In many ways, Muntu whom Amuriat defeated, was the establishment figure- he was FDC president, a former army commander and with many other enviable credentials. To cap it, the radical or activist members of the party backed Amuriat while Muntu enjoyed the support of liberals or moderates who appeared to have the momentum.
But Betty Ocan, Gulu Woman MP, says she was always unconvinced by talk of Muntu that “FDC is not ready for power”.
“If you have a leader who tells you that you are not ready for power, what does that leader mean? It is sad that we are having a leader who is telling us that we are not yet ready for power,” she said.
In her district, Ocan says she does not see the impact of building grassroots that the former party president Muntu was known for.
“Communities should feel the presence of the party, she says. “Muntu showed fear when it came to confronting police. If you fear you can never move. These are activities that should be directed by the party president.”
Muntu was branded a mole by his opponents in FDC and some analysts say the fact that he often addressed the issue gave it undue attention. A few days to the election, Muntu took to social media to address the issue for the umpteenth time.
“I am a founding member of FDC. In fact, I was one of the people that got the party registered. Once we had done this, we went around recruiting members. It was us that insisted on having Dr. Besigye as our presidential candidate in 2001. Is this what moles do?” he wondered on his Twitter page. The suspicion had even extended to some supporters of Muntu.
Ebokorait told The Independent while at Namboole that Muntu lost because he did not functionalise the structures he talked about.
“Muntu says he built structures but it does not help you if do not functionalise them,” Ebokorait said, “Amuriat has promised to transfer expenditure to district branches, he wants to spread this money to the grassroots.”
Ebokorait says Muntu was also punished for FDC loss of ground in parliament under his watch.
“We used to have more than 36 MPs in the house and then we had less constituencies then. We are moving backwards,” Ebokorait said. He added that there was no way FDC could reclaim the victory it notched in the 2016 presidential elections while Muntu is president.
Some observers say Amuriat won partly because FDC members desired a shift from the western axis of power in the country. Besigye, Muntu and other elderly politicians in the party, some being founding members all hail from the western part of Uganda. Some of these include Augustine Ruzindana, Amanya Mushega. Even though he is yet to build a national profile, those who voted Amuriat believe in the symbolic power of having a party president from the eastern part of the country.
Supporters of Amuriat hold it against Muntu for serving a complete five year term instead of finishing out the remaining three years of what was Kizza Besigye’s term when he retired unexpectedly in 2012.
Other party members attributed Muntu’s loss to a seeming invisibility while others say his lukewarm embrace of defiance did not help matters. Although Muntu sometimes chaired meetings that prepared defiance activities in the party’s National Executive Committee, he was severally accused of not walking the talk.
Meanwhile, Ebokorait who comes from the same district as his new party president, Amuriat, is optimistic because the new FDC leader has promised better management of party finances. He was unhappy that the Delegates’ Conference to elect the party president cost a whopping Shs400 million.
Commenting on the election, Abdul Katuntu, MP for Bugweri County and a supporter of Muntu said: “I don’t believe in the politics of throwing mud because the other person is doing that. Some people believe in that but I think it is unfortunate. But this is Amuriat’s victory we cannot take it away from him, he deserves it and for now we shall lie low.”
Brian Atuheire, a youth delegate and supporter of Amuriat told The Independent shortly before voting took place that whoever wins the election, they should know that they are dealing with a dictator. “As a youth leader, I want someone who will push this regime so that 2021 finds a very assertive population.”
One of Amuriat’s stated objectives is to serve for a three year term instead of one of five. This would enable the party save enormous amounts of money spent in calling a delegates’ conference for election of party president alone.
With his plan to bow out in 2020, FDC under Amuriat will find itself in familiar territory with Besigye as the most likely option for flag-bearer in 2021. The party is once again facing criticism for perpetuating ‘Besigyeism’, a criticism it always levels at NRM, the ruling party where the position for party flag-bearer is sacrosanct. With Muntu now as a diminished political figure in the party, it is very unlikely that he will consider running as a candidate for FDC flag-bearer in the next presidential election.
Although FDC usually prides itself in being an exemplar of internal democracy among Uganda’s political parties, its critics are wondering whether this internal democracy still counts for something if it always churns out Besigye as its flag-bearer. In 2020, FDC will certainly hold primaries for flag-bearer but some observers are wondering whether there will be anyone in the near future who can dare to stand against Besigye now that Muntu is down and out, let alone defeat him in the race for presidential candidate.
As the voices of Muntu’s supporters are drowned out, Amuriat and his strong backers face a stern test of building party structures while maintaining a defiance approach with a party leader whose face and name are hardly recognisable.