Yesterday-but-one, long serving Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tsetsekedi passed away at 84 years of age.
The late tsetsekedi is one man who will be remembered for passionately opposing Zairian dictator Joseph Mobutu Kuku Ngbendu Wa Zabanga for very many years without achieving any tangible impact.
Since he was the more recognizable political force within the Zairian opposition, the world expected him to succeed president Mobutu. But Mobutu was overthrown in 1996 and he passed away in exile and Tsetsekedi has died without testing power.
He therefore draws direct parallels with Ugandan opposition leader Rtd Col Kiiza Besigye who has contested and lost four times to President Yoweri Museveni.
On his part, at 60years of age at the moment, Colonel Kiiza Besigye still has over 24 years to get to Etienne Tsetsekedi’s age. But since the Ugandan constitution bars Ugandans beyond 75 years from contesting , Besigye’s political life can be put at 15 years from now which presents him with an opportunity to contest the Ugandan for another three times.
You therefore get the feeling that he still has time to tilt the political fortunes in his favour.
But while time is on KB’s side, the political circumstances might not permit him to persist with his presidential schemes.
It probably means that he will contest the 2021 elections, without interfacing with his serial rival Yoweri Museveni for the first time, since Museveni will have clocked the 75 year constitutional mark.
Theoretically speaking therefore, you can say that Besigye still as the opportunity to become the president of Uganda.
But practically speaking the Ugandan political terrain might not permit him because he has already been faced with many practical challenges that bring his presidential ambitions in balance.
In fact most of the practical opposition emanates from some members of his FDC party who have believed in him as good presidential candidate but questioned his management style accusing him of being a gross dictator who is intolerant of members with divergent views from his.
While he is known for having combative mobilization skills9 going by the four million votes he garnered in the 2016 elections) , some of his detractors accuse him of being a poor organizer who is simply obsessed with his own candidacy.
This is mostly derived from the fact that he has failed to build party structures upon which the FDC party can ride to get to the reins of power.
His own party members accuse him of being more obsessed with his individual political career other than institutional party building.
After sensing that he couldn’t exonerate himself from the accusations of not building the FDC party structures, Besigye tactfully opted to step down as party president paving way for elections that saw Gen Mugisha Muntu emerge as party president.
But KB was wise enough to insert a clause within the party constitution which stated that the party president was not necessarily or automatically supposed to be the presidential candidate of the party in the national elections.
That is how KB managed to run as FDC flag bearer, even when the FDC party president was Rtd Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu.
Gen Muntu is therefore portrayed as someone who has had the opportunity to do what Besigye’s critics are accusing of not doing; building the FDC party structures.
And as time goes by, that lacuna allows Besigye to continue playing from the peripheral of the party , since he is not the party president ,but maintaining the option of showing up at the grand party of the general elections as FDC’s flag bearer.
However, it’s still a daunting task to believe that KB will still be a selling factor in Ugandan politics by 2021.
Even if president Museveni doesn’t lift the age limit, and indeed contests again in 2021, which works favorably well for Besigye, he will be a very difficult brand to sell to Ugandans.
And once Museveni doesn’t tamper with the age limit clause and steps down, Besigye’s political career will be closed since the anxiety of seeing off Museveni out of power will have been achieved.
Besigye’s continued political relevance has been helped by the lack of new relevant presidential candidates with fresh ideas.
In the most recent 2016 elections new face in Amama Mbabazi emerged on the political scene to contest president Museveni, but the Amama brand failed to be sold to Ugandans because he was not any different from president Museveni.
What made Amama hard to sell was the fact that other than resign from president Musevnei’s government the way President Macky Sall did in Senegal, he was sacked from the NRM government.
Even when he (JPAM) made the brave decision to contest for the presidency, he continued to show allegiance to NRM, something that annoyed radical Ugandans who relished to do away with anything to do with Museveni and his NRM party.
With the JPAM brand in distorted shape, Ugandans ‘poured’ votes to Kiiza Besigye-but he still failed to capture power-somehow.
And as we speak now, he is still trying to maintain political relevance by taking on the state in mini protests and demonstrations here and there.
But it seems Ugandans have increasingly started to develop the feeling that KB is not any different from president Museveni.
There is a growing consensus that KB cannot oversee the regime change that he promises to deliver.
And once a new kid on the block emerges on the Ugandan political scene, like business man Ardama Barrow who emerged as president of Gambia from nowhere, KB’s political career will be sealed forever.
His last card lies in the possibility of president Museveni lifting the age limit and therefore offering himself for another term but it will justify his longevity as well.
But once Museveni throws in the mantle of power to someone else, Besigye’s relevance will be completely buried like the way Congo’s Etienne Tsetsekedi has gone.
And that means that his political career is certainly likely to end in 2021 at his the prime age of 66 years, 14 years younger than Tsetsekedi.
Alternatively he can stubbornly push on in the same way Abdullah Wade did in Senegal and eventually win. But Wade never contested beyond four times!
You therefore see Kiiza Besigye degenerating into an Etienne Tsetsekedi of some sort. Incidentally Kb shares the same V-sign (which is derogatorily interpreted as we want to be the second)with his Congolese serial opposition counterpart.
The Author Fred Daka Kamwada Is Social Critic and a Blogger