Many people, including President Obote who knew and liked Muntu, were surprised and perplexed. But many of Museveni’s rebels were equally disgruntled contemporaries of his at Makerere, among other politically conscious Ugandans who felt the state of affairs in their country had taken a wrong turn.
Five years later, the NRA took power in 1986 with Muntu among its elite.
NRM reacts to Muntu
While his unusual positions appeal to many people, they have equally led many to be suspicious of Muntu’s motives. He has often been branded a mole; first for the Obote government when he left the comfort in the UPC corridors of power to join Museveni’s rag-tag rebels in Luwero and later he was branded a Museveni government mole when he rejected a ministerial position in the government to join the opposition FDC.
Muntu cannot now be a “mole” in a party he has founded. But the NRM appears determined to maintain that suspicion; first by treating Muntu different to other politicians and pushing a knife between him and them.
When asked to comment on the new party and Muntu, NRM Deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong told The Independent that The Alliance will have to deal with how it is perceived and received in the political arena. He portrayed it as a splinter of FDC which must now deal with the fallout from the separation.
“It is a breakaway from FDC. The first line of engagement will be FDC,” he said, “We see a lot of tension between them and the FDC. The FDC is fighting to retain its numbers. So those who are breaking away; there will definitely be something between the two parties.”
“Second is how the other opposition parties will view him,” he added, “The third is how Muntu and his party will mobilise and marshal themselves against the might of NRM.”
As a leader of FDC, Muntu was criticised by those within the party who preach “defiance” of the government and measure the strength of a leader by how confrontational they are.
Muntu’s cool and calm approach was viewed with suspicion especially when he was treated with some sympathy by state authorities and those in NRM. The view still holds and could be deliberately used to discredit him. Around the party launch, for instance, the attitude of the police which has been blocking all other opposition party activity appeared odd.
On May 13, the Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga issued a statement clearing The Alliance for a promoters meeting scheduled for May 21 and the launch the day after.
The third paragraph in the statement is what could have riled members of FDC even more. “We want to welcome and assure the intending participants that their safety at both events is guaranteed. We would also like to praise their efforts of the organisers for their peaceful engagement.”
Muntu has always had the support of moderates and those who feel alienated by the belligerence of both NRM and FDC. However, to what extent the moderates take him will prove critical for how far he can go. As voters, moderates have been known to be passive participants in the political process. Within parties; NRM, FDC, DP or UPC, the moderates have been overshadowed by their hardline members; FDC MPs like Angelline Osegge, Herbert Ariko, Elijah Okupa, Paul Mwiru all moderates and known Muntu sympathisers are easily out-elbowed by Mubarak Munyagwa, Semujju Nganda, Francis Mwijukye, and Odonga Otto.
It is, therefore, unclear how Muntu and the new Alliance will relate with other political players; especially the opposition FDC leader Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Kizza Besigye.
A few days after Muntu lost the FDC presidency to Patrick Amuriat in November 2017, he started schmoozing with Bobi Wine. Since Muntu is not locked on being on the presidential ballot come 2021, it is believed by some that he could easily back Bobi Wine, who holds the momentum now.
What makes the coalition more possible is that Bobi Wine is already in talks with the DP bloc of Norbert Mao, Michael Mabikke of the Social Democrats Party (SDP) and Abed Bwanika of the People’s Development Party (PDP). Besides, Muntu has already been working with these groups since he began his countrywide consultations, just before The Alliance was formed.
It also remains to be seen how he plays on the big stage; especially at IPOD. Frank Rusa, the Executive Secretary of IPOD says though that Muntu will have to prove the mettle of his party by having representatives in parliament before The Alliance can join IPOD. But many things are possible for people like Muntu who appear logical and unemotional and not confrontational.