The dispute over candidate selection process for the position of Kampala lord mayor by the National Unity Platform (NUP) has underlined one of the main challenges NUP must surmount to become a formidable party.
Political scientists will tell that it is natural for a political organisation to have disputes: disputes around interests, ideologies, strategies and other issues.
What matters however is how the disputes are resolved and members convinced to coalesce around the main cause.
This is precisely the headache NUP is facing after musician-turned politician, Joseph Mayanja aka Jose Chameleone today disputed the selection of Kawempe North MP, Latif Ssebagala as the NUP flag bearer for the Kampala mayoral race.
NUP announced over the weekend that it had selected Ssebagala because among other things, he has name recognition, is an experienced politician and is loyal to the party head, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Mayanja on the other hand was said to have questionable academic documents while his political experience was lacking.
Yet Mayanja, who had already started laying ground for the race and had opened a campaign office for the same is not willing to go down without a fight.
In a stinging letter to the party’s electoral body, Mayanja said as far he knows Ssebagala had opted out of the mayoral race and written a letter to that effect.
“Please recall that by close of September 18th, your record indicates that I was unopposed by the fact that my fellow competitor All-Hajj Latif Ssebagala had withdrawn his candidature in a letter already in your possession and in the public domain,” Mayanja wrote in a letter dated September 20.
“By the foregoing I am the unopposed NUP candidate for the position of Lord Mayor Kampala city.”
Indeed, over the last one year, Ssebagala has oscillated from one position to another, leaving people guessing. At the start of 2019, he announced that he would contest for the mayorship of Kampala and made runs on media stations promoting his bid.
Towards the end of the year, he said he had now opted to return to Kawempe North which he has represented since 2001. Two months ago, he said he would not run for the mayorship but last week, he announced that he had chosen to stand for EALA elections. Now he is back in Kampala.
Besides the Kampala mayoral race, there are many more related selection disputes in NUP’s pipeline.
In Nakawa West for instance Joel Ssenyonyi and Kenneth Paul Kakande are yet to harmonise. In Rubaga North there is the incumbent Moses Kasibante and Abubaker Kawalya, the KCCA speaker. There is also Henry Lubowa who crossed from the DP bloc.
In Mukono Municipality, new recruit Betty Nambooze is at war with some members of NUP who view her as an opportunist who just jumped onto the bandwagon for her political survival. A committee has been instituted to resolve the conflict.
With hardly any structures to speak of, NUP was always going to struggle to reconcile warring candidates in various parts of the country.
Lack of structures is one of the reasons the party opted for “selection” ahead of “election” of flag bearers.
The Kamwokya based party also said it did not have enough resources and time to conduct fully fledged primaries.
Yet this decision has paved the way for confusion and festered suspicion that some candidates with money and connections to Kyagulanyi are “buying” their way to the flag.
Kyagulanyi admitted last week that some contestants had lodged complaints with the party alleging that they had been asked to pay money for the flag.
This, he said, is unacceptable in a party that has been outspoken against corruption in the NRM government.
The key question however is: How will Kyagulanyi enforce discipline in an organisation that has no structures?