A party of values
Muntu’s quiet strength is matched by The Alliance’s chief strategist, whom they refer to as a convener, Alice Alaso.
Alaso who was Soroti District Woman MP before becoming Serere Distrct Woman MP and a former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) secretary general, is a born-again Christian with firm political positions and very opinionated. But she exudes calmness.
Together with Muntu, Alaso supports the same old approach- building platforms where different leaders can be groomed as opposed to an obsession with who the leader is. Although some observers think that this approach is either vague or unambitious about holding power, the moment to test its appeal among Ugandans has now arrived.
As Alaso coordinated all the promoters of The Alliance, the people who championed the new party, most preferred to remain in the background, perhaps afraid of reprisals.
When Muntu spoke to The Independent, he appeared to directly speak to them when he said he wants good Ugandans to actively join politics and be agents of the change they want to see.
“We appeal to those who understand our reasoning that there is no magic or other formula other than ensuring that the good people in any organisation being the dominant force,” he said.
He added: “The character and identity of the party we want to build is based on values. Due to the political challenges we have faced as a society, all those values have been eroded and the moral fabric has broken down. We have to go through a recovery process focusing on those values. When we have more leaders subscribing to such and practicing them, we will see good governance”.
He said the current government has not paid attention to values in the politics and focused instead on physical things; building power lines, bridges, roads.
Muntu says physical things are important and necessary but corruption free politics, honesty, transparency, unity, and equality before the law, fairness and justice, are more important.
Muntu told The Independent that The Alliance was formed on the premise of re-instilling values and ideals into Uganda political and social life. He says its members want to avoid confrontational politics, intrigue, and personality cults in parties. He says these are the matters that drove him out of FDC.
When Muntu says The Alliance will emphasise building structures from the grassroots, he is echoing an abstraction that put him at odds with a strong faction of his former party.
Mainly because of such views, respected by many, understood by few is a dictum that best describes Muntu. The 61-year old has been in the thick of Ugandan politics virtually all his life, but he remains a puzzle.
Before he officially launched The Alliance on May 22, Muntu had run the gamut of Ugandan politics. He was just 31-years old when he became commander of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF).
He went onto be a member of the Constituent Assembly that wrote the 1995 constitution and an army representative in Parliament until 2001 when he moved to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) based in Arusha, Tanzania. Muntu joined a political pressure group, Reform Agenda, which in 2004 morphed into the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the dominant opposition party.
Muntu retired from the army in 2004 and went on to serve as president of the FDC from 2012 to 2017 and now he is the main “promoter” as The Alliance leaders prefer to be called.
Early political consciousness
Muntu’s complexity first surfaced in 1981 when he was a student at Makerere University Kampala. This was in the immediate post-1979 liberation period that saw former military president, Gen. Idi Amin Dada ousted and the return of Milton Obote as president following the disputed 1980 elections.
Muntu, as vice president of the outgoing university students’ guild government, was heavily involved in the campaign of the incoming students’ guild at a time when university student leaders played a major role in national politics under the National Union of Students of Uganda (NUSU).
The candidate Muntu favoured won, but a powerful group of students who were ruling Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) functionaries and with the backing of the new government installed one of their own, causing chaos and confusion.
Muntu belonged to the top echelons of UPC by way of his parents; Enock Ruzima Muntuyera and Aida Matama Muntuyera who were powerful state functionaries and close confidants of President Obote. Many people were, therefore, surprised that he broke ranks and led students into a demonstration against the party-imposed guild leaders.
He was just a 23-year-old political science student, but Muntu was already brimming with democratic ideals. He was astonished by the level of arbitrariness that the new Obote government had reached.
And more surprises were coming for Muntu watchers as he “went to the bush” – in 1981- as joining the National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels of Yoweri Museveni fighting Obote’s government from the jungles of Luweero was called.