Opposition plans to field joint presidential candidate run into trouble as Otunnu’s team accuses Besigye’s FDC of hijacking coalition
An emergency meeting of the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) was last evening fighting to salvage the united front against President Museveni even as it emerged that prospects for a joint presidential candidate have been dashed.
Uganda Peoples Congress leader Olara Otunnu arrived at the IPC offices on Katonga Road in Kampala for the 2.30p.m. meeting with the suspicion that the Forum for Democratic Change has hijacked the process ringing in his mind.
Efforts by this newspaper to get a response from the FDC to this suspicion were impossible as almost the entire party top hierarchy was at Katonga Road.
Mr Otunnu, however, told Daily Monitor on the sidelines of the closed meeting that his party has “serious policy and operational issues” regarding how the IPC is being run.
“We called for a special summit of IPC because UPC has serious issues which must be resolved before its candidate is nominated,” Mr Otunnu said, “Once these issues are resolved, UPC will examine its options, make a decision and inform the country.”
Mr Otunnu first attended a heated morning meeting at UPC’s Uganda House headquarters in Kampala before heading to Katonga Road where the coalition’s current chair, FDC leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, presided over proceedings.
Mr Joseph Bbosa, secretary general of the UPC, last evening told Daily Monitor that concerns about “method of work and complaints that the line between the IPC and the individual parties which [make up the IPC] was being erased” were again raised at the morning meeting.
Cart before horse?
“For instance, there are claims by individuals in Teso, West Nile and Acholi that they have been declared the IPC candidate and yet [this is not true] since there hasn’t been any such agreement ... Certain activities are also being undertaken without the knowledge of other parties but being presented in the name of the IPC. All this has been at the initiative of the FDC,” Mr Bbosa said.
Under the IPC protocol, partner parties can cooperate in some activities but under clearly defined structures, while at the same time retaining their individual independence.
Sources inside Uganda House said many senior officials noted that Dr Besigye’s party has acted in bad faith by organising its activities under the cover of the IPC, thereby selling its own interests to voters.
They also wondered where FDC was getting money to run IPC activities and questioned its commitment to financial transparency. Other UPC officials were reportedly not happy that FDC officials, who want to run against them in envisaged joint IPC primaries, were moving around the country calling themselves the official IPC flag bearers and yet the coalition has not yet endorsed anybody.
But these accusations against the FDC, which along with UPC, Justice Forum (Jeema) and the Social Democratic Party constitute the loose coalition, seem like an excuse to disentangle the UPC from the coalition without unduly hurting Mr Otunnu’s stature.
A member of the current UPC National Council last evening told Daily Monitor that “it is absolutely true that Otunnu is trying to get out”. The member said Mr Otunnu does not have the “mandate to hand over authority over the party [as far as the issue of] joint candidates is concerned to IPC”.
Mr Joseph Ochieno, who said most members of the party “are coming to the realisation that they had all along been taken for a ride by FDC”, also observed that Mr Otunnu would have to call a national delegates conference to get the necessary mandate to back the idea of joint candidates.
“This issue was rejected outright by the previous National Council when Mama Miria Obote was still party president, although they agreed to the idea of cooperation with other parties,” Mr Ochieno said.
According to Mr Ochieno, while it is theoretically possible for Mr Otunnu to call a delegates conference, the contentious matter of who is a properly constituted UPC delegate remains within Uganda House.
“Half the country has new [UPC] delegates while the other half are old delegates, so who would attend such a conference?” he asked.
Jeema backs FDC
Yesterday afternoon, Jeema president Asuman Basalirwa, moved to calm fears of FDC dominance when he repeated that all positions in the coalition are held on rotational basis.
“When FDC officials assume leadership, they become active in organising rallies and demonstrations and that’s why they are always seen in the media. But other parties, including mine are not active.
“We must admit that FDC is the dominant opposition party in Uganda, it has the capacity to field a candidate on every position of leadership in Uganda. No other opposition party has that capacity. That is why we need to work with them,” he said.
Dr Besigye, Mr Hussein Kyanjo of Jeema, CP’s Prof. James Kigongo and Mr Michael Mabikke of SDP were last week nominated as potential IPC presidential election flag bearers.