Tuesday February 11 2014

Muntu’s Mafabi move is a mistake of monumental magnitude

By Nicholas Sengoba

FDC President Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu moved to ‘strengthen’ his party in Parliament. He dropped Nandala Mafabi, his erstwhile rival for the leadership of the party, from the post of Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP).

Whether Muntu’s move was smart or not should begin with a description of the institutions we call political parties in Uganda and Kenya. Parties may be likened to two types of business ownership models. The first type is the sole proprietorship. Here there is one owner who is the centre of power. It is his prey for which he successfully hunted.

Usually, it is the party in power and treats all facilities of the State as those of the party which the ‘sole proprietor’ heads. He gives and takes away at his own desecration for the sake of patronage. This makes him colossus. Whoever seeks with the sponsorship of this party must obey the powerful ‘owner’ of the party and be loyal to him even when they do not agree with his position. This is where you find the NRM-O under Museveni. It is where you found KANU under Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya.

Then we have the cooperative type of political organisation. Here individuals, faced with a gigantic sole proprietor President/party in power, come together. They zero in on an individual who they think can lead them in pursuit of power. None of them owns the party. Each of them is an important block that holds the building. But in this arrangement, you have ‘cornerstones’ that are ‘indispensible.’ These are usually ‘tribal chiefs’ whose presence and comfort in the party may mean a region votes for the party or not.

Like in the sole proprietorship political arrangement, here individuals matter a lot except that here there are several, as opposed to one in the former. Talk of ‘party structures’ is secondary to powerful ‘party stalwarts.’ What they do in Parliament is less important. It is how the people perceive them as mobilisers in community development and caring ‘donors’ that matters.

Parties in Kenya ever since the departure of Moi follow this model. Their cooperative foundation, from Narc, to ODM was based on countering Moi the ‘sole Proprietor.’
Today in the National Alliance, William Ruto comes in followed by the Kalenjin of the Rift Valley, while Uhuru Kenyatta leads the Kikuyu of Central Province. In CORD, Raila Amolo Odinga is the representation of the Luo of Nyanza Province.

In Uganda, FDC ‘almost’ follows this model. The trouble with this model is that the ‘tribal chiefs’ should be treated, mindful of their following. It is very difficult to manage this model. For instance when Raila Odinga led to the sacking of Willam Ruto from Mwai Kibaki’s Cabinet, the fortunes of ODM, one of the parties in the eventual CORD alliance, lost favour in the Rift Valley.

Nandala Mafabi has proved that among the Bamasaba of Eastern Uganda he is an influential leader. Bamasaba across the party lines voted for him as the Chairman of Bugisu Cooperative Union against a huge campaign by the NRM government which involved huge sums of money.

There is no other politician in the FDC not even Dr Besigye that has ever had the home voter regional appeal that Mafabi has in Bugisu. Otherwise (rigging and all) Rukungiri from where Besigye hails should have a considerable number of MP’s in Parliament. It doesn’t. As for Muntu, his regional block following in the FDC cooperative is nonexistent.

So for Muntu to claim that he is strengthening the party by removing Mafabi from the coveted LOP position is a grave mistake. It may be used to ‘vindicate’ those who allege that he came in as a spoiler.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com