News coming out the most recent regional meeting in Soroti indicates more bad news for Uganda’s largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change.
Part of the problem according to experts, is the refusal of the leaders, Dr Kizza Besigye and party President Mugisha Muntu to square with their members, admit there are divisions hurting the party, and find ways to resolve them.
One member of the party summed up the issue neatly.
“Are these people who are here for conflict resolution or usual comedy?” the official asked.
The member was contributing on the crucial question of why the party secretary general Nandala Mafabi and the party secretary for mobilization, Ingrid Turinawe defied the party president during the election of representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
The issue was a hot-potato because Nandala’s insistence on Turinawe as a duly nominated candidate is blamed for denying Florence Ibbi Ekwau, a daughter of Teso, the chance to become an MP of EALA.
Citing the Ingrid case, another attendee blamed the top party leaders for causing all the conflicts.
“We came and voted for our EALA flag bearer,” the official said, “but the party sent two. When the Party President wrote withdrawing the second candidate, the one we didn’t vote for, the SG opposed him.”
In response, Turinawe said she was dully nominated and thanked Mafabi for standing with her when Muntu tried to withdraw her name.
The party has been holding these retreats to assess the 2016 elections and manage the issues that have arisen out of the elections. The retreats also have a component of conflict management.
The party has so far held eight retreats but for some, the wrangles only seem to be worsening.
Going into the retreat, there was anxiety that such scenes would pop up. Many were tense about how members and leaders of the different camps in the party would relate to each other.
Soroti, being Muntu’s stronghold, Besigye’s supporters thought Muntu’s would use the opportunity to counter the hostility he faced at other retreats.
Indeed, supporters here questioned a lot of things. Some asked why the party has T-shirts of Besigye and not for the party. They asked why the song Toka Kwa Balabala, which praises an individual (Besigye) and not the party is sung at official party functions.
Because Alice Alaso, the former party SG, who is also a Muntu supporter, was the chairperson of the retreat, some in Besigye’s camp claimed that she had dictated what questions should be asked and who should ask questions them. In the end, they claimed, she picked only Muntu’s supporters. In defence of Alaso, another official who attended, said the former SG had allowed everyone to write their questions on a piece of paper and allowed all district chairpersons to ask questions.
The hostility that has dominated the party was also heavily felt even though the party leaders tried to be cordial to each other, sources said.
“Most defiance campaigners were not comfortable at a retreat organised by Alaso,” one attendee noted.
Stakes are high as some party leaders ready to challenge Gen. Mugisha Muntu over the post of party presidency. The election slated for November this year, insiders say, threatens to widen rifts within the party.