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Uganda Opposition Leader Fighting for Equality not Presidency


Opposition leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters prior to his arrest at gunpoint in late April.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters prior to his arrest at gunpoint in late April.

The former leader of Uganda’s main opposition party -- the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) -- says his struggle is not about being president of Uganda, but rather one that seeks qualitative changes in Uganda.

Kizza Besigye says he has been fighting for a Uganda that is well-governed, free of human rights abuses and where resources are distributed equitably, free of corruption.

Besigye was responding to comments made by Tarsis Kabwegyere, Uganda’s minister for General Duties in the office of the prime minister.

Kabwegyere reportedly said that besigye should drop his ‘wishful thinking’ that political activism will one day make him president of Uganda.

Besigye says Mr. Kabwegyere misses the point about the reasons for the struggle in Uganda.

“It’s unfortunate that the minister made those remarks because he should know that my pursuit is not one of an office but one of qualitative changes in our country, specifically we have been struggling for a long time for a democratic country in which our people can have equal opportunities and that they can live in an environment free of corruption,” he said.

Besigye said once those changes have been achieved and Ugandans have transitioned to a democratic dispensation, he will retire to his grave a very happy person regardless of who is leading Uganda.

In April 2011, Besigye and a group called Activists for Change (A4C) began the walk-to-work protest to express their concerns about people's dissatisfaction with rising prices.

Since then, Besigye says, he has been in and out of jail countless times. He says the authorities have told him they are keeping him under ‘preventive detention’.

But Kabwegyere reportedly said Besigye’s political activism breeds anarchy and confrontation with police.

Besigye says he’s not surprised by Kabwegyere’s comments.

"Well, anybody serving a dictatorship cannot like a strong challenge to that dictatorship. Mr. Kabwegyere is right. He is expect4ed to be a spokesperson of a regime which violates human rights with impunity," he said.

Besigye says the fact that the protest is ruffling the feathers means that it is a popular protest.

Besigye recently criticized leading religious organizations in Uganda of for lending a death ear to political activism.

“Well, I was simply inviting our religious leaders who are obviously important voices in our country to do more, to speak on behalf of the voiceless which is what religious leadership is supposed to do,” Besigye said.

However, Besigye said it is regrettable that a “large section of these religious leaders have been co-opted by the regime through patronage arrangements”.

He described as problematic Uganda’s intervention in the South Sudan conflict.

“First all, it was done without the due process that would allow our troops to be deployed outside our country which according to constitutional laws would require the parliament of Uganda to approve. Secondly, we have a large population scattered all over Sudan and our forces were taken to intervene on one side of the warring parties,” Besigye said.
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