It is two weeks since former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader, Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu and a faction of his supporters announced their exit from Uganda’s leading opposition party to form a new political formation. SULAIMAN KAKAIRE weighs in on what the future holds.
A few hours after Muntu announced his departure, Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary general in charge of administration, told The Observer: “We have been swallowed…People Power has swallowed us.”
He changed this dark view a few days later, but his initial reaction spoke volumes. Whereas to Kaija the existential threat is seen as coming from “People Power,” a youth movement led by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine, FDC must pay attention to the fall-out from Muntu’s departure.
On paper, if many members defect to the new formation, the once biggest opposition political party faces the disruptive prospect of organising mid-term internal elections. Based on a list seen by The Observer, it would appear that the walk-out, if it comes, will deprive FDC of countrywide leadership.
Already, about three quarters of the party’s MPs are known to be “secretly” thinking of joining the new formation by December, when it gets to be officially launched as a party, or a year to the general elections.
The impending doom can be traced back to FDC’s failure to resolve what are referred to as irreconcilable differences. These differences arise from its very origins. They include founding president Dr Kizza Besigye’s dominance over the party, and the undemocratic tendencies of some senior members.
During last year’s delegates’ conference which elected Patrick Oboi Amuriat to replace Muntu as party president, Besigye’s influence was plain to see. And so, according to the list, three out of the four regional deputy presidents of the party are leaving.
They are Ronald Reagan Okumu (Northern), Alice Alaso (Eastern) and Patrick Baguma (Western). Of the four deputy presidents, it is only Joyce Ssebugwawo (Buganda) who has stayed put.
Alaso, who is acting coordinator for the new formation, was FDC secretary general for almost a decade. She told The Observer, that their formation is taking shape apace.
“I have discussed the reasons for my departure from FDC, but what I can tell you is that we are doing well,” she said.
Baguma, who was once national vice chairperson for western, spoke about the need for a new direction.
“It is very costly. I have spent all my youth working for FDC but with what is happening in FDC we cannot get power. Some of my colleagues think that you can take power through violence…I wish them the best but my caution is that you can’t beat President Museveni at violence,” Baguma said.
“It is time to start the new formation whose main agenda looks beyond taking power; it is looking at how to manage power after taking it, and to change Uganda’s governance that looks beyond individuals.”
The regional deputy presidents are part of the National Executive’s working committee which acts as the party’s cabinet. According to article 22 of the FDC constitution, the working committee has 14 members: party president, four deputy presidents, secretary general, leader of opposition, treasurer general, secretary for legal affairs, secretary for information, secretary for mobilisation, secretary for the youth, secretary for security and secretary for women.
Six out of these 14 have either defected or intend to defect to Muntu’s group. Former leader of the opposition in parliament, Kasese woman MP Winfred Kiiza (secretary for women), Abedi Nasser Mudiobole (secretary for legal affairs) and Iddi Ouma (secretary for the youth) are also expected to leave.
YOUTH AND WOMEN LEAVE
Amuriat’s headache could get worse once the other affected party organs: National Youth League and the National Women’s committee also lose almost their entire top leadership.
Ouma and three of the four regional national youth vice chairpersons (Isima Kasule (West), Zeridah Kakayi (East) and Eric Chandiga (North) intend to defect. He said recently that his decision to leave FDC is born out of conviction and belief in the new formation.
“I believe that if we work with Gen Muntu, we can build a political party that is durable and creates an environment for the emergence of national leaders with discipline and integrity in governance,” Ouma said.
Ouma said “20 of the 25 members of the FDC Youth National Executive have expressed interest in joining the new formation”.
“The leadership of 80 out of the 120 districts is with us. We intend to call a national executive later this month during which we shall announce our position and it is then that you will tell who is telling lies,” he said.
In the case of the national women executive committee, four members: Winnie Kiiza (chairperson), Hamida Nassimbwa (central), Racheal Kalulu (eastern) and Prossy Naikoba (treasurer) are known to be on their way too.
So what are the possible implications for the party? Aswa MP, Reagan Okumu (deputy president Northern), feels that these are significant developments.
“I am a founding leader of FDC and a national leader with followers. If I decide, expect that decision to impact some people,” Okumu said.
“I will be making my announcement very soon for purposes of guiding those who follow me. But, the bottom line is that those who are pushing us to the side must know that we are national leaders with a following.”
The secretary for Legal Affairs, Mudiobole, says FDC should prepare to organise fresh elections to elect new leaders. “We were voted into office in 2015 and our mandate is for five years. When we leave, the only option left is for the party to organise fresh national elections. However, if some people hang in, as the case may be, some activities will be frozen..,” he said.
For now, Dr Joseph Tindyebwa, the FDC deputy secretary general in charge of research and policy, said the implications have been weighed by the party. This is why they sanctioned an audit, he said.
“We are aware of the implications; that is why we have to weed out all those who are not in agreement with us,” Tindyebwa said, making reference to a letter written by secretary general Nathan Nandala-Mafabi requiring every member of the party to affirm their FDC membership within the next 14 days or be deemed to have left.