By Michael Kanaabi Dollar
Monday 17th August may have turned out to be just another day for the ordinary Ugandan going about theirbusiness, but for the keen observer of the current political trends in the country as we head towards the 2021 general election, it was a fundamental day.
On this day the national youth local council elections at village level were held across the country and if they are to be looked at as indicator of what may come out of the 2021 Presidential and General elections, then clearly it is going to be a battle between the newly formed National Unity Platform (NUP) and the old man of the clan the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The two parties seemed to have established a race of their own sweeping most of the youth council elections with NUP making inroads into Eastern Uganda and some parts of the West according to preliminary results having put up a dominant display in the central region.
FDC, which many thought would hold fort being the largest opposition party as per the last 3 general elections and turn the youth polls into a 3 horse race, seemed to have been pushed to the doldrums. It was left to fight for leftovers with old timers like DP and UPC whose woes clearly have been ongoing even longer than the very existence of FDC.
But what went wrong in FDC?
The spark of the Forum for Democratic Change’s current woes seemed to have emanated from the tactical error the party made in the Kyadondo East by election where they chose to go with their tried and tested candidate Hon. Apollo Kantinti ahead of then new kid on the block social political activist and musician Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
With FDC bringing their A game to this by election, the NRM putting its best foot forward too, political newbie Kyagulanyi gave the two big boys the shock of their lives when he swept the by election in a landslide. Whether it was a sympathy vote, a protest vote or just Kyagulanyi’s popularity and connection to the common man through his music, history was made and a precedent was set. This by election opened the eyes of many outsiders and voters that the two major parties can be beaten if one plays their cards well.
Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi who was quickly sworn in as Member of Parliament soon carried his new momentum into another two key by elections where he was backing different candidates from the FDC through his people power pressure group. In both cases that is Hon. Kassiano Wadri Arua Municipality and Hon. Asuman Basalirwa Bugiri Municipality, Kyagulanyi’s choices came out victorious.
These two defeats for those who read the early warning signs represented a shift in momentum in the opposition politics of Uganda away from FDC. A new King and king maker in Robert Kyagulanyi had been unofficially anointed by events.
And the common man, the man at the lowest end of the economic rung who you could call the ghetto dweller finally had some one they could call one of their own in a position of power. This emboldened them and many ghetto products have now come to the fore front of the country’s politics as regular panellists on radios, commentators on key political issues and those with the required qualifications have gone ahead to seek political office.
On the other side, the FDC seemed to maintain a semblance of political elitism which looked progressive and open minded but did not entirely appeal to the last man on the ground fully and as soon as a fellow who met that man’s aspirations more adequately showed up, it was not hard for the supporters to make the switch.
This is the unanticipated happening that has left what should be Uganda’s largest opposition party prior to this election suspended in air with hardly anything tangible to clutch onto.
A Glance at the past
A few years back the rivalry for supremacy between two NRA veterans Gen. Mugisha Muntu and Col. Kizza Besigye was the biggest issue rocking the FDC. With both men having been the party president at one point, only one of the two could make the coveted flag bearer position which left the other party so aggrieved they started looking outside.
The situation was made worse when Gen. Muntu could not garner enough votes to beat the current Party President Eng. Patrick Amuriat so as to bounce back for another term as party leader.
While democracy seemed to have triumphed, the party lost a General and a number of political big wigs too as a result who saw themselves as moderates and Muntu sympathisers preferring not to indulge in the more radical near confrontational type of politics the Besigye group had been branded to indulge in.
The formation and registration of Mugisha Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation complicated things further for the FDC as seen recently when many of the party’s members who had gone some what quiet and kept a distance like Hon Kassiano Wadri, Hon. Paul Mwiru and former FDC member turned independent Gerald Karuhanga among others joined Alice Alaso and Mugisha Muntu at ANT.
The ouster of Hon. Winnie Kizza as Leader of Opposition in parliament during the midterm reshuffle of party whips and committee heads however much it was in good faith also ruffled feathers and while she has since joined ANT as well, many who held her in high regard also distanced themselves from FDC.
Clearly a lot of water has gone under the FDC bridge but all is not lost.
What should the FDC do?
The quietness at Najjanankumbi as the political season heats up to the 2021 elections has left more questions than answers about what is actually going on at Najjanankumbi. This has left many party faithful distraught and looking for leadership.
On the drawing board though, the Najjanankumbi leadership needs to create some momentum, anticipation and buzz around the party something their NUP counterparts have done well so far and FDC is yet to muster during this campaign. Whether it means doing fresh grass root elections around the country, electing new members of their NEC and CEC if that’s what will bring back the party to the centre stage of the country’s politics.
The party’s stalwarts have some what kept media shy at a time when every one expects them to be speaking loudly and making their presence felt every where in the country.
From party president Hon. Patrick Amuriat, Kizza Besigye, Roland Mugume, Ingrid Turinawe, Ssemujju Nganda, Nandala Mafabi, National Chairman Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa, Hon Wafuka Ogutu plus other leaders in the party, all should be in the media making a case for their party to keep it in people’s faces and minds besides countering the NUP onslaught.
While Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s crossing over to FDC was a big catch for the party, they didn’t build enough pomp and fanfare around it. Politics being a game of perception and numbers, the DP strong man should have crossed over with no less than 100 mobilisers and they should have sought some more big names of his kind as the Democratic Party literally disintegrated. That single event clearly indicates FDC’s strategists still have a lot to learn and do!
The Flag Bearer Issue
White smoke is yet to come out of the chimney at Najjanankumbi to announce the party flag bearer for the 2021 Presidential election, however unconfirmed reports filtering through suggest they will choose between Dr. Kizza Besigye and Patrick Amuriat. A new face for them on the ballot will certainly be a good idea unfortunately given they are between a rock and a hard place, they may go for tried and tested hands which will play into the narrative of the opponents that the FDC has only one choice.
Either way it is time for FDC to dig deeper, build new support bases, win over new allies, enter into alliance with competitors, reconcile with old friends turned foes, fight for their place in the media given its a key tool in this scientific election and get back on ground.
Anything less will lead to a very dismal performance in the forthcoming general elections if the results from the youth elections are something to go by and the party may never recover joining the likes JEEMA, CP, UPC in the category of any other parties without real say on state matters in the country.
Theauthor is a Senior Analyst with Data, Polling and Consulting Firm Brothers Intelligence LLC