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How Besigye factor led to Muntu’s loss

When Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) delegates on Friday night dropped Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu as party president in favour of Patrick Oboi Amuriat a.k.a POA, the former Kumi Member of Parliament; the shadow of the party’s founding father, Dr Kizza Besigye, again loomed large over proceedings.

To observers, it was a reaffirmation that Besigye retains an overarching influence on FDC members, just like President Museveni does in the ruling NRM. So, POA won with 641 votes while Muntu managed 463. Moses Byamugisha came third with three votes while Malcom Matsiko got two votes.

What kicked off as a mild competition between Muntu and POA as frontrunners picked pace and rapidly evolved into a referendum on Besigye. The POA group gradually projected itself as the pro-defiance choice, a reference to the post- 2016 election political message Besigye has customised.

Patrick Amuriat carried by supporters at Namboole

Not long after POA declared that Besigye cannot be wished away, the founding father was his man.

“He is the brand of the party that must be utilised to get victory for the party...I will bring him back to the party,” Amuriat said.

Muntu, throughout the campaigns, warned against elevating any individual.

“What has bedevilled this country is not the lack of strongmen but strong institutions. This is what I am interested in,” Muntu said.

It looks like a combination of two main factors sealed the former army commander’s fate. One; some members became impatient with his more sedate style and, two; influence of the affectionately called ‘people's president’.

Marina Okoi, a delegate from Jinja, would later tell The Observer that Muntu had goofed by attacking Besigye in his campaign speech.

“How do you attack the people’s president from here and think we can forgive you? We have shown him that this is our party and we the delegates have spoken; we have made the statement that Besigye can’t be attacked in FDC,” he said.

Okoi’s view is shared by Mubarak Munyagwa, the Kawempe South MP, who said: “People have also shown that you simply can’t attack the people’s president and founder member of FDC and they forgive you. It was wrong for Muntu to turn his heat on Besigye.”

Speaking to the media after casting his vote, Besigye said that he cannot be blamed for moving alongside POA.

“POA was the only person who invited me to his rallies...And he had no problem with my message. Perhaps other people did not invite me because they were uncomfortable with my message,” Besigye said.

In the immediate aftermath of the happenings at Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, some feared that Besigye’s dominance could eventually stand in the way of prospects for internal democracy inside FDC.

“As a member of the party, he enjoys the right to choose any candidate but because of his influence, he can cause polarisation and for the good of the party, he should have kept his choice secret, if in any case he believes in building institutions,” said one senior leader who belongs to the Muntu group.


Other delegates disagree that POA’s win was about Besigye’s control. Sulaiman Magumba, the FDC chairman for Iganga district, suggested that Muntu may have been undone by something more insular and notoriously disruptive: tribe.

“I have interacted with some of my colleagues, especially those from Eastern Uganda [where POA hails from], and most of them think that voting Hon Amuriat in any away symbolises power balance within the party.

“Well, that could be a valid argument but it is wrong in the sense that it lowers the qualification of being a party president to which region does one come from, which is wrong,” Magumba said.

In 2012, Magumba supported Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, the FDC secretary general, against Muntu, but this time switched sides.

“There is no doubt that since the formation of FDC, it has been under the leadership of people hailing from the same region. But the most important thing is the quality it of leadership those individuals offer.”

Amuriat with his supporters at Namboole

Godfrey Yeheyo, another delegate from Wakiso district, proposes that it’s unfair to hold Besigye wholly responsible for Muntu’s exit.

“Voters are rational. Why did they vote him the other time? I come from Western Uganda but I voted POA. The reason is very simple. For the last five years, [Muntu] has been in charge of the party but he does not show us the structures he keeps talking about. Where are they? We have repeatedly asked him the total membership of FDC but he cannot say it,” Yeheyo says.

To delegates like Yeheyo, Muntu came across as too academic and unsuited for the harsh reality of opposition politics under Museveni.

“Those statements make sense to people in the urban areas or at the top but the people in the village want your presence. That is the only way they will feel the party,” he said.

Karl-Marx W’amugeni, a member from the diaspora, agrees.

“By the time I was at the secretariat, we used to have a data bank and registers for members, which were always renewed annually. This is all non-existent [today]. What happened? Do you want to blame all this on Besigye? We used to fundraise and recruit through selling party cards. Is this still the case?” W’amugeni said.

Muntu told The Observer last week that membership of FDC has exponentially grown over the years, but still his attention has been focused on party structures.

“Numbers are not enough. You need the structures and that was my concern. Since I took over, I made sure that structures are put in place. For instance, at the national, district and constituency level, we are a hundred percent. We are lacking at the sub-county, parish and village level, where our performance is below 60 per cent. We have to be everywhere so that all the support can be galvanised by the structures,” he said.

Muntu argued that when the structures are in place and there are values that would attract people, it would be very easy to recruit and fundraise.

His supporters point out that it is through these structures that Besigye won the 2016 election which his defiance group talks about.
But POA supporters insist that the former party and his mainly elite supporters failed to understand the constituency they were talking to.

Delegates conferences of most political parties in Uganda are largely rural, unlike the National Executive Committee which convenes leaders at the national level. In this respect, POA presented himself as a ‘villagers’ president’ on the advice of Besigye, a man whom a portion of Uganda’s masses acknowledge as the people’s president.


Now that POA is in the chair, his biggest challenge is reconciling the ideologically opposed factions within the party. In 2012, when Nandala lost to Muntu, the party went through a similar soul-searching, sometimes teetering on the edge of an outright split, when Nandala’s group refused to concede defeat.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira municipality MP, also FDC spokesperson and opposition chief whip in Parliament, says he has seen the same fault lines emerging but prays that they do not widen.

“I hope we don’t experience the same thing. Our collective responsibility will be the thread that will tie us together.”
Amuriat said: “that is a challenge that is why in my campaign I focused on cohesion and unity.”

In his concession speech, Muntu said that he hopes POA does not go through the same kind of environment he operated under.

“I don’t want you to go through that environment I went through... Continue building democracy within our party but if you lose those values that we believe in, you will lose the party. If at any time you find that your words are different from your actions you will become history,” Muntu said.

Throughout his term, the outgoing president has been severely hobbled by internal strife, suspected Besigye apologists undermining his work and an overwhelming mistrust of his opposition bona fides.

And so, he urged POA to find out the forces behind the turbulence within the party. Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu, a prominent supporter of Muntu, said the main challenge for the new man will be in how he tolerates the differences in opinion.

“As individuals, we can’t agree all the time and in cases where there are differences, we should embrace them in good faith. I think that our biggest challenge has always been the failure on our part to agree that we are different and can’t be the same,” he said.

Katuntu says it is time for the opposed groups to face the stark reality.

“We have always argued about defiance on one side, and the other approach of organisation and institutional building. The latter view that I belong to has lost. So, it is time to let the winners work and not like it was the case before,” he said.

Another challenge is framing the FDC’s ideological identity since it remains shrouded in fall-out from the internal dispute. There is also a lack of coherence on policy matters.

Then the issue of fundraising. Tellingly, Francis Mwijukye, the Buhweju MP and Besigye loyalist, was voted the new deputy treasurer in charge of general fundraising.



+5 #1 Eric L 2017-11-27 08:59
As for me, its was still Muntu who won.

His level of maturity and doing what he says is above pettiness.

He came out again as usual and conceded defeat,a thing Nandala failed at but started along with Besigye to jeopardise the programs of Muntu.

On the other hand I saw a couple of delegates explaining that the reason they voted POA was the East had never got any president,neither national nor party level.

Now I call backwardness,how will that group lead other tribes like mine if they think that this was a clan meeting!!

KB should also allow the party be just like DPs former leaders have always stood aside and became Patrons but not influencers.

My question now is,Is KB really different from Museveni in work style???

He has lied before about not contesting again and he is holding the party like its his car just like M7.
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+4 #2 Twebaze Francis 2017-11-27 13:46
It's like the FDC has been taken at ransom by someone, just like NRM.

Nevertheless, POA's victory is welcome. Let him work hard to heal the differences.
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+3 #3 Remase 2017-11-27 13:52
To all FDC's leaders and supporters, you should all bear in mind that what counts at the end of the day is the choice of the people.

It doesn't matter who influenced who. As long as people willingly chose a person whom the would like to lead them, based on what they, the people, need and the message they liked.

Yes, it is true that Besigye could have influenced the outcome of FDC's elections, however, that is not the same as M7's influence in the NRM.

M7 uses state resources to influence NRM members to be a "solo" candidate! However, it was the "pro-defiance" or defiance message that propelled Amuriat.

POA was smart to get Besigye on his side in order to win. During the recent US presidential elections, H Clinton used Obama and most of the Democratic Party bigwigs to win but failed.

Gore failed to use Bill Clinton's influence and he lost. Therefore it is not fair to compare Besigye and M7. POA didn't rig the elections but M7 does rig elections! So, why compare Besigye to M7?
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+1 #4 Musana 2017-11-27 14:14
One of the greatest challenges is how Ugandans will deliberately and consciously move from petty tribal views of matters national together with individualizing national interests.

The 'Bush-War' group knows only one language: individual interests in in national leadership. Those 'Bush-War' groups have never worked for national cohesion and therefore unity.

If they were to work for that, One of them was once a National Political Commissar who never left a legacy.

His colleagues lack all that would pass for patriotism which they once parroted. It's Ugandans who should speak up and reject these personal and individual political projects. There is no difference between a domestic and wild cat.
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0 #5 Betty Nalubega 2017-11-27 16:04
POA has one major disadvantage: he speaks only English.
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0 #6 Cadros 2017-11-27 17:47
Hon. Katuntu i like your advice to POA, please read it loud to yourself and the rest in your camp it will help FDC alot esp Mr. Muntu and Ibrahim who are threatening to quit the party.

The side that won has been patient for all this long and they never quit why are you playing bad losers?

With or without ssemujju FDC and the world at large will go on please stop sulking
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0 #7 Kamudingisa 2017-11-28 04:02
Quoting Eric L:
My question now is,Is KB really different from Museveni in work style???

He has lied before about not contesting again and he is holding the party like its his car just like M7.

That's a rhetorical question; they both nurse cult following and bask in idolatry.
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