East Africa

Uganda: Besigye in talks with Lukwago, Kidandala

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As the fallout from leaked police tapes continues to haunt the opposition, Col Kizza Besigye has stepped in to initiate dialogue between the Kampala lord mayor and his estranged deputy.

The Observer has reliably learnt that the former FDC president has so far met Sulaiman Kidandala who is recorded on tape appearing to undermine his boss, Erias Lukwago.

The Besigye-Kidandala meeting took place at Katonga road on April 26, but details are still scanty. At the height of the stand-off between the government and the lord mayor, following Lukwago’s contentious impeachment, Kidandala met Police chief Gen Kale Kayihura in Masindi.

A recording of their conversation, which has since leaked and gone viral, is a subject of intense public debate. Even as Besigye as well as the Democratic Party mediate between the two opposition leaders, The Observer has learnt from sources close to Kidandala that the deputy lord mayor was persuaded by Gen Katumba Wamala, the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), to meet Kayihura.

According to these sources, Kidandala first met Katumba at his residence in Mukono. Kidandala declined to divulge details of his meeting with Katumba. Katumba, on his part ,promised to speak on the subject later this week.

Our sources indicate that once in Masindi, Kindandala linked up with Gen Kayihura, his aide Ssebina Sekitoleeko and a Lukwago aide named Nganda Mulyanyama. Although Lukwago has been reluctant to speak out publically on the matter, sources close to the embattled lord mayor indicate that he is very angry and feels betrayed.

Lukwago is particularly upset that Kidandala described his approach to politics in Kampala after his election as “arrivalism.” Lukwago also likens Kidandala’s talks with Kayihura as an attempted coup against him.

Following the leaks, Kidandala called a press conference on April 16 and distanced himself from some of the contents on the tape, including the soliciting of a Shs 6m bribe. Our sources indicate that Lukwago is satisfied that the person seeking money in the tape is not Kidandala, although he is angry enough that the meeting took place behind his back.

“Kayihura and other state agents want to exploit Kidandala’s naivety not only to betray the lord mayor but also to carry out a political coup against him and issues of coups are not easy to resolve,” our source pointed out.

At his press conference, Kidandala said he couldn’t be bought with a few million shillings.

“I can’t betray the struggle that we have been in as the opposition for a mere Shs 6m,” he said.

He, however, admitted meeting the IGP although he denied asking him for money. Contacted for a comment yesterday, Lukwago said he was unable to give a substantive comment because the opposition was still investigating the matter. But he confirmed that Kidandala and Besigye had met.

“I learnt of the Kidandala-Besigye meeting but I did not attend it because I was attending a wedding of councillor John Mary Sebuwufu in Rakai on Saturday and I have not been briefed. With time, we shall inform you of the developments,” Lukwago said.

The talks

According to a source close to Kidandala, the deputy lord mayor told Besigye during their 3pm meeting, that words like “arrivalism” were interpreted out of context. He reportedly said that the contents of the tape appear to have been altered to suit what Kayihura wanted his bosses to hear.

The source further says that although Kidandala could not ably explain why he had opted to work with the NRM government behind the opposition’s back, he vehemently distanced himself from some aspects of the tape.

Kidandala is reported to have told Besigye that he and the IGP largely spoke in English, thus disowning the Luganda version. The deputy lord mayor also told Besigye that at the time he met Kayihura, there were multiple efforts by people seeking to resolve the impasse at City hall. Kidandala said he went to Masindi with good intentions as part of efforts to resolve the differences between the government and the city’s political leadership.

“I explained to the IGP that it is the government that has the solution to the problem, having left all the powers at KCCA to only one person, which has caused much frustration,” Kidandala told Besigye.

The former FDC leader, who is close to Lukwago, reportedly said he would communicate Kidandala’s position to his opposition colleagues in a bid to resolve the matter.
Besigye couldn’t be reached for a comment yesterday as our calls went unanswered. But Kidandala confirmed the meeting.

Besides the Besigye initiative, The observer has learnt that DP, to which both Lukwago and Kidandala belong, is also trying to reunite the two. Our sources indicate that Kidandala has so far held meetings with President General Norbert Mao, national chairman and Jinja Municipality Mayor Muhammad Kezaala, as well as Secretary General Mathias Nsubuga.

“I met Kidandala and he gave me his side of the story, but as the party executive members, we will soon meet and jointly hear his side before the party takes a position,” Nsubuga said on Tuesday.


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