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Will Besigye, Muntu face-off bruise FDC?

By Joshua Masinde

For the second time round, the race for Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party flag-bearer is between Kizza Besigye and Mugisha Muntu.

There have been claims that the contest is likely to divide FDC support, especially as it comes so close to the election year 2011.

The two, who were nominated at the party National Executive Committee convention on Jan. 12 in Kampala, have a three months campaign period before voters decide their fate in April.

They first contested against each other for the party presidency at Namboole Stadium last year. That incident was viewed by scenic as mere window-dressing and Besigye easily trounced Muntu with a landslide victory. He garnered 656 votes against Muntu’s miserable 53 votes.

Pundits are proclaiming, however, that things could be very different this April.

There are claims of division between the old-guard in FDC who support Besigye and the young generation, who favour Mugisha Muntu as they feel he is likely to bring new force and more members and support aboard the party that has been trying to dislodge NRM from power since 2006.

But FDC spokesman Wafula Oguttu says such thinking is misguided. He says that about 65 percent of FDC members are the young generation and they support Besigye as much as some of the old-guard supports Mugisha Muntu. Hence it is a two way game plan of democracy, he says.

Although, Mugisha Muntu, who is the party secretary for mobilisation, has never projected any formidable challenge against Kizza Besigye, he is viewed by some as a strategist who is looking beyond the 2011 presidential poll and the end of Kizza Besigye’s reign.

Muntu’s main concern, according to this camp, could be aiming to replace Besigye when his term expires.

Though, it seems highly unlikely that Mugisha Muntu can floor Besigye for the presidential flag bearer’s position, Oguttu is categorical that if Muntu defeats Besigye, that will be the voice of the people.

The FDC nominations have in the past been viewed as a means for the party to show the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) how democracy works.

They point at the fact that the presidential aspirant for the NRM party, President Yoweri Museveni, is often the party chairman, who is often endorsed to vie for the presidency unopposed.

Oguttu explained that the FDC adopted a new nomination system this time to fit in with the new multiparty dispensation.

He said nobody contested against Besigye for the position of party flag-bearer in 2005 because multiparty politics was introduced about the same year and there was no time to enable other members to declare their intentions. The way nominations were conducted this time round indicates the onset of a new culture of party democracy, he said.

The nominations on Jan.12 were only for the presidential flag-bearers. Aspirants for other positions will be nominated in May. However, candidates for the other positions would not be allotted the three months allocated to the presidential aspirants to campaign. But, the LC III’s would be given some time to drum up support for their election.

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