Defiant members plot to oust party president
Kampala, Uganda |Agather Atuhaire| It appears nothing and nobody is these days simple or innocent in Uganda’s biggest party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). But it is a reality that the leaders; from Party President Mugisha Muntu to Secretary General Nandala Mafabi and even strongman Kizza Besigye have failed to grasp. As a result, they appear to be constantly taking innocent-looking actions which get blown up by their supporters and stir up further divisions in a party in desperate need of unity.
In the latest incident, SG Nandala caused storm with an innocuous-sounding letter to party chairpersons, general secretaries, and returning officers to carry out elections of party officials in districts affected by changes in district and constituency demarcations since 2015.
“It is urgent that we conduct elections in such affected jurisdictions to have our structures fully constituted,” Nandala wrote.
“Elections shall be conducted as follows,” he added, “July 6 constituency elections and July 7 district elections.”
But irate party members pounced on Mafabi even before the ink dried on the June 24 notice titled `Elections in new administrative units’. Soon a war of words was raging on the party Whatsapp group platform.
One member asked: “So SG writes about elections in the new administrative units as who? Sets dates as who? Approves roadmap as who?”
Another member added: “This is organisational illiteracy and indiscipline because that is the Electoral Commission’s work.”
As salvos flew overhead, the leaders; from Muntu and Besigye to the EC boss Mugarura, all kept their heads down.
Only Alice Alaso, the former Secretary General dared jump into the fray.
“The EC is the only body mandated to conduct elections. This is extremely out of order. No working committee input, no NEC input!” she posted.
But Nandala supporters were adamant.
“You people really have problems and I see a lot of naivety,” said Mukwana Noah, “The circular is only telling the leaders to get ready and mobilise as the Electoral commission prepares to do its work.”
“I am surprised that people do not know the work of SG,” said another member, Walusimbi, “Hon. Alice, do you remember the time you were SG the powers you had as SG?’”
Alaso responded: “The power I had was of SG, not EC and there is no need to compare because never did such a situation arise during my tenure. Comparison will divert us to individuals yet the issue is the mandate of the EC, NEC and NC.”
But the raging squabble yielded results. The party’s Electoral Commission shortly wrote a letter over the same issue.
The June 27 letter titled, structure development and refill in the new and mother administrative units, noted that the EC will develop guidelines, dates and a work plan for the exercise which will be presented to working committee and NEC for approval.
Question: Where was the FDC leadership to offer guidance out of this confusion? Was Nandala authorised to issue the notice? How did he arrive at the dates? Why would Nandala not clarify?
Some critics say as party president Muntu is not doing enough to put an end to this chaos but others feel that he doesn’t have a lot of options.
The fireworks over the June 24 Nandala letter are aftershocks of an acrimonious meeting of the party National Council in which Nandala’s defiance camp forced through a resolution with potentially dangerous consequences for Muntu. According to sources at the NC meeting at the party headquarters at Najjanankumbi in Kampala on June 16 and 17, Muntu even got teary as he was over-powered, over-ruled, and forced to accept resolutions to have the new district and constituency elections immediately. It is all about who will win the party presidential race in November. Apparently, Muntu will once again face off with Nandala who he defeated in 2012. In that election, Muntu grabbed 393 delegate votes, Nandala 361, and Geoffrey Ekanya 17.Nandala is determined to change that. And getting the votes of delegates from the new constituencies and districts; which could be well over 80, is part of the plan. It can also explain his exuberance and the teary protests from Gen. Muntu and Alice Alaso, who is now the Vice President Eastern.
Muntu is perhaps right that the party’s top administrative organ; the National Executive Committee (NEC), had agreed to put on hold filling the posts until after the November elections. But he was heckled when he reminded the NC of that decision.
Muntu wanted to focus on the upcoming delegates’ conference and election of party President. He said the party lacks resources for the elections and that the timing was wrong.
People want to be in those positions for personal interests, to vote their favorite candidates in the upcoming elections and that becomes problematic because people like that would abandon the offices after their goal is served, he said.
Party chairman Waswa Birigwa, announced that the party would be electing the district leaders immediately, among several other resolutions that the NC reached in utter disregard of Muntu.
Insiders say the decision almost brought the party president to tears.