By Bob Roberts Katende
The path to the Democratic Party offices on William Street in the heart of the city is not inviting, to be honest. The scene doesnt match headquarters of the countrys oldest political party. One has to snake through cooking stoves with people seated on either side of the walk way or to put it simply moving through a makeshift restaurant.
Once in the office, portraits of the partys leaders since its inception hang on the wall. They include Paul Ssemogerere, Ben Kiwanuka and Ssebaana Kizito, the current president general of the party. Its only Ssebaana’s portrait that stands out from the rest. In the picture, Ssebaana invites attention with a huge smile. But thats where his command and attention end. Today he presides over a divided house where his own pronouncements are scorned.
On December 29 last year, Mathias Nsubuga, the defiant DP Secretary General (SG), convened a National Council meeting (NC) at Bukasa on the outskirts of Kampala to discuss the date and venue of the party’s Delegates Conference. Ssebaana assured the members who doubted Nsubugaâ€™s legitimacy. As far as I am concerned court granted the stay of execution of the court order and that the status quo should remain.â€ According to Ssebaana this meant Nsubuga would remain the SG. But DPs Legal Adviser Erias Lukwago says the status quo which court upheld, was the annulment of Nsubuga’s election and the takeover by his deputy Lulume Bayiga.
His support for Nsubuga has polarised the party faithful. Some want him to resign for allegedly defying the court order and being divisive. A meeting of DP members in Budaka recently joined those calling for Ssebaana’s resignation. But at Bukasa, Ssebaana told members he would not cling to the party leadership. He said he was only waiting for the Delegates Conference so that he hands over power. Absent at the Bukasa meeting, was the DP National Chairman Prof. Mukiibi who heads a faction that comprises Lukwago and Lulume Bayiga, Betty Nambooze and Sarah Kanyike. Lukwago says he was out of the country on sick leave but added: â€œEven if was around my conscience would not permit me to attend.
At the Bukasa meeting, Gulu LCV chairman Norbert Mao took a swipe at Prof. Mukiibi whom he regarded as untrustworthy. Mao said he had spoken to Mukiibi days before and agreed to attend the meeting as a sign of burying the schisms for the sake of the party.
Issa Kikungwe is fundraising for the hosting of the Delegates ConferenceÂ due on February 18 in Mbale. Lukwago says, â€œI appreciate Kikungwe’s fundraising skills but legally he has to get authorisation from NEC.â€
The DP constitution says no public appeals for funds shall be made for the party except with the approval of NEC.
Lukwago says, I have never attended a meeting where Kikungwe was elected chairman of a financial committee to collect money for the party.
This internal wrangling over the legitimacy of the Bukasa meeting has compelled six party members to petition court to block the Delegates Conference organised by Nsubuga until the case challenging his election is disposed of.Â
Is Ssebaana divisive?
First it was Lulume Bayiga who accused Ssebaana of siding with Nsubuga to install himself as the secretary general. The DP members in Budaka have called for his resignation saying he is the source of the confusion in the party. Ssebaana is a signatory to party cards that are sold by both Kikungwe and Bayiga. When Kikungwe said that all the money from the party card sales which he had banked on the partyâ€™s account was allegedly withdrawn by Bayiga and the National Treasurer Sarah Kanyike, Ssebaana supported the proposal that another account be opened. He reasoned that this was not the first time the party was operating two accounts. However, the NEC meeting sitting at Pope Paul in Ndeeba on January 15 directed Bayiga to write to all banks stopping the opening of any account in DPâ€™s names.
Young verses old?
Probably another challenge DP is facing is the emerging influence of the youth wing- Uganda Young Democrats (UYD).
â€œMost old members are against this change in the leadership of the party,â€ says Samuel Muyizzi, the UYD Secretary General. But the DP spokeswoman Betty Nambooze disagrees. â€œThere is no generational struggle in the party.â€ UYDâ€™s National Chairman Kenneth Kakande says the youth wing supports Norbert Mao, While other are divided between Ssebagala and Sam Lubega, other party presidential hopefuls.
DP has a chance to shake off the tribal card it has been alleged to be playing since its founding. The party is accused of having the top echelons of the party from one region- Buganda.Â DP managed to silence critics who were saying the party was for CatholicsÂ alone when Ssebaana, a protestant, was elected the partyÂ president in 2005. Mao seems to be playing a tribalÂ card. At the meeting in Bukasa, Mao seized the moment to campaign.Â â€œMany people have been saying a non-Muganda cannot be DP president. But we have an opportunity to shame all those who say so by electing me to head the party.â€
Despite the different factions in DP, they are unanimous on the need to discuss joining the interparty cooperation. Lukwago believes DP cannot live in isolation. You have no choice but to consolidate your efforts and deal with the stumbling block who is Museveni. The challenge of the day is to usher in change and the overriding factor is agende. But Nambooze says there’s need to first put their house in order before joining the interparty cooperation. Time seems to be running out for DP. As other parties presidential aspirants are traversing the country canvassing support, DP executives are devouring each other on who should lead the party.