By Edgar Tushabe Muhairwe
When the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) launched its Policy Agenda on March 9at the Kampala Serena International Conference Centre, tongues started wagging at the brand the party had become.
Many analysts said they admired the new “method of work” and predicted that it could be a game changer in the politics of the country. Some party members, however, were unhappy about the organisation of the conference. Soon the Policy Agenda launch became yet another battleground for the “I follow Besigye” and the “I follow Muntu” camps in the party.
As people exited the hall, an elderly man we have not identified was overheard grumbling about how, Kizza Besigye, the former party president, who up to this day is seen as the father of the party was not given chance to speak.
“How can our founding father come to such a function and you don’t even allow him to say hello and wave to the people? How can you allow him to just sit like others and join in just clapping hands?” this visibly upset elder rambled.
A close source told The Independent that Besigye had not seen the paper until he was given one “like others” as the function proceeded.
At the conference, the moderator, Meshach Nuwabiine, had announced that there would be the unveiling of the Policy agenda to the masses on March 14 at Nakivubo Stadium and that Besigye and KCCA Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago would attend.
On the set date, however, none of these showed up. In fact, only about 100 people were in Nakivubo. No member of parliament from Buganda was present. Only Paul Mwiru, Alice Alaso; the secretary general, and Angela Osege were present. Other than Muntu, the only prominent none-parliamentarian who attended was, Augustine Ruzindana.
Coincidentally, Besigye and the Women’s League on that same day had a breathtaking show in Bugiri district in a bid to popularize the Mama Kits, and campaign for the LC5 candidate.
Vocal FDC youth activist and national secretary of the National Association of the Unemployed (NAU), Brian Atuheire, blames Muntu for the low turn up. He says he has failed to use the opportunity to ride on Besigye’s fame and is instead concentrating on trying to ride parallel to the former president.
“Besigye left big shoes, if Muntu was to fill them, he should have identified himself with Besigye and united they build a formidable front. The opposition’s base in Uganda is largely the destitute. They have nothing to hold on to and see Besigye as their leader. Muntu is trying to court the undecided middle class. But those people are very selfish and are not willing to let go of what they have.”
He insists that the middle class in Uganda is very small and cannot be relied upon to deliver a candidate to State House because they fear the consequence of losing their meager livelihoods.
“In Uganda, a middle class person can be a destitute in a week’s time once he falls out of grace with the regime,” Atuheire says. As a consequence, Muntu’s clandestine entry into Nakivubo could only yield just about 100 people, Atuheire says.
But party vice chairman for the FDC Youth League in the Buganda region, Rajab Kaaya Sema, defends Muntu’s quiet methods of work. He says Muntu is not populist and works underground. “The party president does not have to cause a storm if he is going to address a rally in Nakivubo. He does not need a convoy of motorcades and street boys to feel important. He has been a general and army commander and he is no longer excited about some things,” he says.
Atuheire says people around Muntu do not have the spirit of volunteerism as used to be under Besigye times. He alleges for example, that the person who drew the budget of the campaign for grassroots structures was himself paid Shs10 million by the party. To him, this is wastage since other members could have done the same work free of charge.
Two days after the Serena Conference event, Besigye was at the FDC head office at Najjanankumbi to launch the Mama Deliver Kit for expecting mothers. This is an initiative of the FDC Women’s League headed by Ingrid Turinawe, famous for her gripping drama in the days of Walk-to-Work. Here, it was easy to notice Besigye’s overbearing presence.
Unlike at the Serena Conference, Besigye received a rousing welcome with his “Toka kwa balabala” 2011 campaign song and he took to frenzy dancing with the women and others present. Muntu was present and duly flagged off the activity. But the usual point was not missed.
It is also said that sometime in mid-February, when youths who support Besigye visited him at his home in Kasangati, one of them told him of a ploy by some party members to resist his candidature for the FDC flag in 2016.
But Besigye assured them it was impossible.
“I can just walk into Namboole and pick nomination forms. Am sure I can get enough signatures to make me flag-bearer even if the delegates were his,” he reportedly said.
As Muntu and company run all over the country mobilizing support for the party, there is anticipation that the Besigye group plans to unveil a grand plan to boycott the 2016 polls.
In this plan, to be unveiled towards April, Besigye wants to resort to new forms of protest that he hopes will either force the regime to grant electoral reforms or make it impossible to hold an election.
This plan might push the two leaders away from each since the Muntu group has also vehemently sworn never to boycott an election. Muntu and Besigye might either miss the points of tiff being amplified by their supporters or merely dismiss them as trivial. After all, on occasions when they have been together, the two leaders are cordial to each other. In Kyambogo University late last year, Besigye bought a gift at auction at Shs400,000 and offered it to Muntu. In Luweero district, at a grassroots mobilisation rally, Besigye bought items on auction from women’s group and offered them to his party president. At a similar function in Isingiro in February, Besigye bought footballs and handed them over to Muntu to donate them to children. Maybe all is not lost yet.