Muntu has been a common denominator in all the competitions for the top party leadership since its inception in 2005.
KAMPALA - It is an open secret that the current state of affairs in the opposition does not give hope to many Ugandans who have hoped to see change in this country.
Many columnistS and panelists have accused Maj.Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu-the immediate former party president of the Forum for Democratic Change-for fanning the amber of divisionism within the opposition and have attributed this to his loss in the last year November election-far from the truth!
First forward, Muntu has been a common denominator in all the competitions for the top party leadership since its inception in 2005.
He has won once (against Rt.Hon.Mafabi) and lost thrice against Dr.Besigye in 2008 for party presidency, in 2010 for party presidential flag bearer, and 2015 for party presidential flag bearer and his recent loss to the current party president in 2017.
When he won the party presidency, some NEC members resigned Toterebuka Bamwenda while others vowed never to cooperate with him.
Some senior party leaders, mostly MPs, withdrew their financial contributions towards the party, and others chose to fight from within to fail his leadership-clearly, there was no sense of a shared objective.
But why was the situation in the party then different from what we see today yet the party is/has been punctuated by similar circumstances?
This is where he [Muntu] deserves credit! When he won as a party president on 22nd November 2012, his major competitor [Hon.Mafabi] was few months old as the Leader of Opposition but he never considered replacing him-his aim was to retain him but this was not possible because all attempts to bring the two leaders under one roof fell flat.
Four Makerere Dons who were concerned about the state of affairs in the party volunteered to bring these leaders together and he [Muntu] assured them that whichever time of the night in whichever place, he will be there for such meeting.
Few months later, they [Dons] came back to him acknowledging their failure to convince the other party. Another attempt was by elders from Bugishu but their attempt ended in similar manner.
It was until late January, 2014 when Muntu appointed a new LOP who assumed office on February 17, 2016 (16 months after assuming office as a party president).
What is fascinating though is the choice of the candidate for the position of LOP he [Muntu] made.
He chose Rt.Hon.Wafula Ogutu, a man who had not only supported Nandala but had/has also never supported him in any of the contests.
Having enjoyed the support of senior party MPs who were also senior party leaders like Hon.Reagan Okumu, Hon.Kassiano Wadri, Hon.Alice among others-all of whom would have been the obvious candidates for the job, Muntu chose to assign the task to Hon.Wafula in a bid to woo the other camp back to the fold, a mission he fairly achieved-there was some sense of semblance amongst opposition MPs and the party enjoyed good relationship with the parliamentary opposition leadership.
Muntu is methodical! When he made the reshuffles at the end of the term of office (as the practice was), the serving LOP then was outside the country but Muntu waited for him to return and notify him about the changes before anyone else.
Even when that was done, Hon.Wafula rejected the appointment in fear of being called a traitor by the person he had supported and or be rejected by the party organ responsible for approving the appointees-National Executive Committee-that was dominated by Muntu people.
The party president then asked Hon.Nandala to assure Hon.Wafula of his support which he did, and the next hurdle was NEC. Muntu found it hard but not impossible to convince majority NEC members to approve his appointments-he was patient, systematic, and his sole motivation was to bring the party together.
Now, let me concentrate on the centerpiece of this thesis [current divisions within FDC and larger opposition] before I loose truck. Many have attributed this to the previous contest which Muntu has lost, a narrative am sharply opposed to.
Firstly, he [Muntu] has lost a number of contests within the party but has always never been bothered by the outcomes, including that of 2015 in which some ghost delegates had been smuggled into Namboole which prompted the organizers to halt the exercise and send everybody outside the hall upon complaints from the Muntu campaign task force.
If he [Muntu] wanted to divide the party, that would have been the most opportune time to reject the outcomes and refuse to support the winner [Dr.Besigye]-a popular demand he faced from his supporters-but he decided against them on these variables.
Secondly, when Muntu lost that contest, he informed the delegates that he would move around the country to seek views on whether it was still possible to accommodate the two strategies of; party development and defiance, in one party since the main theme of the victor was “one party, one strategy”-defiance.
The genesis of the divisions within the FDC is largely the absence of tolerance to these strategies by those groups opposed to them.
Defiance has become a badge of the party and those who are inclined to party development are characterised as regime apologists.
Trust has been severely eroded, that the members of the same party have turned to be the greatest enemies of themselves.
Even when there has been some degree of rejection for these consultation meetings from some party leaders, the entire process has by and large been successful with no chaos in all the sub-regions Muntu has been to.
If indeed Muntu was the cause, the evident confusion within the opposition would have been limited to FDC.
What sparked off these contradictions within the FDC and the larger opposition is the manner and the spirit within which the parliamentary reshuffles were done.
What is not contested though, are the powers of the party president to make such changes but the timing and choice of candidates are questionable.
To some, the appointments are a quid pro quo- a reward of service rendered and to others, a purge to those who never supported the current party president, and as long as there is patronage and consumption incentives for supporting a particular candidate in an internal contestation, then manipulation, violence, intolerance, and divisionism are the inevitable by-products.
The benchmark for choosing candidates this time were finances and loyalty yet to Muntu it was competence and unity.
The writer is a MA Candidate at Uganda Martyrs University and an FDC Leader.