A medical doctor, Besigye was part of the war that brought Museveni to power in 1986. His main work during the guerilla war was to treat injured rebels, “increasing morale of rebel fighters by demonstrating there was life after injury”, Daniel Kalinaki, a Ugandan journalist wrote in Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s unfinished revolution, 2014, a book that traces Besigye’s political journey.
Besigye served in Museveni’s government until 1999 when he broke away to become the face of opposition, from 1999 to 2017, founding the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) – the largest opposition party until last year’s general election.
He led the opposition in presidential elections four times, but by 2011, Besigye had discerned that Museveni can’t be defeated through elections and started a walk-to-work protest that aimed to mobilize large masses to oust Museveni. At the time, large street protests were ousting autocrats in what was termed the Arab Spring.
After much persuasion, Besigye participated in the 2016 presidential election, but flatly rejected calls by FDC to participate in the 2021 elections, giving way to Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, a musician-turned-politician who has now become the face of opposition. Bobi Wine’s party is now the main opposition party in parliament.
As Besigye, now 66 years-old, makes a comeback from a five-year hiatus to mobilize masses against Museveni, many of his agemates who had left the government to join him in early 2000s have either returned to the president’s side or are living a quiet life. There are no top officials, such as legislators in opposition parties, or those from his party, FDC, who have joined forces with Besigye.
Since 1999 when he joined the opposition, Besigye has been arrested countless times. It was during the 2011 walk-to-work protests that the state began to deploy officers to block Besigye from leaving his home.
The last time he addressed a rally in Kampala city center was in early 2016 following a presidential election won by Museveni, but one that Besigye disputed. At the time, he had also managed to dodge officers stationed at his home.
Besigye says he will not relent in his fight or Democracy in Ugannda. “It will be the utmost betrayal to give up and let the country to continue in the same way. I have spent the most part of my life in this quest. Stopping now cannot salvage anything ”-Kizza Besigye said in an interview at Mwanzo TV.