JOURNALIST KIGGUNDU’S ASSESSMENT OF BESIGYE


By Edris Kigundu,
Throughout my journalism career, one question I have constantly encountered from colleagues and other people concerns my political inclination. Which political party do you support? I have been asked.
Many people have said I support FDC. Others, have broadly classified me as an opposition supporter. I have also met some opposition supporters and friends who suspect that I support NRM. Once during an internal NRM meeting called to design a media strategy for the 2016 elections, a senior party official was asked “why she often defends Kiggundu” against the charge that he is an FDC supporter.” The senior member, obviously leaked to me this info.

The truth is that having worked for a relatively independent media house for a long time (The Observer), my political views have been shaped largely by what I have seen and covered. I have covered more stories on local politics and its injustices suffered mainly by the opposition (including violent demos). This also means that there are more people on the opposition side that I freely associate with than those on the side of the NRM. This means that I am far from being considered an objective person. I am not because my views are tinted with a certain bias. I however try to be fair. In the opposition I have a soft spot for…some of you have guessed right… Dr Kizza Besigye, the former FDC leader. I have seen him at some of his lowest and highest moments and I have seen many people who have made conclusions about his personality without really understanding him well. I have interviewed him more than 10 times (and he can be a handful for an unprepared journalist). I have also held private conversations with him countless times on a wide range of issues. He is one of the few people I know who reads widely in fact, more than many academics I know. He is very cerebral and very organised in the way he approaches issues. He keeps time to a hilt and will call early to apologise if he cannot make it in time for an appointment. He is also literally a moving ATM machine and has contributed to so many causes (tuition, cars for officials, houses, funded journalists). Being an opposition leader certainly comes with many responsibilities. That said, Besigye is not perfect. He has a million and one weaknesses, like all of us. He can be intolerant to divergent views and I know some party officials who have been on the receiving end of his tirades in internal meetings. Even journalists or media houses he perceives to be critical of him have not been spared either. Then he has the habit of denying, sometimes shockingly, what he has said using the common refrain: “I was quoted out of context.”

I remember the U-turn in 2015 over contesting in the elections and The Nile Post interview when he downplayed Bobi Wine’s presidential chances. Lastly, having “fought” and “sacrificed” heavily for political freedom over the last 20 years, he believes he is entitled to “his territory” will not treat whoever tries to encroach on it lightly. That is my personal reading of his current tension with Bobi Wine. He thinks people should be appreciative of what he has done and accord him the respect he deserves. Overall, I rate Besigye very highly compared to the calibre of politicians we have on either side on the political aisle. He is extremely intelligent and has a high degree of integrity. I think he (and Gen Muntu) could be the most genuine opposition politicians I have encountered in my career. But I am not blind to some of his personal weaknesses (and those of his ardent supporters).

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