When top leaders of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) met for two days at the party’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi, Kampala last week, the aim was to rejuvenate its leaders after the exertions of the 2016 general elections, as well as plan for the party’s forthcoming polls.
Key on the agenda at the general national committee conference was to adopt the party’s roadmap for the general elections slated for November, which will start with a delegates’ conference in July.
Party district leaders from all over the country, unanimously adopted the draft roadmap, even as they admitted that they face financial hurdles in their effort to see the activity through. The party said despite the financial handicap, they will have to work within the limited resources available.
While presenting the party’s books of accounts for the previous year, FDC general secretary Nathan Nandala-Mafabi said the reduction of the amount of money that government remits to political parties is stalling party activities, including preparations for the coming elections.
“[The money] is given to a political party depending on a number of MPs it has in parliament. Last year, we were given Shs 1.6 billion but this year we are receiving Shs 1 billion because our number is low,” Mafabi told a gathering of about 100 district leaders.
FDC president Gen Mugisha Muntu (L) with party secretary general Nandala Mafabi
The conference was also convened to amend the party’s constitution to provide for the appointment of leaders on the elders’ committee by the party president, instead of going to the ballot. Delegates agreed that electing these elders was both costly and unnecessary.
Party deputy spokesperson Paul Mwiru told The Observer that the conference agreed to the amendment and will now await approval of the decision by the national and delegate’s conference before it can be implemented.
Throughout the two days of the conference, top party leaders aimed at rejuvenating the spirits of their regional leaders after a disastrous 2016 election that saw their flag bearer Kizza Besigye lose the presidential contest to NRM’s Yoweri Museveni, a result the party still contests.
“Much as we won, impediments were in our way. We won but we were not able to take our victory,” Mugisha Muntu, the party president.
Muntu called upon all regional leaders to keep the fire burning and continue with their ultimate fight of taking over leadership of the country in streamlined party ways.
“We are going to embark on a nationwide marketing campaign to show what we stand for to a point where there will be no questions from the public,” he added.
On day two, Besigye, whose speech received a standing ovation and interruptions from ululating party members, also emphasized Muntu’s nationwide marketing strategy. Besigye said it was about awakening Ugandans and making them stronger, while at the same time weakening the regime’s strong holds, through various civic campaigns countrywide.
“In recovery of our victory and the strength of the people, we are launching some campaigns where we shall be coming to your places to conduct them,” Besigye told the delegates. “It is the strong people that get good leaders. Today, Uganda deserves Museveni because we are weak. But it won’t take long, and he knows it. The ultimate objective of this is to awaken our people and to make them strong as we weaken the dictatorship.”
The party plans, among other issues, sensitize people about Land rights, good education and good health services and leaders agreed to do grassroots mobilization in their respective regions.
On top of these, the party also wants to mobilize people in villages to organize elections for Local Council (LC) one chairpersons. The LC1 elections that were set for March last year have been postponed thrice to an unknown date with government saying there is no money to conduct them.
Parliament, following lobbying from government, later passed a bill that allowed voting LC1 and LC2 chairpersons by lining up behind the candidates instead of secret ballot.
The opposition, however, maintains that this is a tactical delay since the current LC1 establishment serves the interests of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party as mobilization, and tools to destabilize the opposition right from the grassroots.
“We want to organize our LC1 elections,” Besigye insisted. “Nothing stops us according to the law. Show me where in the law it refuses people from gathering and choosing their leaders.”
This idea that was clearly not on the agenda was not agreed upon and it caused mixed reactions from the delegates, with many saying the party doesn’t have the mobilization machinery to ensure that every village in the country elects its local council leaders through FDC-organised polls.
“We still have our financial problems to solve,” one delegate said. “I don’t see why we should put the little we have in areas where government should be working. Besides, let’s say the LC1 chairpersons are elected, would government recognize them?”
On Friday, Muntu told The Observer that the resources to facilitate the party’s several campaigns had been mobilized and that they will be done through conferences and rallies. He added that even when they are faced by blocks from the state, they intend to give their new agenda their all.
“This is a struggle. We have to keep at it until we are strong everywhere since we are operating in a hostile environment. We know that the regime wants to weaken us but we must keep fighting until the forces of good vanquish the evil forces,” Muntu said.
Meanwhile, throughout the two-day event, signs of a heating up election campaign were evident with many supporters of mainly Muntu and Nandala clandestinely campaigning for their candidates openly.
Some were even brave enough to wear T-shirts with the face or name of either of the two. In November 2012, Muntu edged Nandala to the presidency of Uganda’s biggest opposition party and the two are believed to be gearing up to tussle it out again.
Two other party members, Moses Byamugisha and Patrick Amuriat Oboi, have also expressed interest in the FDC top seat.