At the close of nationwide consultations on the future of their party, former president of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, Gregory Mugisha Muntu has said that FDC could find itself being replaced by the ‘People Power Movement’.
“Nature does not allow a vacuum,” he said, referring to the movement whose most prominent face is new kid on the political block, Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), the MP for Kyadondo East.
“What we have to ask ourselves is whether there is some form of vacuum that requires the emergence of a new force or not…,” he told The Observer.
Muntu said for that force to emerge, survive and grow, it is dependent on the “prevailing objective conditions, not just leadership”.
“Leadership takes opportunity of the prevailing conditions. So, the question I keep asking is; when we were starting, were there no political parties? Of course, they were there.
“So, what explains why FDC came about and grew? Are there any such conditions now? If there are, more so for us in FDC, if there is that space, why are we not expanding that space?
“Perhaps, there is something that we are not doing right. We should be asking ourselves what it is and do we have the will and capacity to deal with it?”
Muntu warned that if FDC does not answer these questions, then it will inevitably be swallowed up by the sweeping Bobi Wine movement.
For months, Muntu and allies, mostly members of parliament, have been speaking to FDC members around Uganda about a ‘third way’ after being frozen out by radical forces inside the party.
Prof Sabiti Makara, a lecturer of political science, yesterday said Uganda’s largest opposition party has to pay attention to what Muntu is raising.
“FDC should resolve its contradictions and Muntu should be brought on board; it is only then that both factions can enter into a meaningful coalition with the People Power movement. You see that movement does not have clear leadership or structures and FDC is organised, it can be a lead player in case they choose to enter into a coalition with any political formation today. It has leaders who can provide face and most of these are in Muntu’s faction,” he said.
Currently, more than three quarters of FDC representation in parliament is behind Muntu. Current party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat declined an interview to respond to this assertion. “I don’t want to speculate on Muntu’s things,” he said.
While they (Muntu group) plan to make a clean break in 2020, a year to elections, so as to avoid falling foul of the law, which would otherwise see them lose their seats for changing political allegiances midstream, their local networks are already allied to the People Power movement.
This became clear during a consultative meeting with Muntu in Iganga last month. Bamu Lulenzi, an FDC-leaning independent councillor in Iganga municipality council, said: “Me I have already embraced People Power and I am the coordinator for the group in the greater Iganga district”.
“Whatever decision you make, you should know that me and some of the people in our structures have moved on,” he said.
Hassan Muyinda, FDC chair in Iganga municipality, said it is high time the party learnt from Kenyan politics.
“The Kenyans have learnt the politics of alliances. Since we can’t strengthen our organisations to wrestle the ruling party out of power, it is high time we entered into formidable alliances that reflect the political reality,” he said.
Muntu, the eternal bridge-maker, however, is still holding out hope.
“Listen to us and the voices out there; and resolve internal concerns before it is too late,” he said.
But this week, party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat insisted that there is nothing to resolve.
“As an individual holding the office, I will receive the report, but this should be made clear from the word go. We never commissioned that report and from the inception of the consultation, we did not commission it. We never gave benchmarks and we could not be in a position to evaluate its outcome,” he told The Observer last week.
In January, Muntu and like-minded colleagues set out on countrywide consultations about their continued membership of FDC, a party they think has stumbled away from its core democratic ideals.
The ‘consultations’ got underway after Muntu lost the party presidency race in November 2017 to Amuriat, who rode in on the coattails of FDC’s founding president, Col (rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye.
Besigye leads the so-called ‘defiance faction’ which his critics say he has imposed on FDC as the single ideological orientation.
As such, three questions were posed to FDC audiences upcountry: How would Maj Gen (rtd) Muntu still be part of FDC when his lot were slandered as moles and non-Ugandans? How is the party going to reconcile the defiance strategy with democracy? And, what is the position of the FDC founding president, Besigye, in the party?
Some feel that if not properly addressed, Besigye’s domineering influence can give birth to a dictatorship in the opposition. Former FDC deputy president Prof Morris Ogenga-Latigo said the consultations were not merely soul-searching, but a look at FDC’s internal practices to establish whether they are in accord with the ideals that defined its formation.
“Over the years, our internal practice has been moving away from tolerance of contrary views towards slandering and faction formation against those who disagree with some positions intended to benefit an individual,” Latigo said.
Midway the consultations, The Observer commissioned a three-month-long investigation into the allegations that were being made by Muntu and his colleagues.
A four-part series later published chronicled how FDC, at its very inception, was side-tracked from its aspirations in the manner in which its first leadership assumed office.
It showed how they unwittingly created a cult of personality around Besigye; and how this cult following gave birth to Besigye’s dominance over FDC.
What Muntu found
After eight months, Muntu says there are now three prevalent views.
“One that says ‘guys let’s do everything humanly possible to solve our internal disagreements. If we separate it will weaken the party and the opposition,” he said.
“While there is a second voice saying that we should stay within the party even if the differences are not resolved; we should fight from within.
“The third is saying that the way we are, there is no way we are going to solve these contradictions. We are wasting each other’s time. In fact, we are in a state of paralysis. So, they are saying let’s just find ways of separating in a mature way and then work together in separate vehicles around the common objective of regime change and building firm foundations for better governance.”
Muntu said these views ran throughout the 90 percent of the areas they visited.
Muntu said that given “the nature of these views, you cannot just go by numbers; you have to be rational and scientific. You have to do analysis of the situation and also get to understand why people think the way they think because after the consultation meetings, you would engage the leaders and there are many people who are more worried about the unknown; they don’t know what will happen. And that is part of humanity; majority of the people who walk this planet find themselves in a state of paralysis because of the fear of the unknown.”
The emergence of the “People Power Movement” along the way has forced more people to be reflective. Around March this year, Amuriat’s leadership had planned to purge the Muntu group from leadership positions on oversight committees in parliament.
However, when senior FDC leaders opened up in The Observer series, Besigye convened a meeting with Muntu, urging him to prevail on his colleagues.
The Observer understands that whereas this meeting was inconclusive, Amuriat was still persuaded to hold back the purge. But a few months later, after the FDC lost the Bugiri municipality by-election to Justice Forum president, Asuman Basalirwa, he blamed it all on the Muntu team.
Accordingly, prominent members of the Muntu team were fired from parliament leadership positions. They included; Kasese Woman MP Winfred Kiiza who was dropped as leader of opposition.
This annoyed the Muntu group who rallied behind their colleague Eziati Kassiano Wadri to defeat another FDC candidate, Bruce Musema, who emerged fourth during last month’s Arua municipality by-election.
Party sources say some people wanted to trigger article 13 of the FDC constitution to expel Muntu’s group for engaging in activities that were hostile to the party.
But Muntu remarks that it would be naïve for the party to shy away from the truth. A truth whose reality is that people power was demonstrated in the successes in Bugiri and Arua municipalities – by-elections in which Muntu and allies stood with the Kyadondo East MP against FDC candidates.