Besigye receiving guests at his residence in Rukungiri district on Boxing Day
FDC strongman Dr Kizza Besigye has revealed his commitment to hold talks with his longtime nemesis, President Yoweri Museveni.
Besigye met Museveni in the 1980s during the NRA struggle that brought the latter to power in 1986.
In 1999, Dr Besigye who had served as Museveni’s physician in the bush and later as State Minister for Internal Affairs, castigated the ruling party in a strong-worded dossier.
Besigye would later officially break ranks with the then Movement system, starting a difficult political journey that has seen him spend time in jail and lose four elections to the incumbent leader.
The contest for power between Museveni and Besigye has left the country polarized, with influential religious leaders calling for talks between the two top politicians.
Addressing his family members and friends at his country home in Rwakabengo, Rukungiri District on Boxing Day, Besigye said he had received a request to talk to the president.
“We have been approached to engage in dialogue,” said Dr Besigye as his audience listened attentively.
“We are willing to talk with Mr Museveni on condition that we negotiate his departure from power,” added Besigye.
He gave the example of Kenya where Daniel Arap Moi’s departure was negotiated to facilitate a smooth transition of power.
“We are fighting to have country that serves all Ugandans. We understand that a political system that serves the minority ultimately collapses,” he added.
It remains unclear who approached Besigye for talks.
However, elders under the guidance of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) have previously urged Museveni and Besigye to talk.
Besigye has previously ruled out a one-on-one with Museveni, saying he prefers involvement of several political players in such negotiations.
“The entire leadership of FDC and I have consistently made it clear that there can’t be talks between Museveni and myself on the national political impasse,” said Besigye on August 6, 2016.
“There is nothing personal between me and Mr Museveni that we would be talking about between the two of us.”
He emphasised that “very serious national political issues need to be discussed transparently in a structured National Dialogue involving all stakeholders.” Will Besigye finally meet with Museveni?
In 2011, journalist Andrew Mwenda and Besigye’s close friend Conrad Nkutu tried to organize talks between Museveni and Besigye and almost succeeded.
According to Mwenda, Besigye sent Museveni seven conditions for them to begin talks and the president accepted all of them without amendment.
“Museveni sent Besigye four conditions; Besigye rejected all of them. Museveni was undeterred and agreed to withdraw all his conditions so that talks could begin,” recalled Mwenda in an article published a few years ago.
“Besigye failed the talks on a very minor technicality i.e. to declare that there was a legitimate government to negotiate with.”
Mwenda said this was not because Besigye did not see the necessity of the talks or the potential contained in the opportunity.
“The attempt failed because Besigye feared his own supporters would misunderstand him; they would think he had been compromised to admit that Uganda has a legitimate government in power.”
The meeting at Besigye’s home was attended by Mwenda, Nkutu, Winnie Byanyima, Sam Njuba (R.I.P), and Augustine Ruzindana.
Mwenda said these FDC leaders told Besigye to be transparent and inform the party instead of doing things secretly.
“Yet the best way to kill such delicate talks is to make them transparent and democratic. For then people begin playing to the gallery rather than to their conscience. There is still a chance for such talks but it requires someone to place their political career at risk.”