In an interview with this reporter a few weeks ago, Forum for Democratic change (FDC) party President Patrick Amuriat Oboi said he was firmly in charge of the party and that his leadership had reconciled the contradictions and conflict that had rocked the party for over a year now.
“My leadership has achieved a lot,” Amuriat says, “including bringing back members of the party who had sort of resigned from party activities, causing the much needed unity within the party and trying to reconcile the contradictions that existed in the party before I became president and were worsened by the recently concluded Presidential elections.”
Amuriat, it seems didn’t know what awaited him as his decision to change the opposition leadership in parliament opened the proverbial can of worms.
The reshuffle announced on August 3 saw the exit of all the members of Parliament that supported former Party President Mugisha Muntu in the party Presidential election of November 2017, with the exception of party spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda.
In the reshuffle, former leader of opposition Winnie Kiiza was replaced with Gulu woman MP Betty Ocan Aol, a diehard of former party presidential candidate Kizza Besigye and other members loyal to both Besigye and Amuriat were rewarded with committee leadership positions.
The decision seems to have sparked the fallout that has loomed for a while with more than 25 MPs vowing to withdraw from the party and form a pressure group in parliament. That will leave the hitherto biggest opposition party in parliament with just over 10 MPs.
In fact, the group led by Muntu has started by openly defying the party and gone ahead to support an independent candidate-Kassiano Wadri in the Arua Municipality race against the party’s flag bearer, Bruce Musema.
Some members of the party are calling for disciplinary action against Muntu and his supporters but Muntu’s group insists the party needed to have supported the stronger candidate.
According to the party, it is their principle that the person that gets the flag carries it for an entire political term and this is what has been followed in all the by-elections held so far.
In both Kyandondo and Bugiri, the party refused to support as opposition candidates and influential comrades in the struggle to support the party’s flag bearer.
In both these races, the party lost with Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and JEEMA’s Asuman Basalirwa sailing through. This has put the party and these opposition stalwarts and their supporters on a collision course.
Amuriat and his supporters now say Muntu was the architect of that principle and shouldn’t have disregarded it to support an independent candidate where the party has a candidate.
“We have chosen to disagree with our colleagues who despite being architects of the five-year duration flag bearing principle have preferred to support an independent against our candidate.” Amuriat said on the party’s WhatsApp group.
This confusion, analysts say will further weaken the opposition.
“Factionalism in a context which is already bad for opposition parties simply makes things worse.” Said political analyst Frederick Golooba Mutebi. “Not least by undermining public confidence in their capacity to pursue a coherent agenda.” He added.
While some party members like former Presidential candidate Chapaa Karuhanga absolves the party of any role in the chaotic situation, others say the party has not handled these issues maturely.
Karuhanga says what is happening in FDC is not an issue and maintains that the problem of this country is selfish leaders like President Yoweri Museveni who do not think about the country.
“What is happening in FDC is a small issue,” he says, “the problem is much bigger and we are being diverted.”
He adds, “How can you talk of opposition parties in an environment like this? Is there democracy in this country? If it is not there, can it come through the opposition?”
But another party member and researcher Patrick Wakida says the party has a problem. He says the party has a lot of contradictions and has failed to project hope in the people.
The contradictions that Wakida refers to are; a decision by Besigye to stand for presidency in 2016 when he had said the party would not participate in elections without meaningful electoral reforms -and the promise by Amuriat during campaigns that he would recall the party leadership from parliament because the party disagreed with Muntu forming opposition leadership in parliament claiming that their candidate was the rightful winner of the presidential elections.
“A good brand must never have contradictions,” Wakida said, “A good brand must project the hope and what it is and what it serves. But now people ask what does this party stand for? Where is this party headed? And I am one of those people.”
He says the appointment of a minority leader when the party knows that there is no position of minority leader in the constitution portrays a party that is not focused but thinks it should defy everything.
This, he says, shows that the party has lost vision and has got many people questioning if that is a party they want to belong to. According to Wakida, this makes the party seem to be disintegrating which he says is inviting another political force.
“If you have a party that seems to be disintegrating,” he says, “you are inviting a third force and that might be what Ugandans need now.”
But Karuhanga doesn’t think any political force would change much in Uganda’s political environment saying the country is under the rule of the gun.
“There is no force which can succeed in these conditions.” Karuhanga says, “What is ruling this country is the gun.”
The same concerns were expressed by Besigye recently when he said Bobi Wine cannot beat Museveni in an election when he was asked about his views in the entry of the latter to the political scene.
Despite what Karuhanga and Besigye say, political observers say Ugandans are ready to rally behind a force that they believe will project their aspirations. The question is whether that force will be the much hyped “people power” of (Bobi Wine) or Muntu’s impending “third force.”