22 April 1956 |
|Political party||Forum for Democratic Change|
|Alma mater||Makerere University|
Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe (born 22 April 1956), commonly known as Kizza Besigye, is a Ugandan physician, politician and former military officer, in the Uganda People's Defence Force. He served as the Party President of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) political party and was an unsuccessful contestant in Uganda's 2001, 2006, and 2011 presidential elections, losing all of them to the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, who has been President of Uganda since 26 January 1986. Results of 2006 elections were contested in court, where court observed massive rigging and disenfranchisement. He allowed an early internal FDC election which took place on 24 November 2012 for a successor Party President (PP). He decided that the successor PP should preferably be in place earlier than planned, to allow the new PP enough time to prepare the party for the next cycle of general elections.
Early life and career
Besigye, the second child in a family of six, attended primary school at Kinyasano Primary school and Mbarara Junior School. While at primary school, both his parents died. He did his O-levels at Kitante Hill Secondary School and A-levels at Kigezi High School. In 1975 he joined Makerere University School of Medicine and graduated in 1980 with a Medical degree (MBChB).
After leaving a medical job in Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, he underwent military training and joined the 1980–1986 National Resistance Army (NRA) guerilla rebellion against Milton Obote's government. He was responsible for the guerillas' health and particularly attended to the chairman, Yoweri Museveni.
When Yoweri Museveni became president in 1986, Besigye, then aged 29, was appointed Minister of State for Internal Affairs. In 1988, he was appointed Minister of State in the President's office and National Political Commissar. In 1991, he became Commanding Officer of the Mechanised Regiment in Masaka, and in 1993 he became Chief of Logistics and Engineering. Before his retirement from the army shortly before the 2001 elections, Besigye had risen to the rank of colonel and was a Senior Military Adviser to the Ministry of Defence.
In 1998, Besigye married Winnie Byanyima, a former Member of Parliament for Mbarara Municipality and the first female aeronautics engineer in Uganda. Museveni at his youthful stage used to live with the Byanyima family in the 1960s. A boy, Anselm Besigye, was born to Kizza Besigye and Winnie Byanyima in September 1998.
Prior the 2001 presidential elections, Besigye had become an opponent of Museveni's National Resistance Movement "no-party" system of government, saying that he believed the leadership was "incorrigibly off course", and that "someone had to step in and get things back on course". He advocated for the "Movement System to be viewed as, and to remain a transitional arrangement, rather than entrench it as an alternative political system".
Besigye, viewed as the only viable challenger to Museveni, was one of six candidates, during a campaign that contained much recrimination and bitterness. The other four candidates were; Aggrey Awori, Francis Bwengye, Karuhanga Chapaa and Kibirige Mayanja.
Museveni won the presidential elections by a substantial majority, and incidents of violence occurred following the announcement of the results. On 23 March 2001 Besigye contested the election results in the Supreme Court of Uganda, citing massive rigging and electoral violence by Museveni, but narrowly lost his petition to have the election results nullified. The Supreme Court ruled 5–0 that there was widespread cheating but ruled 3–2 against nullifying the results.
On 30 June 2001 Besigye was brutally arrested and detained and questioned by the police, allegedly in connection with the offence of treason. In September he fled to the United States for his life that was under threat.
Return from exile and arrest
On 26 October 2005 Besigye returned to Uganda from South Africa, where he had been living. Tens of thousands of his supporters lined the streets from Entebbe International Airport to the capital, Kampala. Besigye's return was in his words "made more precipitate" by the fact that he had to register as a voter before the voter registration deadline to be a candidate for the 2006 elections.
Besigye was arrested on 14 November 2005, accused of treason, concealment of treason and rape. The case of treason included his alleged links to the rebel groups, Lord's Resistance Army and People's Redemption Army, and the rape charge referred to an alleged incident in November 1997 involving the daughter of a friend. The arrest led to demonstrations and riots in Kampala and towns around the country. The protesters believed the charges were designed to stop Besigye from challenging the president in 2006 elections.
Besigye's arrest evoked international concern, as well as criticism from local press, including the state owned New Vision. The government later banned all public rallies, demonstrations, assemblies or seminars related to the trial of Besigye. On 23 November the Minister of State for Information, James Nsaba Buturo announced that talk shows and media debates on Besigye's trial were banned, and media houses that did not heed the ban would have their licences revoked. Baturo said that, "Revocation of the licence is something I am very eager to do".
On 25 November Besigye was granted bail by the High Court, but was sent back to prison because of outstanding military charges facing him at an army Court-martial. The military Court-martial defended his continued detention saying Besigye could escape from the country if released on bail. On 2 January 2006 he was released from prison after the High Court ordered his immediate release. On 31 January 2005, the Constitutional Court ruled on a complaint brought by the Uganda Law Society, stating the Besigye could not be tried for terrorism.
On 1 February Ugandan jurors in the rape trial recommended Besigye's acquittal, saying the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Under Ugandan law, the jurors advise the judge but their recommendation is not binding. On 7 March 2006, the court cleared Besigye of the rape charge, with Judge John Bosco Katutsi stating, "The state has dismally failed to prove its case against the accused." Testimony given in court indicated that President Museveni had personally instructed the police to investigate the case. Besigye is still accused of treason, and the Ugandan army is appealing the dismissal of their prosecution on terrorism and weapons charges.
February 2006 elections
The general elections of 2006 saw FDC as the main opposition party and Besigye as the main challenger against Museveni for the presidency. He stood with Miria Kalule Obote the First female Presidential candidate for Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Abed Bwanika who stood as an Independent, John Ssebana Kizito for Democratic Party (DP). Museveni was elected for another five-year tenure, having won 59% of the vote against Besigye's 37%. Besigye, who alleged fraud, rejected the result. The Supreme Court of Uganda later ruled that the election was marred by intimidation, violence, voter disenfranchisement, and other irregularities. However, the Court voted 4–3 to uphold the results of the election.
February 2011 elections and aftermath
In the 2011 elections Besigye for the third time in a row lost to his main challenger, the incumbent Yoweri Museveni with a terrible decline from previous polls, failing to win in a single region. Though lauded as one of the most free and fair elections in Ugandan history, Besigye claimed that his challenger used intimidation and rigging to win a fourth term in office.
Following his dismal performance in the 2011 presidential elections, Besigye directed his party members elected to the 9th parliament to boycott it. This was rejected outrightly by the newly elected MPs, claiming that the election victory was out of their personal effort and not Besigye's or the Party, contributing to rising tentions within the FDC.
Besigye was arrested for a fourth time on 28 April, during a "walk-to-work" protest over the high prices of food and fuel. He was sprayed with tear gas (pepper spray) and dragged from his car by police. This was the catalyst for additional protests leading to riots across Kampala, in which at least two people were killed and 120 people wounded, leading to some 360 arrests.
Besigye opposed the re-introduction of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill into the 9th Parliament of Uganda by back bench MP David Bahati. Besigye's support of gay rights was a contentious issue in Uganda where homosexuality was already criminal as per the Ugandan Penal Code (Gender References Amendment Act).
Besigye was arrested on 1 October 2012 after an attempt to make a speech to vendors in Kiseka market in Kampala, Uganda. He was taken to a central police station in the city. Earlier, police had deployed heavily at Besigye's home in a move to block him from travelling to town to hold his planned rally, but he managed to elude the security officials to a then undisclosed location until his arrest by police at the city market about an hour later.
- "Ambassadors Meet Ministers Over Besigye", The Monitor, 16 November 2005
- "Unnecessary own goal", New Vision, 16 November 2005
- "Ugandan govt bans demonstrations for opposition leader, Besigye", Angola Press, 24 November 2005
- "Government bans radio stations from debating opposition leader's trial", Reporters Without Borders, 25 November 2005
- "Ugandan opposition chief granted bail, but not free", Reuters, 25 November 2005
- "Besigye plans to escape, says govt", The Monitor, 29 December 2005
- Besigye free at last!
- Besigye court martial ruled out, BBC News, 31 January 2006
- Jury recommends acquittal of opposition leader in rape case IRIN, 1 February 2006
- "Uganda's Museveni wins election", BBC, 25 February 2006
- "Uganda: Besigye vows protests will continue". BBC News. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- "Uganda's Kizza Besigye arrested for fourth time". BBC News. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
- Smith, David (29 April 2011). "Uganda riots reach capital as anger against President Museveni grows". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- Uganda: FDC's Kizza Besigye Arrested, Africa: Allafrica.com, 2012, retrieved 11 October 2012
- Articles on Besigye on UGPulse
- Profile At Allafrica.com
- Website of FDC Political Party
- 2001 Uganda election profile: Dr Kizza Besigye, BBC News
- Elections in Uganda, African Elections Database
- Profiles of presidential candidates (2001)
- Kiiza Besigye's Profile (ugandaelections.com)
- Besigye: Home and ready to run 1 November 2005 article on his return to Uganda including brief biography, BBC News