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Inside defections of FDC big wigs to NRM

Ruranga’s defection to NRM should not be looked at in isolation given this era of political opportunism

It’s almost three weeks since former FDC strongman, Maj Rubaramira Ruranga returned to the NRM folds. Many commentators remarked spitefully to his defection. Some of the comments and media reaction even emasculated the defection out of proportion.

Maj Rubaramira is a seventy years old man whose political clout has long diminished. His return to NRM was non-political, going by his explanation and should be treated as a mere “homecoming”. For many of us, his return to NRM also signified his exit from active politics into focusing on HIV/Aids struggle. I must hasten to state that the record of Maj Rubaramira as some wishy-washy old man who is swayed by a scintilla of opportunity was prominent.

FDC officials claimed that the departure of Rubaramira would not hurt their prospects or alter their political desires. I agree. However, some of the media reactions to Maj Rubaramira’s “defection” were mostly uncalled for. Others have reiterated that the Major is a spent political force, and since he was not holding any elective position within FDC, his departure had zero sum effect.

Discussing the “defection” of Maj Rubaramira as an individual in this era of political opportunism will only conceal the overarching patterns of political defections generally. I think as members of the public, we have to discuss the totality of defections, whether that is injurious to our reputation as leaders or not.

This article examines defections patterns in Maj Rubaramira’s former Party – FDC. The confusions currently prevailing in FDC can be traced to the divisive politics during its recent past elections. Major Rubaramira’s politics emphasized a sense of absolute entitlement, rather than promoting social justice, equity and the will of the voters. We now know that such politics also undermines speedy reconciliation after electioneering stress.

To understand defections within FDC quarters, it is important to understand FDC’s history and the nature of its dominant membership. FDC is a merger between Reform Agenda and Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO).

Most of the drivers of this organization were former NRM ideologues and henchmen in various capacities. Their political ideals were interlaced with militarism and “liberation” attitudes as the mainstay of their ideologies. Ethnically, being from western Uganda and membership in the former NRA were intractable advantages for one to enjoy power and privileges in this Party. Irrespective of its growing national character, the FDC has evolved from the motherboard of original NRM ideology. As conservatives, they aspire to retain these original ideals.

The central argument that most current players in FDC fronted for leaving the mother Party was that it had swayed off its initial ideological stream. Whatever that translates for FDC members like Leader of Opposition Nathan Nandala Mafabi with no roots in the original NRM Party has become increasingly clear.

Nonetheless, the Party was able to attract to its senior ranks, those who would not have otherwise joined the original NRM with Museveni at the helm. Perhaps, talking to the likes of Hon Cecilia Ogwal, Hon Reagan Okumu, etc who valiantly opposed the original NRM could evince new insights. It may reveal that they had real problems with the unreliable person in President Museveni than the original NRM, or its current hybrid NRMO Party.

To conceptualize defections happening now in FDC and to those, yet at the brink, we have to look beyond the financial and power clouts that these defections may imply on the surface. In my analysis, it is more to do with the sense of absolute entitlement to power that drive these defections – not mere lack of Party structure – as Maj Rubaramira wants us to believe.

Obviously, those who defect from NRM to FDC endure a simple change of political positioning without a change in ideology. For them, FDC is like a ground to reinvent their political relevance once they realize major erosion in their political appeal. FDC provides them with that instant platform to reinvent; to become visible and relevant, politically.

We know that most FDC King-pins are authors of ensuing bad governance of the regime that they now criticize. In the 80s and 90s, they primed up the regime, legitimized it and participated actively in developing draconian laws to stifle dissent. The original NRM was very militaristic and intolerant of opposition.

We still remember running battles in the 90s when the military police would indiscriminately fire live bullets at demonstrating students. Scores of students were murdered in cold blood during demonstrations. These tendencies are still visible today with the hybrid NRMO which has diversified its instruments of coercion to include poison, colored water sprinklers, tear gas and of course, live bullets.

Therefore, Maj Rubaramira, like others, will come and return to the NRM fold since they are all driven by this sense of absolute entitlement to power rather than principles. For them, NRM and FDC are like two houses built on the same compound by the same architect.

The differences lie in their spatial locations and composition of their occupants at a given time. With that proximity, I foresee more defections and that should be treated as normal. After-all, we all turn in our sleep!

Mr. Komakech is a Ugandan political analyst based in Toronto. Can contact via

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