Dr. Kizza Besigye Statement on the Presidential Debate
The attempt to have a presidential debate in Uganda is not new. There has been an attempt at every of the previous elections to have a debate.
At every election that I have participated, I have been ready to engage in a debate. But at each of those attempts, it was the failure of Mr. Museveni to accept to have a debate that led to the failure of having a debate.
So this time when I challenged Mr. Museveni to a debate, I knew that he is averse to having a direct debate- which is unfortunate because in a situation like ours where there are deep contradictions, it is important to have a direct debate so that people are able to determine the candidates’ positions and policies.
But even then, when I challenged Museveni to a debate, I really knew that Museveni was not up to it because he has untenable positions; the positions he has taken over the last 30 years and the consequences of those positions are indefensible.
So I really knew he would do everything to avoid the debate. In fact, I was surprised by his initial response when he appeared to have agreed to the debate. I was surprised because I thought he would avoid it right away.
But as I have now heard, it is clear that he is not going to engage in the debate for 15th, Jan, 2016. This does not come as a surprise.
Secondly, it ought to be understood that we don’t have a multiparty democracy in Uganda; we have a military dictatorship. It is that military dictatorship that we intended to examine and interrogate in the debate.
The military dictatorship has been in power for 30 years and it has espoused certain policies that have had serious consequences on the country. So we cannot have a utopian debate about what is good for the Uganda without questioning and interrogating the 30yr incumbency of Mr. Museveni regime.
In fact the contestation in Uganda, to my mind, is between the dictatorship and the organizations challenging it. So if the dictatorship in the debate is absent, then is it a primary election of those who are challenging the dictatorship? Is it a primary contest of only those who are challenging the dictatorship?
Therefore, my view is very clear: that if Mr. Museveni declines to have a debate, then we cannot have a debate alone; the debate simply collapses.
I think it is disingenuous for people to suggest that the opponents of the dictatorship debate amongst us to demonstrate that it is only Museveni that declined to engage in the debate.
Thirdly, it also ought to be understood that the anti dictatorship organisations are engaged in this political contestation from a point of severe disadvantage.
Mr. Museveni has been campaigning for the last five years using state resources while we were restricted. Even in this campaign, we have severe obstacles from the poor roads to partisan security organizations that try to interfere and obstruct our campaign.
We also have severe challenges of financial resources to fund our campaigns- we have to raise funds from our very poor supporters while Mr. Museveni has unlimited access and supply of state resources, funds and even uses a state helicopter to facilitate his campaign.
So it is us that treasure every minute of this campaign more than Mr. Museveni. If Museveni is not going to be available, it would be madness to take off a day or two to go and talk to my colleagues with whom we are fighting the dictatorship.
It is most unfortunate that Mr. Museveni has more or less at the last minute opted out the debate. It is sad.
I was actually informed by chance of the date of debate by someone from Inter Religious Council of Uganda whom I had a meeting with on Monday.
The gentleman informed me that the date was set by Mr. Museveni in July last year before he became a candidate. That in itself is very curious that a none candidate sets a date for a debate presuming that he will be a candidate; that he fixes the date of the debate which six months later, he is not able to honour.
I was informed of the date in one week and immediately agreed to the debate but the one who set the date unable to honour his commitment. I had even promised to cancel my program in Tororo to attend the debate.
So surely, this is very unfair but it is not unaccepted that Mr. Museveni would turn down the opportunity for a debate.