Why it’s too early to write off FDC and those who prefer defiance

Sunday October 28 2018

National reach. FDC party officials arrive in

National reach. FDC party officials arrive in Rukungiri District to campaign for their candidate recently. PHOTO BY PEREZ RUMANZI 

The last month or so has been a good reminder of the fleeting nature of Ugandan politics.
In August, at the height of the by-election fracas in Arua, the hero of the moment and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (or Bobi Wine) was all over the news.

When he travelled to the United States for medical attention and appeared on various media and was publicly courted by American journalists and human rights activists, it almost seemed like a mass uprising against the Museveni government was imminent.
Eventually Bobi Wine returned home, the anticipation remained high, but over the last three weeks he has faded off the front pages of the newspapers.

His announcement of a concert at Namboole stadium and the refusal to allow him access to the venue under the pretext that it had already been booked for a wedding, convinced nobody. But even this was just a brief incident in a political landscape gradually returning to normal and Bobi Wine returning to being a part of regular society.
A month after the Arua unrest, the former FDC party president Mugisha Muntu announced he was departing from the FDC and going on to form a new party.

This was in the wake of his long-standing disagreements with his FDC colleagues on the best course of action to try and wrest control of the government from the NRM.
Attention switched from Bobi Wine to Muntu and when some newspapers reported that Muntu might be in talks with Bobi Wine over a possible alliance, political analysts were in anticipation that a wave was really taking shape that would soon render the FDC a spent force.

Muntu appeared on a number of radio stations, most of them Luganda stations, and promised that the formal announcement would be made at a later date.
In hindsight, perhaps Gen Muntu should have waited for the name of a new party to be decided on and, perhaps, an office in Kampala opened, before announcing his exit from the FDC.

The lag between his quitting the FDC and the formal launch of his new party might deflate the balloon where, in politics, timing and riding the wave at the right moment matters a lot.
Muntu, like Bobi Wine, has faded from the newspaper front pages, not because the papers were ordered not to report on them but because nothing at present is happening to warrant page-one coverage.

All this goes to show how complex the political process is, at the nuts and bolts level. It takes a lot more to gain a national following than simply pointing out the flaws and abuse of power of the ruling government.
To establish a formal political party requires the same routine, personnel and resources as establishing and running an institution or business.

The party, if it intends to be national in reach and character, must establish branches in all the main towns and, as time goes by, in all the townships.
Rent for the offices must be paid, full-time staff hired, stationary, office equipment and party materials stored in the office.
The local office must engage in furthering the party’s activities, from recruiting new members to organising political rallies and meetings.

When party leaders from Kampala visit the area, the local office must play host to them, book their hotel or other lodging, notify the public of their forthcoming visit and book the ground or stadium where the rally is to be held.
This requires supervision from the party headquarters in Kampala.

It is in this routine, daily detail that Uganda’s political parties fail and that includes the ruling NRM party.
Visit any party office on an ordinary day outside the general election season or in the weeks leading up to a by-election and the weakness of Uganda’s parties becomes clear.

They do not seem to have a long-term, systematic structure that operates all through the year.
So far, Bobi Wine’s People Power movement remains mainly a spontaneous, mostly Kampala-based expression of popular disenchantment with the Museveni government.

To keep the flames of People Power alive seems, ironically, to depend on the government to provide the spark. Whenever the government harasses Bobi Wine, bars him from holding a political rally or prevents him from staging a music concert, it gives justification to Bobi Wine’s supporters.

Whenever the government is occupied with other matters and does not confront Bobi Wine with violence, days and weeks can go by without him making any kind of news.
Many commentators have suggested that Bobi Wine hit his peak too suddenly and too early and they might have a point.

He is not going to be in the same unique, world news headlines position again for a long time and does not appear to have prepared a concrete plan B.
Muntu, on the other hand, has always believed more in working behind the scenes than in staging or being part of dramatic news headlines.

However, Muntu must realise now that he is to head a political party with national ambitions.
Politics is not like university academic research that takes place on quiet campuses and faculty laboratories. Too low a political profile gives the impression of political weakness and irrelevancy.
That is why it was too early to write off the FDC and those among it who prefer “defiance” as their main approach.

Views

1. Perhaps Gen Muntu should have waited for the name of a new party to be decided on and, perhaps, an office in Kampala opened, before announcing his exit from FDC.

2.To establish a formal political party requires the same routine, personnel and resources as running an institution or business.

3. Many commentators have suggested that Bobi Wine hit his peak too suddenly and too early.

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