By Kakwenza Rukirabashaija
Sometime in the year 2,000, I met the son of Kifeffe for the first time. He was on his way to Kisiizi, a tiny town in southwestern district of Rukungiri, as he campaigned for 2001 presidency. We were from school going home, on foot, clattering on the dusty marram road that connects Kebisoni to Kisiizi via Mineera Bridge. Donned in a navy blue long-sleeved shirt, through the open roof of his car, he smiled, and greeted us when the convoy came to a halt by the road side. He opened our eyes that day. We were all encapsulated in ignorance that Mr Museveni was the supreme life president of Uganda since his network of patronage was very strong in villages and everyone looked at the president as the owner of everything including the air we breathed. Dr Besigye’s message to us was short but very clear. He released us from the inflicted fear to oppose Museveni. This was the day he won my heart and since then I have genuinely supported and campaigned for him in every election.
After like a week, a one NRM mobiliser in our village named Mabel brought membership cards for her party and registered our names under duress that there would be war if we refused to vote and give support to Museveni openly. Most of us were underage but based on my physical appearance, towering over everyone, I looked like a voter above eighteen years whereas not.
In the forthcoming elections of 2001 which was marred with a lot of violence and fear, they ferried and took us to the polling stations to vote for Museveni even though we had no voting cards but only NRM membership cards (Only my father and mother had voting cards in the family). The cars moved house to house ferrying everyone with the membership card of NRM to go and vote for Museveni by force.
There is something my late father told me which up to now ring in my ears. “Son, those are lying but keep quiet since I am a church leader and not allowed to take part in partisan politics. Let us go and I will show you whom to vote for”
“But you ate their money, if we do not vote for Museveni, he will come and kill us” I protested ignorantly.
When we had reached the polling station, we were given special treatment because they knew we had kowtowed to their duress and lies. We voted for Dr Besigye. Most people voted for Besigye but the results were exchanged in the computers, at the national tally centre and eventually Museveni was announced a winner. Same methods of election rigging have been going on since then, courtesy of the electoral commission, army and the police who are subservient to the appointing authority.
Dr Kizza Besigye has since built his brand in Uganda and elsewhere in the world basing on his courageous strength of mind that enables him to endure blackmail, police and military brutality. His resolute to bear pain while confronting the ruthless regime of Mr Museveni has won Dr Besigye a genuine following to the extent that no amount of blackmail will veer such a following and political capital off from him. During the swearing-in ceremony at Kololo, Mr Museveni promised that he would chew Dr Kizza Besigye like a samosa and that there would be no opposition by 2021, Museveni will forever regret his unfruitful and despicable promise he spewed out of excitement which he made amidst the hired and ferried people who had convened at the airstrip to eat pilau, take juice and pocket his bribe of attending the unpopular swearing-in ceremony!
Retired Colonel Dr Kizza Besigye is made out of a certain rare material which becomes tougher the more you hammer it. No amount of blackmail will ever stop him from fighting against this kleptocratic gerontocracy.
The writer is a novelist.