LAST Saturday the police foiled a public rally by the increasingly hostile Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which was purportedly meant to launch paid party membership card drive at the Constitution Square in Kampala.
Critics may blame the police but I believe the FDC has sinister motives in staging aggressive, and confrontational rowdy events in the run-up to CHOGM 2007 as spoilers even when there is public apprehension.
While there are differences between opposition groups and government, it has become clear that FDC is turning antagonistic in words, actions, and practice, and there is need for uttermost vigilance. And Dr Kizza Besigye in particular has opted for a politics of do or die falsely believing he can be a martyr of sorts.
Besigye, a two- time failed presidential candidate is now leading the FDC as a reactionary outfit from the old National Resistance Movement (NRM), and trying to achieve its aims by taking advantage of the available contradictions among the people to forment dissension, and stir up disorder to settle old internal scores, and they should be opposed, and educated as well. And for those not familiar with Kampala, the Constitution Square or rather a rectangle, is a tiny strip of land squeezed in the small and busy business district whose borders are the Central Police Station, Rwenzori Courts, High Court, Imperial Hotel, East African Development Bank, Central Bank, and Stanbic Bank.
At its lower base is a 100-metre section of Kampala road, which now serves as a busy passenger terminal for the chaotic commuter mini-buses. On Saturdays, which the opposition always chooses, it is a very busy area thick with traders, pedestrians, vehicles, and newly-weds to and from churches, and their final reception destinations.
It is here, and with due respect that some small-minded opposition politicians in CP, JEEMA, DP, and UPC were accustomed to gathering at and sloganeer while wagging fingers at government. And so when Besigye and his sidekicks from the NRM like Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu, and Haji Sulaiman Kigguundu join opposition politics it is not surprising that they too have opted for show- down politics. The main reason they choose the Constitution Square is that it is easy to access, and fill with idlers, onlookers, and passersby who are always there in multitudes to give a false impression that opposition groups are massive. The other aspect, and going by past trends with DP, UPC, and FDC during the last election campaigns is that the goons who join these public rallies, always mid-way turn to violent demonstrations against government to harass the public, and loot merchandise from shops and petty traders.
It is therefore strange but expected that the opposition groups that claim to be strong and popular unreasonably insist on holding their rallies at there oblivious of the inconveniences the general public suffers. They have never accepted alternative venues like Nakivubo, and Mandela (Namboole) sports stadium or Kololo independence grounds because they would not take the cheap advantage of idlers to fill these venues. I know many critics have said and will continue to claim that police action in thwarting, stopping or sometimes breaking up these rallies is unfair or even unconstitutional, and was instigated by government or benefits the ruling NRM.
However, it should be known that in the 20 years that the NRM has been in leadership even when Besigye and Muntu were still members has never held any public rally at the Square. There has never been an occasion when NRM agents, ministers, MPs, or supporters have convened here because they are conscious of the inconveniences including loss of business that the public can suffer. From intelligence information, this particular FDC rally was not the usual politics gathering as the organisers would want the public to believe. It had been well-planned to launch a citywide public demonstration and violent disobedience against government on many issues only to find that the intelligence services were steps ahead of FDC. Having failed in the Makerere university strike were known FDC intellectual frontmen are the leaders of the strike by the academic staff (MUASA), and also having failed to bring in their supporters among the student population, FDC thought it could now stage its action on the streets.
Documents so far recovered indicate that although the dayâ€™s theme was launching a membership card drive, FDC leaders had invited their supporters within MUASA and university students, and planned to make the Makerere strike, tuition fees, sugar and petroleum prices, and urban unemployment key issues with which to charge the crowd of mainly political activists, and urban riff-raff, and thereby start violent action, which they would claim was spontaneous so as not to be held responsible for any damages. Although Besigye has in the recent past denied FDC hand in the criminal actions of looting, assault, arson, and general harassment during the strike at Makerere, the more credible evidence emerges basing on his public utterances since he lost elections.
It seems the FDC group believes all Ugandans are trifle heads to forget so soon that since Besigyeâ€™s return from exile in South Africa and particularly after the elections he has publicly vowed to launch a â€œpolitical tsunamiâ€ to sweep off the government, a subject Wafula Oguttu the FDC propagandist has also repeated many times.
While FDC strategy is to become antagonistic, and possibly provoke police into breaking limbs, it is crucial to handle FDC hotheads firmly, promptly, and decisively within the democratic framework of criticism, discussion and education, but not letting up the other drastic measures to preserve public tranquility and the democratic process.
FDC has ill-motives to disrupt CHOGM