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Muntu’s next move

Supporters say he kept FDC together, now they want him to exit and lead a new political organ. Will he?

Kampala, Uganda | AGATHER ATUHAIRE | Supporters of opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party stalwart, Mugisha Muntu, recently held their last lap of consultations in Busoga region and finalised with a retreat in Kamuli.

The Independent has learnt that a major decision was reached – to leave FDC and form a new party.

Following the Kamuli meeting, on Aug.7 in Kampala, 25 FDC legislators met and resolved to reject positions in a shadow cabinet expected to be announced by the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ochan.

They also agreed not to make monthly contributions to the party,to form a pressure group in parliament and recruit more members into it, and support and campaign for independent candidate Kassiano Wadri in Arua Municipality.

The decisions of those two meetings and others mean that as Gen. Mugisha Muntu approaches his 60th birthday, he faces what might be the best opportunity but equally the toughest decision of his career in politics.

Muntu must decide whether to calm down –again- those pushing to quit FDC or lead the exodus and start a new political formation with them.

Pressure is mounting and even Muntu who has the patience of an ox, is finding it hard to remain still. Insiders say he is traversing the country in one last consultations push before he makes the big announcement.

The Kasese Municipality MP Robert Centenary told The Independent that the group realise they have two options; either to rebrand FDC and find a middle ground or to form a platform of like-minded people and engage an overdrive gear and go back to the grassroots.

“I don’t see the first option, which would be our first call, happening because there is no will. So we will still harmonise our views on the next move,” he said, “While some want a new party, some of us want another kind of platform which will accommodate everyone from all groups including FDC.”

Centenary said their biggest disagreements are over approach and `Besigyeism’ in the FDC.

“Some members in FDC think they are the only ones with the formula to defeat Museveni. They do not want to hear any other alternative. When you challenge Besigye in FDC you become an adversary,” he said.

“We have worked on the Muntu project for too long,” another Muntu diehard told The Independent on conditions of anonymity, “POA’s decision has hurt all our allies and they cannot remain unhappy and unguided. There are many political actors. The fear is that if we delay too much, another political actor can emerge and seize the moment. But it is up to Gen. Muntu to judge if the time is now.”

POA is short for Patrick OboiAmuriat, the man who succeeded Muntu as FDC president and recently shuffled opposition leadership in parliament in a move that has estranged the majority of opposition leaders. Many see it as a purge of Muntu supporters.

In anguish, these legislators have been holding meetings— which insiders say, mainly centre on how best and safely to quit the FDC and forge ahead under Muntu’s leadership.

Both the mood and the numbers appear favourable to Muntu but some in the group are insisting that the timing is not right; that quitting FDC now and establishing another political formation might be premature.

Insiders add that the group will not form a political party immediately because doing so would mean losing seats in parliament since the law provides that once a legislator quits a party on whose ticket they were voted, they lose their seats. As such, the plan is to have a pressure group akin to the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO), which legislators formed in the seventh parliament. PAFO later merged with Reform Agenda to form FDC.

For now, the pressure group is intended to be a mobilisation outfit for legislator that builds momentum until 2020, when they can form a political party. The Constitutional amendment Act of 2015, amended article 83 (1) (h) to allow members to cross the floor of Parliament a year to election.

Well-placed sources in Muntu’s camp say all seems on course. Apart from the over 25 FDC MPs already on board, the recruitment of the Independent candidates is said to have already yielded results.

A well-placed source told The Independent, that Muntu’s group is in talks with Independent MPs with Ntungamo municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga coordinating and about nine have so far confirmed. The Jinja East MP Paul Mwiru is spearheading the registration process. The group is also testing out some names for the new organisation.

There are currently 38 FDC MPs parliament. Most of the 25 MPs in Muntu’s camp breaking away would leave FDC with 13 and declining if Muntu’s camp maintains momentum up to the next elections. Muntu is also said to be favoured by some of the 66 Independents who failed to join FDC because of the dominating shadow of Besigye.

But it is the latest reshuffle that has strengthened the group’s resolve to find their footing. In that reshuffle, Betty Aol Ochan, replaced Winnie Kizza as the Leader of Opposition; Budadiri West MP NandalaMafabi replaced Angelina Ossege as the leader of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC); Kawempe South MP, Mubarak Munyagwa replaced Bugweri County MP, Abdul Katuntu as the new chairman Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Entreprises (COSASE), and Moses Kasibante, the Lubaga North MP as his deputy.

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