to carry out his activities in an environment of harassment from Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress (UPC).
â€œSo many things pioneered by the repressive UPC regime were working against us. Our supporters were harassed, many of them were scared of registering,â€ he says.
Bwengye was bitter about the 1980 elections that he authored his first book, The Agony of Uganda, which was a testimony of the rigging and suffering the non-UPC supporters endured throughout the election campaigns.
When elections were rigged, Bwengye joined Dr. Andrew Kayiira to start an armed struggle against Milton Oboteâ€™s regime.
He was in the group that contacted Libya for arms that formed the bulk of Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM)â€™s arsenal.
â€œI joined hands with Kayiira to fight dictatorship,â€ he recalls. Bwengye was in a group that went to Libya to ask for arms to fight the new Obote regime.
Bwengye was also in contact with Museveniâ€™s Popular Resistance Army (PRA), before it became the National Resistance Army (NRA).
When UFM collapsed, Bwengye went into exile in the US. He stayed there with Kayiira, the leader of UFM.
When Museveni captured power, Bwengye was briefly arrested and imprisoned in Luzira Prison on charges of treason. Others arrested at the time included Evaresto Nyanzi, another DP leader.
He was later released and won a huge international contract to provide legal services to the World Bank that turned his financial status around for the better.
Through all these years, however, Bwengye continued being a member of DP. In 1996, Paul Ssemogerere elected him as his chief regional campaign manager for the western region.
Bwengye, however, did not win enough votes for him, since his candidate got less than 5% of the votes in western Uganda.
There after, Bwengye stood against Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire for the Ruhinda county parliamentary seat, but lost.
However, Bwengye came back strongly in 2000 when he tried to capture the DP seat from Ssemogerere.
Since the 1996 elections, Ssemogerere has come under fire from sections of the party after failing to win the elections.
A section of DP faithfuls, comprising mainly of members outside Buganda, had been calling for the removal of Ssemogerere on one hand and preparing for the 2001 elections on the other.
A delegatesâ€™ conference was held in November 2000, before Bwengye was elected new DP president.
However, this conference was boycotted by most of the party heavy weights from Buganda.
It was only the likes of Zachary Olum, Marion Drametu and Rainer Kafiire, who blessed Bwengyeâ€™s election.
His election was, however, contested by the DP faction led by Ssemogerere. A long and bruising court case started.
It was only resolved out of court in 2004. Others contesting it included party treasurer John Ssebaana Kizito, Damiano Lubega and Nasser Ssebagala.
â€œBwengye is a Movement spy. He was sent to destroy the party,â€ Ssemogerere said.
Bwengye, against the will of mainly the Baganda members of his party, went ahead and stood for the presidency. He had the backing of Olum, Kafiire and Drametu.
â€œBwengye expected his party members to put behind their differences and support him,â€ says a party member.
But, the Ssemogerere and Ssebagala group stunned him when they opted to support Col. (rtd) Kizza Besigye. Bwengye finally garnered less than 1% of the votes.
Bwengyeâ€™s star was not made brighter among the opposition, when he endorsed the 2001 elections, while all the other candidates claimed they had been rigged.
He swore an affidavit in April 2001 claiming that the elections were free and fair although there had been some irregularities.
In the last few years,reconciliation talks were held between the Ssemogerere and Bwengye group. However, Ssebagala created another faction in DP, that eventually seemed to have joined Bwengyeâ€™s group.
Bwengye has declared he might stand for presidency, but is yet to launch his manifesto. According to his 2001 manifesto, he intended to create a government of national unity and improve education, develop agriculture through modernisation among others.
Trouble is, although Bwengye has been a politician for long, he has never held any elective office. This lack of leadership experience might work against him.
Other candidates who have declared their intention to stand on the DP ticket are of a more high profile than Bwengye. For example, John Ssebaana Kizitoâ€™s CV includes serving as minister in three different ministries and as mayor of Kampala.
Joseph Balikudembe has served as DPâ€™s lawyer for years and won so many high profile cases for the party, while Nasser Ssebagala is ahead because of his mobilisation capabilities.
Norbert Mao is a credible legislator, while Ottoâ€™s promotion of DP in the diaspora makes him a more powerful candidate.
Although it is not written in the DP constitution, it is unlikely that the party will in the near future accept a non-muganda to lead it.
Born: Bushenyi District.
Education: Bubangizi and Kyakahimbi primary school. St. Maryâ€™s College Kisubi and St. Henryâ€™s College Kitovu. School of hygiene, Mbale and Medical Training Centre, Nairobi. Bachelor of Laws at Makerere University.
Employment: Public Health Officer in Ankole, legal officer KCC and a practicing lawyer.
Marital Status: Lost his first wife in 1988, remarried in 1991. He has 10 children.
Bwengye never gives up