By Jeff Lule and Barbara Among
FORUM for Democratic Change (FDC) president Dr. Kiiza Besigye was yesterday elected the joint opposition flag-bearer for next yearâ€™s general elections, pittying him against President Yoweri Museveni for the third time.
The Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) is a loose coalition of four political parties, Justice Forum, Social Democratic Party, Conservative Party and FDC, which aim at fronting a single candidate to oust President Museveni from power next year.
UPC was a member of the coalition until two days ago when it pulled out over irreconcilable differences.
Besigye will, however, conduct campaigns without the support of other mainstream opposition political parties. The Democratic Party and Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress will each front a presidential candidate.
Besigye was elected through consensus by the presidents of the IPC parties. They are Makerere University lecturer Prof. James Kigongo (Conservative Party), Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo (Justice Forum) and Makindye East MP Michael Mabikke (Social Democratic Party).
It took eight hours of negotiations before the candidates agreed to front Besigye.
The session was led by political researcher, Prof. Dan Nabudere.
The four said they elected Besigye because he was the most suitable candidate and is well prepared to face the National Resistance Movement candidate. Besigye unsuccessfully contested against Museveni in the 2001 and 2006 presidential elections.
MP Cecilia Ogwal, however, blasted opposition leaders for not doing enough to mobilise grassroots support yet they are free to do so unlike in the past where party activities were banned.
â€œIn the past, you could not hold meetings. Today you are doing it easily yet moving slowly. If we are serious, let us have specific targets and get out there,â€ Ogwal advised.
DP and UPC yesterday said Besigyeâ€™s win was expected. â€œFDC is more established across the country compared to other parties in the coalition. The project looked more like an FDC thing. In fact, some people do not distinguish between FDC and IPC,â€ said DPâ€™s secretary general Mathias Nsubuga
UPC spokesperson Robert Kanusu said: â€œWe expected him to win especially since the strongest opponents like DP and UPC pulled out. We congratulate him.â€
In his acceptance speech to the 500 delegates gathered at Namboole Stadium yesterday, Besigye promised to lead the opposition to victory and called upon other political parties and pressure groups to rally behind him.
On the arguments by a section of delegates that he should have stepped down, since he unsuccessfully challenged Museveni twice, Besigye said: â€œI pray that we appreciate that pushing a dictator out of power is not an easy job and cannot be the work of one person. We should join hands.â€
His priority, he said, will be to establish an IPC campaign bureau, mobilise resources for the upcoming elections and harmonise the campaign manifestos of the IPC parties. Besigye promised to mobilise nomination fees for IPC affiliate candidates at all levels.
He also vowed to fight for the disbanding of the current Electoral Commission leadership.
â€œThe Electoral Commission must change for us to have free and fair elections,â€ said Besigye.
He said he did not understand why UPC pulled out of the coalition, since the reasons it gave for quitting were not different from what IPC is fighting for.
Earlier political researcher Prof. Dan Nabudere, Amanya Mushega, Cecilia Ogwal and former buganda premier Joseph Mulwanyammuli Semwogerere called upon the opposition to unite to fight NRM.
â€œIPC must continue forging alliances with other parties, do not make enemies. Letâ€™s join DP at the parliamentary and at local levels as they have suggested,â€ Nabudere said.