Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu’s re-election loss as president of the country’s largest opposition party has stoked a backlash on social media, with some Ugandans predicting the end for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
Many angry commentators urged Muntu to abandon FDC and form his own party while some say these are the fruits of democracy and Muntu should gracefully accept the loss. At the heart of these deeply-felt sentiments are questions over the role former FDC president, Dr Kizza Besigye, played in Muntu’s removal.
With 641 votes, Besigye protégé Patrick Oboi Amuriat (POA) ejected Muntu out of the top seat at Najjanankumbi. His 463 votes were too little too late to stop Amuriat in last Friday’s deeply divided general delegates’ conference in Mandela national stadium, Namboole.
Since then, there have recriminations and a hot exchange of barbs between those who supported Muntu and those who rallied behind Besigye. Muntu had led FDC since 2012.
One Prince Isaac Mwesigwa posted: “Team Muntu is getting its strategy. We will accommodate those who accommodate us. We will work with those that believe in us. Even if it means creating our own party. We will surely make it someday.”
Doreen Nyanjura, an FDC delegate whose day job is being a councillor at Kampala Capital City Authority, posted a response to those criticising Amuriat’s win: “Clearly social media people don’t understand the dynamics in FDC. Social media people vote popularity, delegates vote for the party. Like I said earlier, Mugisha Muntu lost because he had very little to show for the last five years he has been in charge. Delegates have three years to judge POA, should he not work to their expectations, I trust them; they will throw him out.”
She added: “I have seen some party members still referring themselves as ‘Team Mugisha Muntu, ‘Team POA’. Elections ended on Friday, we no longer have teams, we are all team FDC now. Let’s move forward and start working.”
On Twitter, Muntu posted the most reassuring response to the party, saying Amuriat’s win had been hard-earned and he wished him well.
“To those who supported me both in and outside the delegates, I would like to urge you not to panic or lose hope. While there are setbacks on a personal level, there have been gains at a party level…FDC won. Democracy won,” Muntu said.
Muntu has had a torrid time as party leader with his opponents frequently branding him an NRM mole, an unsubstantiated allegation which found its way into the campaign narrative. But Besigye came out on Monday to say he trusted Muntu and would not think of him as working for someone else against FDC.
The feeling that Muntu’s exit, and the ascendency of the hardline and militant wing over the so-called moderates spells doom has been amplified by even NRM commentators. Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo has said Amuriat will not add anything to FDC.
While Don Wanyana, the senior presidential press secretary, posted “Poor Muntu” cynically to say he was in a wrong place.
Andrew Mwenda, a known regime apologist, posted: “The defeat of the noble Mugisha Muntu in the race for the presidency of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has put the last nail in the coffin of decent politics in that party. It marks the final triumph of radical extremism as an organising philosophy for FDC.”
Some people have, however, said NRM’s preference for Muntu as FDC leader was because his way of doing things would not give them a hard time.
Amuriat is expected to reset the Besigye confrontational tactics with defiance as a guiding principle. The other view emerging on social media is that those Ugandans turned off by President Museveni’s militarism and Besigye’s militancy were drawn to Muntu as a third way for Uganda – and this could find expression in a new political organisation formed from the ashes of a disintegrating FDC.
In congratulating Amuriat, Muntu also promised to announce his next move soon, cryptically saying he would want to work in an environment where he is trusted.