It has been a good week for President Museveni and a difficult one for Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu, the leader of the major Opposition party- the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). As the ruling party MPs gather in Kyankwanzi to plan how to “sweep” the 2016 general elections, things appear to be falling apart for the Opposition at a critical time when Parliament is about to resume.
After dropping his political nemesis Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the outgoing Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Gen Muntu is struggling to unite the Opposition and at the same time extinguish the fire in his house apparently, stoked by what some members called “misguided” reshuffles in Parliament.
While Gen Muntu was still struggling to convince Mr Mafabi’s supporters in Elgon region that his removal was in good faith and has nothing to do with the squabbles over the FDC presidential elections, last week, he plunged deeper into another crisis after Serere Woman MP Alice Alaso, who is also the FDC secretary general, declined an appointment as chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, adding to two MPs who have snubbed party offers.
Mr Odonga Otto (Aruu County) and Mr Oddo Tayebwa (Bushenyi Municipality), rejected appointments to the shadow Internal Affairs ministry and the Parliamentary Pension Fund respectively, dismissing them as “boardroom decisions lacking in consultation”.
In the latest indication of a divided FDC, Mr Otto said: “I will sit back and fold my hands and watch from behind. No more activism, no more participation in FDC activities. You will see very little of me in FDC struggle.”
Rukiiga County MP Jack Sabiiti drew parallels between Gen Muntu’s leadership and that of Mr Museveni when he said Gen Muntu appoints and demotes people without consulting. He said Gen Muntu behaves as if he is still in the army.
After removing PAC chairman Kassiano Wadri (Terego County) from office, there were reportedly covert attempts to convince Mr Mafabi to go back to PAC, but he refused and opted to be just an MP representing Budadiri West County. Mr Mafabi reportedly told friends that he tirelessly served his term as PAC chair in 8th Parliament and that other people should also be given the opportunity to serve.
As for Ms Alaso, when the news came that she had been appointed new PAC chair, I was one of those who questioned her choice. It’s not that Ms Alaso cannot manage, far from that; in fact she is one of the “veteran” and “incorruptible” MPs on that committee. The problem with her appointment is exactly what she pointed out in her email: “inability and lack of expertise in figures”.
She said: “I am not able to take up this [appointment] due to my inability and lack of expertise in figures. I am only a historian, social worker and policy analyst. If only I had been consulted, I would have informed NEC of my inadequacies earlier. I have no background in accounts, finance or auditing.”
Whether Gen Muntu succeeds in convincing Ms Alaso to take up the job or not, the opposition has a duty to themselves and to their voters to play the role of an alternative government and indeed, the role of a government in waiting.
If the right person to steer PAC is a member of UPC or DP, there is no harm in giving him or her opportunity to serve Ugandans. A united and focused opposition is good for democracy to thrive. From the electoral reforms to the pending corruption committee reports and key Bills, all this will certainly require a united opposition when the House resumes on Tuesday.
But as the Opposition grumbles, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi has endorsed President Museveni’s 2016 bid and resolved to persuade the national executive committee, the official party organ mandated to choose flag bearers, to support his sole candidature. In effect, the President has passed the first hurdle in his quest for a fifth term in office.
There were reports that premier Amama Mbabazi, the party secretary general, was secretly positioning himself to take on President Museveni in 2016, a claim he denied and ultimately signed on the Evelyn Anite motion; ostensibly to dispel what he called “rumours” that he was harbouring presidential ambitions. However, members who attended the retreat talked of a “fixed” PM.
They say Mr Mbabazi had no choice but to sign on the motion.They said that by refusing to sign on the motion, the party president was going to ask questions.
In backing Museveni’s 2016 bid, the NRM MPs concluded that the party is safer with a “driver” who has demonstrated ability as the founding leader of the revolution that liberated Uganda, managed to keep the country together given its turbulent political history, built the economy and guaranteed peace and stability.