By Edgar Tushabe Muhairwe
Opposition party needs Shs1 billion for grassroots campaign
Opposition Forum for Democratic Change President, Mugisha Muntu is traversing western Uganda in preparation for his party’s grassroots elections. But there appears to be a problem. No money.
On Feb. 03, John Kikonyogo, the party’s spokesperson while addressing journalists at the weekly party media briefing hinted that the party plans to use Shs1 billion on its grassroots campaign for the Delegates Conference.
The party needs money to run grassroots’ campaigns, organise workshops, and hold rallies and any other activities. It sometimes depends on non cash assistance from its members for office space, fuel, public address systems, and vehicles for the parties programmes.
But the lack of money has spurned numerous views, mainly blame, and a few suggestions.
Muntu himself has said that as the party drives towards 2016, it will require a lot of money which it may not have at the moment. But, Muntu has pledged, “If ever the time comes and there is no money for our sustenance, you can hold me accountable.”
So what is his secret plan?
He surely is not banking on revenue collected internally by selling party cards, subscription from its members in the Ugandan parliament and the regional East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), and personal contributions from friends of the party. After all, he has in the past, said such sources are not dependable.
“Most people find it easier to contribute to weddings and funerals the year round than contributing to sustained political party activities, ” Gen Muntu said to; The Africa in fact; journal of good governance in Africa.
The party has in the past got funding from international organisations that are interested in the promotion and deepening of democracy like Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
But Muntu would be keenly aware that donor funds possibly frustrated his predecessor; Besigye. In his book “Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s unfinished revolution” Daniel Kalinaki narrates an acrimonious meeting between Besigye and members of the diplomatic community at the Irish Ambassador’s residence. The donors castigated Besigye as a “bitter loser” and might have led Besigye to give up the leadership of the FDC.
The FDC also does not have investments from which it can collect rent or profit.
Meanwhile, prominent party members continue to accuse Muntu’s leadership of failing to raise money in the way for FDC boss Kizza Besigye did.
Some leaders; Jack Sabiiti and Nandala Mafabi, the party treasurer-general and the deputy treasurer-general respectively resigned their positions from the party leadership citing lack of money in the party coffers.
Muntu to blame
The Aruu County MP Odonga Otto told The Independent that Muntu is to blame for the party’s lack of money because he appointed members to party positions when they do not contribute money.
“Even when the party resolved that those who were not paying subscription fees like Reagan Okumu should not be given any position but because of the weaknesses of the party president, he picked those people and gave them sensitive positions like the Parliamentary Commission. So you see that that there is a personality disorder.”
But Augustine Ruzindana, the FDC deputy secretary-general in charge of research and policy, blames it on the government.
“In such countries where the military is a significant political player, the opposition cannot have space for mobilization, recruitment of members and fundraising,” he says.
Muntu agrees. He says such government behavior pushes those unsatisfied with it to shun politics.
“They fear being ostracized. The government and its state structures have made it very costly for an ordinary Ugandan to fund our activities. It is understandable because that’s how failed regimes operate worldwide.”
Besigye, the former president of the party, alleges that government has a desk in the Internal Security Organization (ISO) that monitors businesses closely related to opposition.
However, Sabiiti Makara, a political science don at Makerere University, says FDC should blame its failure to raise money on lack of a message.
“The problem with the opposition is that they are whining about money as if it is the beginning and the end. The FDC needs to package their message better and people will fund them regardless of the government’s machinery.”
“There is not a time the opposition in an African country will garner more money than the incumbent, “ Makara cautions, “this is because in Africa, the prospect of change is still very bleak and investors would most likely be inclined to fund the ruling regime than the opposition.”
He adds: “The cost of funding an opposition candidate in Africa is high, both for the local funders and the foreign.”
Therefore, he says, the opposition needs to give the populace enough hope for them to risk their investments. Although this is a very big factor in effecting political change, it has not happened, according to Makara. Makara says FDC should also mind the changing demographics.
Fredrick Golooba Mutebi; a social researcher and political commentator concurs that FDC needs to package their message better and offer alternative policy statements.
“Money is not everything in politics. If the masses believe in you, the elite, middle class will bring in the money. No one wants to be on the weak side.”
As he traverses the country side, Muntu remains firm.
“For all these years we have been in opposition, a number of Ugandans have given their lives to this struggle and sacrificed their businesses and risked ostracisation, but they have not given up. But even in cases of financial distress, Ugandans have never been inadequate in the quest for good governance. Whether we have money or not, we must move forward,” he says.