The battle that shouldn’t have been fought
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | “I bring to this race 25 solid years of political activism; I bring new energy that is currently lacking in the party. And I belong to the ideology of defiance.”
With such words, former Kumi Municipality lawmaker, Patrick Amuriat, who was campaigning to become the leader of Uganda’s biggest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), marked himself as a blunt talker who prides in acting tough.
But the man he wanted to kick out, Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, is equally tough-talking. He also likes to throw up his credentials, especially of fighting for democracy, “all my life”.
“When I was 23,” the former army commander says, “I went to the bush and we took power. Unfortunately, Museveni lost track.”
He also sticks to the philosophy of his camp in the party – the so-called “Organisations’, which is “building institutions and systems”.
“That is my expertise,” he said.
Amuriat belongs to the `defiance camp’ of the party that has been pushing to oust Muntu and his so-called `organisation camp’.
Listening to Muntu and Amuriat during the FDC presidential debate on Nov.19 at Sharing Hall Nsambya in Kampala, it became clear that the ongoing fight between the two warring camps and not the ideas of the candidates, would determine the party’s next president.
Part of the reason is that Amuriat, who had only gone up the party’s ranks recently, should really not have been serious competition for the incumbent president, who has been its chief mobiliser and was central to FDC’s founding.
But Amuriat’s candidature has been heavily boosted by what many see as support from the party’s top honcho, former president Kizza Besigye. Another main Amuriat campaigner is FDC mobiliser Ingrid Turinawe, who is very close to Besigye and a key member of the defiance camp. Another contender also seen as a Besigye loyalist, legislator Mubarak Munyagwa even stepped out of the race to throw his weight (if any) behind Amuriat.
In a Whatsapp message on one of the group’s platforms in March this year, Amuriat vowed to “uproot” from the party anyone who opposes Besigye.
Amuriat’s mission appears to kick out Muntu and make way for Besigye to have a fifth shot at challenging Museveni on the FDC ticket in 2021. Under the party constitution, Muntu can still contest to be flag-bearer but a loss of the party presidency will have weakened him. On the other hand, Besigye can still challenge Muntu for the flag-bearer ticket, but Muntu will be energised by defeating Amuriat.
Observers say while Besigye left the party leadership in 2012, he has remained in a struggle for its control by throwing up contenders to challenge Muntu who replaced him.