Answers, they say, can hide from anything but questions. But that assertion doesn’t seem to hold true after close scrutiny of a transcript of last week’s NTV interview with DR KIZZA BESIGYE.
Asked several times by Patrick Kamara, host of NTV’s ON THE SPOT programme, whether he will be on the ballot next year as a presidential candidate, Besigye’s answers were anything but simple and straightforward. The founding president of the opposition FDC walked his way around the persistent questions. Below is the transcript.
Kamara: Col Dr Besigye, will you run for the presidency?
Besigye: Wrong question.
Kamara: Dr Besigye, are you running for the presidency?
Besigye: Wrong question.
Kamara: Dr Besigye, do you have an ambition once again; do you have it in you once again for the 5th time to run for the Presidency?
Besigye: Wrong question.
Kamara: Something is wrong here.
Kamara: Dr Besigye, am I going to make this question precise?
Besigye: You see this question that has gripped the country of my candidature and candidates is engineered by some interests. It’s an agenda by some people, not my agenda, but which you and many other people want to conscript me into an agenda to look for candidates. Candidates for what?
The reason I am saying it’s a wrong question is that the political challenge of Uganda is not getting a president; this country should not be fighting to get a president. It’s wrong for this country to be gripped by looking for the president, it’s wrong.
Kamara: Dr Besigye, I have been with you on the presidential trail when you have offered yourself to lead. In spite of what you have said, my simple question is whether you will offer yourself as a vessel for leadership in 2021 so that your name is on the ballot to transform Uganda.
Besigye: The reason we have a lot of engagement over this is because there is a fundamental confusion deliberately engineered in Uganda. You see, a country that is looking for a president is a country where its people have the power to choose one [president].
This country since it became Uganda, its people have never said we are changing a president and the president changes. Has it ever happened?
Kamara, in your entire life, have you ever seen a president changed by the people of Uganda? In your entire being, and you are not a young person, have you ever seen Ugandans changing a president?
Kamara: Because you and your colleagues decided to pick guns and came with guns blazing in Kampala, how could I have seen it?
Besigye: So someone is deliberately constructing a wrong question for the people of Uganda and misdirecting them to believe that they will be participating in choosing a president, and so we are conscripted into becoming candidates; that there is an electoral roadmap, whose roadmap?
The people of Uganda need to get their country into their hands first before they can look for how to run [govern] it. Uganda is not in the hands of the people of Uganda. It’s a captured state.
That is where I fundamentally differ. The questions then come, if it is a captured state, why are you engaged in political processes in the country? Yes, I participate only as part of manoeuvres to liberate our country.
Kamara: I am asking whether as part of your manoeuvre tactics, you are going to manoeuvre yourself onto the ballot paper and your name will be on it despite the hurdles.
Besigye: If you are going to get the answer, understand what those manoeuvres are. Every time I have become a candidate, I have not been massively sought out by the media. Did you ever seek me out on whether I will be a candidate? Has anyone ever sought me out to see whether I am candidate? Candidates are not hunted for but they offer themselves.
Kamara: What has changed fundamentally from the past where you offered yourself without being sought out like now?
Besigye: Understand. The reason indeed these questions come up, that misunderstanding of what the country’s political processes are about is maintained because we give it credence by focusing your cameras and the country in that fake process…I am saying I will not facilitate anybody with myself to focus on the wrong thing of candidature as an issue facing this country.
Certainly, I want that focus to shift whether I will be a candidate or not, and if by not going to become a candidate forces you to raise these questions, it gives me the right opportunity to tell our countrymen that our focus should not be manipulated- which is what is being done- manipulated into a political process that doesn’t answer our needs.
Kamara: Where is your focus?
Besigye: The political process that exists today, the roadmap in place is a roadmap to the gallows. It’s not a roadmap to FREEDOM. We must chart our own road to freedom. That is why I tell you the challenge of this country is not leadership; it’s freedom. PEOPLE WHO GET LEADERS ARE FREE. And they use that freedom to get leaders.
We are not free; we are not living in a free country. Now for someone to manipulate us to behave as if we are free; to present ourselves to his processes, it is like causing an election in Luzira prison for inmates to choose head prisoners and prisoners take it very seriously. And it becomes their priority to choose their head prisoner, instead of focusing on how to get out of prison.
That manipulation must stop. The manipulation that there is going to be registration, nominations, etc, when all processes are controlled by our captors. That must change, the conversation must change. And if by not answering your question (of whether I will be a candidate), we can focus Ugandans onto the right questions of whether Uganda is a free country; is there rule of law in Uganda; are there freedoms and rights in Uganda? And if they are not there, can you have a VOTE? Do the people of Uganda actually have a vote without freedoms and rights and rule of law?
Kamara: I will ask for the very last time, what has fundamentally changed this time that you cannot think of being on the ballot at this time and yet for four times, in the same country, in the same system, you offered yourself?
Besigye: A lot has changed and it gets worse each day. I was one of those that picked up guns to fight. I was one of those who, through that war, left half a million people dead. Those 500,000 Ugandans were killed after the election of 1980. We are talking reality, not theories. These people were killed after an election.
I would never have gone to the bush if I had not been grabbed in Kampala here minding my business and tortured to near death, from where I escaped into exile. Those things don’t happen in a country you call home and have rights.
Today, people are grabbed and taken to safe houses and some die there. In this country courts of law and parliament are attacked by soldiers in broad daylight, on camera, that is not a country where you should be asking a question about candidates.
The question you should be asking and all Ugandans should be asking is whether we are in a free country or not. And if we conclude that we are not in a free country, then do we have a vote?
Kamara, can you have a vote in a country where you are not free?
This article first appeared on Observer.ug