BAKER BATTE LULE assesses the tricky road ahead for outgoing FDC president and how Patrick Amuriat's presidency may impact key positions of the party leadership in parliament.
As the dust raised by the unexpected triumph of Patrick Amuriat Oboi over Gen Mugisha Muntu settles down, rumors are swirling over the political future of not only Muntu but also that of the opposition leadership in parliament.
Amuriat, widely backed by Dr Kizza Besigye, won with 641 votes against Muntu’s 463. In his concession speech, Muntu hinted at a possibility of either pulling back from actively participating in party work or perhaps forming his own party.
After it became clear that Amuriat was destined for victory, heartbroken Muntu supporters cocooned around him urging him to leave FDC now that it had been unambiguous that people don’t like him.
“These are mafias, they have showed that they don’t want you in their party what do you want from them? When we return to Fort Portal we are going to close FDC offices,” an angry Muntu supporter said.
“We should form our own party and leave FDC to Besigye, it seems he bought it,” another said. In response to such statements, Muntu who looked calm and composed, urged his supporters to remain calm. “This has been a battle within a war; calm down, we shall figure out what to do.”
“I take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to those who don’t trust me. It wasn’t my intension to waste your time all this time. It has been a pleasure working with you all for the last five years. Where we are heading, it’s going to be an interesting time to go to. To those who believe in my method, approach, I urge you not to be frustrated, don’t get provoked, don’t give haste statements…” Muntu said.
“There are decisions that I have got to make because while I congratulate Hon Amuriat Oboi, I also recognize that within the party, there might be irreconcilable differences either ideological or methods or approaches. I’m an honest man, I’m always honest to myself I would like to be honest to you as well,” Muntu said.
He added that he joined the struggle for a better Uganda at age 23 and he intends not to backtrack but said he can no longer work in an environment where he feels he is not trusted. “I don’t want to be unfair to you nor would I want to say that you are being unfair to me but the tasks ahead of us are heavy,” Muntu.
Kasiano Wadri, former MP for Terego county told whoever cared to listen that as founding members of FDC, they cannot allow their party to be taken over by a group of selfish individuals.
“I’m a founder member of this party and we must not allow it to be taken over by a few individuals for selfish interests. We must sit and find a way forward to deal with what has happened today. Otherwise, this party we sacrificed so much for risks disintegrating,” Wadri said.
On his part, Amuriat read in Muntu’s speech a resignation tone which he addressed in his own victory speech.
“I will never stop respecting you as president that I looked up to. I have listened carefully to your remarks and I believe once the dust has settled, you and I need to have a discussion,” Amuriat said amidst a thunderous applause from the delegates.
“We need each other in FDC and for me the day I see people taking decisions to abandon the party, then it is going to be my greatest day of sadness. I pledged to you earlier in the day that I will be your president who will pull the party together. I will extend an olive branch because the party that we founded together, Gen. Muntu, has not yet got power.”
Speaking to The Observer after the delegate’s conference, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, who has been the co-chairman of the Muntu taskforce, said Muntu is capable of taking any decision.
“A person who went to the bush at 23 years when his own father was working in the same government, a person who abandons Museveni at a time when he could be appointed anything, to join the opposition where there is nothing is capable of doing anything including leaving FDC,” he said.
Fate of Opposition leadership
During campaigns, Amuriat repeatedly said it was wrong for FDC to appoint an opposition leadership in parliament since he contends Dr Besigye won the 2016 general election.
However, speaking after he was declared winner, Amuriat said FDC MPs are a great asset to the party; therefore, they must forge a good working relationship as each of them does their work.
“I know some of you didn’t trust me to run this party but this is something now in the past. You have a president before you and we need to work together.
I understand that the pressures that you experience everyday running your activities because I was part of you but that notwithstanding…the battle for the liberation of this country is not going to happen there [parliament] it will happen here where…people of Uganda will, together with you, determine their destiny,” Amuriat said.
Notably, Amuriat had few MPs that openly supported him. They include Francis Mwijukye, who was the deputy chairman of the campaign team, Betty Aol, [Gulu], Gilbert Olanya, [Kilak], Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, William Nzoghu and Mubarak Munyagwa.
Currently, what is unclear is whether Amuriat will not follow his predecessor to sack the party’s top hierarchy in parliament led by Winnie Kiiza, the leader of opposition and Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the chief whip.
When he was elected president in 2012, Muntu sacked the then leader of opposition, Nandala Mafabi, who had been appointed by Besigye, and replaced him with Wafula Oguttu. Speaking on Saturday, Mwijukye said it was too early to talk about the fate of Kiiza and Ssemujju and other committee chairpersons, who are all appointed by the FDC president.
“We don’t expect a shakeup in parliament really soon. From the angle of party cohesion, we can’t say now you go away... We still remain the same party, the same people and we only need to see how to realign our forces,” Mwijukye said.
“We need to have the leadership in parliament clearly and strategically working with the people’s government and all other efforts geared towards liberating our country. So, the question is: how do we bring the two to work together such that the parliamentary leadership works hand in hand to cause change in this country,” Mwijukye said.
On his part, Ssemujju said it is within Amuriat’s powers to retain or dump them.
“I belong to an institution that takes decisions through party structures; if anyone thinks that the leadership is now going to take decisions unilaterally, I will also have learnt that and I will respect those decisions. I’m a decent person if anybody thinks that he is uncomfortable working with me, he needs not to make any proposals. Let him just tell me so and I will immediately hand over the office,” Ssemujju said.
“If they choose to realign the team in parliament, they will find us very obedient. If they want another leader of opposition, we will clean the office for him and hand over as soon as we are told.”