BIG INTERVIEW: Sabiiti arranged for the Amuriats to meet with Museveni - Mwijukye

Big Interview
BIG INTERVIEW: Sabiiti arranged for the Amuriats to meet with Museveni - Mwijukye
MP Francis Mwijukye

Negotiating or engaging with FDC Najjanankumbi is akin to engaging with the regime itself, which doesn't make much sense

BIG INTERVIEW | One of the factors contributing to conflicts within the Forum for Democratic Change and its split is the accusation that party president Patrick Amuriat and Secretary General Nathan Nandala-Mafabi received funds from dubious sources and mismanaged resources.

The tensions are believed to have escalated in 2020 when two senior party members purportedly received funds from President Museveni for the presidential campaign and also distributed among certain senior members.

In an interview, Francis Mwijukye, the Member of Parliament for Buhweju County and interim treasurer  at FDC Katonga, disclosed that Jack Sabiiti facilitated the meetings between Amuriat and Mafabi with Mr Museveni.

Excerpts;-

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Did you anticipate the split within FDC or did it catch you by surprise?

I believe this hasn't occurred suddenly. It's been a gradual process. FDC, unlike other political parties, was initiated with a mission, which is why it was more than just a political party but a forum - a forum for democratic change from its inception. We had individuals with various backgrounds joining us, but what unites us is the struggle for democratic change. Obtaining that name wasn't simple.

So, along the way, some grew weary, assuming change would arrive within a few years and abandoned the cause. Others persevered, even amidst sacrifices, including lives lost in the struggle. Some chose to negotiate with the very adversaries we're fighting against, prompting us to reassess our alliances.

There are those who opted to engage with the regime, but we deem it unacceptable. While some have abandoned hope for change, we have resolved to persist in fighting for the desired change.

Do you still equate democratic change primarily with elections, considering the time it might take to hit the standards you advocate for?

No election follows a singular path, as we've witnessed various regimes topple or new ones emerge through avenues like civil disobedience or the use of force. Elections have been instrumental in several countries' transitions. Democratic change is attainable when free and fair elections are conducted, devoid of bias among the involved parties.

However, when one candidate controls the electoral commission and oversees the process, democratic change becomes unattainable. This individual effectively becomes the presumptive winner even before the electoral process commences.

But we are such a young country, and it will take us such a long time to get to the type of elections you are talking about."

I am referring to a country that was born in 1962, and this nation has failed to mature in terms of democracy. Since 1962, we have never experienced a peaceful transfer of power. Every president has ascended through guns, and left through guns.

The current presidency has had ample time to establish and nurture institutions, yet it has systematically dismantled them. Whether it's the traders striking in Kampala, nurses demonstrating, teachers, or lecturers, they all find themselves needing to appeal to Mr Museveni.

Isn't it reminiscent of the dynamics within the opposition, with Dr Kizza Besigye previously being the sole problem solver in FDC, and a similar trend emerging within the National Unity Platform?

That's not entirely accurate. Dr Besigye stepped away from FDC leadership in 2012.

His influence persists, as seen when some leaders joined him in Katonga...

But even then, our presence there felt more like seeking refuge, given the virtual takeover at Najjanankumbi."

When were you taken over in Najjanakumbi?

It took some time. Around the 2021 presidential elections when some of our colleagues chose to align with the regime, betraying the very people we are fighting for, all for personal gain.

But Katonga predates the events of 2021 that you're referring to.

Katonga has historically served as a hub for activism, from the days of the walk to walk movement. Additionally, it has facilitated dialogue among political parties, fostering collaboration and unity. Currently, Dr Besigye does not hold any leadership position within the FDC.

How do you reconcile leaving a party for which people have sacrificed their lives and limbs based on ideals you once espoused?

I didn't intend to become merely a supporter or leader within the FDC; my aim was to contribute to the fight against injustice, oppression, and dictatorship. For me, the FDC served as a platform to pursue that cause. However, the recent fractures within the FDC at Najjanankumbi have prompted me to seek other avenues to continue my struggle.

Revolutions evolve, adopting new names and tactics, and my commitment transcends any single organization like the FDC. It's become evident that the FDC's reputation has been tarnished, making association problematic. That's why in Dokolo, we had a strong contender: the daughter of the late Celia Ogwal.

However, due to her association with corruption and alignment with those who betrayed Ugandans by engaging with the regime, such as Patrick Amuriat and Nathan Nandala Mafabi, she lost the constituency.

What's the harm in engaging in dialogue with Mr Museveni?

Engaging with Mr Museveni is acceptable if it serves the interests of the nation, but it must be approached with structure. Conversations should focus on transitioning from the current leadership to a new one. However, discussing power-sharing with Mr Museveni is not productive.

Personally, I support meaningful dialogue, but I oppose fruitless discussions, which seem to be all too common.

Isn't it unfortunate that instead of coming together in times of loss, like the passing of your former FDC senior mobiliser Sarah Eperu, there was public discord and disagreement?

Personally, the last time I was at Najjanankumbi, there was a national council meeting, and I had an office there as a deputy. When I attempted to access my office, I encountered individuals who, with their faces concealed, prevented my entry. These goons denied me access.

I witnessed the late Sarah Eperu at the entrance, struggling to enter, disabled as she was. When she persisted, her driver was arrested and taken away. She remained in that car for over five hours until advised to return home.

So, to claim that we were fighting over her body, when these same individuals couldn't even welcome her while she was alive, raises questions. Why would they even consider procuring a coffin for someone they didn't welcome? It's perplexing that only upon someone's passing do they suddenly show concern, despite their prior mistreatment.

Patrick Amuriat (left) and his former mentor Kizza Besigye put aside their difference for a brief moment

But Honourable, in our culture, it's customary to unite during challenging times such as this.

It's okay; you are welcome to attend the burial. We'll even let you speak. However, if you express a desire to take charge, we'll question your intentions. How can you seek leadership for someone you harbored ill feelings toward, someone you mistreated? I believe those at Najjanankumbi should acknowledge the strained relationship with the deceased. Sarah expressed her wish to be taken to Katonga for her final respects, yet they attempted to impose their own program on the family. Despite the family's insistence on honouring Sarah's wishes, they persisted.

So, you believe they should have respected the wishes of both the late Sarah Eperu and the family.

This wasn't an FDC or official event; it was a family affair. The family holds the authority to dictate proceedings, and if you disagree, you simply step back. To claim we were fighting over the deceased's body is inaccurate. Rather, certain individuals were imposing themselves on the family, despite not being welcomed.

How do you plan to demonstrate your capabilities amidst accusations of disorganisation and appropriation of your former party's symbol?

I think Amuriat is politically dead and there is nothing he can do to attract newsworthiness. He seems to realise that mentioning Dr Besigye or Salaamu [Musumba] is his only way to stay relevant in the news circle. It appears that he has become politically stagnant, relying on invoking Besigye's name just to grab attention.

I challenge him to take any issues he has to court directly, without resorting to warnings or summons. Moreover, it's important to note that this symbol transcends the FDC; it's a unifying emblem for all those striving for victory in the struggle. While some may focus on symbolic battles, our focus remains on the larger mission of effecting change.

We won't be distracted by those fixated on symbols. Our movement has traversed the country, and the unity within the FDC remains unshaken.

Do FDC members desire Dr Besigye to run again in the 2026 elections?

I want to emphasise that our members remain united in their commitment to bringing about change. Mr Museveni may attempt to sway leaders with his resources, but our supporters are grappling with pressing issues such as unemployment, poor infrastructure, high business costs, and expensive healthcare. These challenges are more concerning than fearing President Museveni.

Among our supporters, many advocate for Dr Besigye to lead the struggle, and their numbers are significant. Some desire him as a presidential candidate, while others simply encourage him to persist in the fight, pledging their unwavering support. Regardless of the differing opinions, my primary focus remains on the common goal of achieving change.

You are rallying behind Dr Besigye who has said elections are not a tool for change in Uganda...

What I prioritise is a united front collaboration among different political parties, individuals, and Ugandans to address the pressing challenges before us prior to 2026. When we start discussing running, it can disrupt this unity. I am pleased with the efforts towards a united front for change emerging before we even consider who the next candidate might be.

Are you hiding Dr Besigye's intentions?

We didn't feel the need to conceal them; we're simply being honest. Over the years, we've come to understand that the issue isn't solely about winning elections. It's about the journey to victory the process of being declared the winner and assuming governance. I urge Ugandans to recognise that Uganda's challenge isn't just about winning presidential elections or determining the next winner.

The real challenge lies in creating an environment where the elected leader can be rightfully declared and inaugurated to assume office. This fundamental issue must be addressed first and foremost.

Why has reconciliation failed within the greater FDC?

Because it's become unnecessary. We have recognised that those we have been at odds with are no longer part of the FDC; they have aligned themselves with the regime. Negotiating or engaging with them is akin to engaging with the regime itself, which doesn't make much sense.

What will happen if FDC differences persist?

I don't believe they will persist because many FDC leaders and members will collectively decide on the way forward during our consultative meetings in May. We will abide by the decisions made by our members and supporters after these consultations.

After 24 years, the message from you and Besigye looks old and tired. How will you appeal to young people?

Besigye isn't seeking to appeal to anyone. He's fighting for liberation, and individuals can rally to this cause if they wish to fight for their own liberation. You don't need to wait for Besigye to appeal to your conscience before recognising the heavy tax burdens, the widespread suffering, the potholed roads in Kampala, the lack of medicines in hospitals, or the challenges accessing education...

These realities speak for themselves, and the need for change is evident without Besigye having to make a direct appeal.

Jack Sabiiti alleges that Besigye received funds and did not declare them to FDC, using them for Katonga instead

Sabiiti passed away a long time ago. He was the one who arranged the meetings for the Nandalas to meet Mr Museveni. He approached Dr Besigye with the suggestion to negotiate with Mr Museveni, but Dr Besigye declined to accompany him. Sabiiti proceeded to arrange the appointment independently.

If that's the case, then where is Katonga obtaining the funds for all these consultative meetings?

As I mentioned earlier, I serve as the interim treasury general, so you're directing your question to the right person. Our objectives and mission resonate with the people, and they willingly mobilise resources to support us wherever we go. In all the consultative meetings we've conducted, local leaders have played a crucial role in facilitating them.

For instance, in Rukungiri, the leadership in that district funded all the meetings, while in Mbarara, Ankole leaders mobilised resources among themselves. Similarly, in Bushenyi, our leaders raised funds to cover all the meetings in that area. The same pattern occurred in Kasese. It's evident that Ugandans are rallying to mobilise resources whenever we embark on our activities.

Do you realise that while you were preoccupied with internal conflicts, Museveni may have potentially passed on power to his son?

He will be shocked because he has been misled. As the struggles persist, he will realize that while leaders may change, the suffering of Ugandans and the swelling support for the cause continue to grow. I observe that political parties are now showing willingness to collaborate.

Therefore, I do not urge all political parties to understand that the struggle isn't exclusive to FDC, nor is it solely about symbols or individuals. The struggle is for all Ugandans to unite and declare "enough is enough," aiming to overcome our challenges and pave the way for a better Uganda.

Will you seek another term in the upcoming elections?

I can only address that question after the May meeting, where decisions will be made by FDC leaders and members.

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