Arua. The Arua Municipality by-election has divided the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) camp with the former party president, Gen Mugisha Muntu, now backing Mr Kassiano Wadri, the former Terego MP, who defied the party to run as an independent candidate.
Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, Gen Muntu, who was in Arua on Tuesday to campaign for his candidate, praised Mr Wadri “the preferred candidate in the race” and a man with “experience and love for the people.”
Gen Muntu said when he went on the ground, he found the party structure, with exception of only two elected leaders, backing Mr Wadri’s candidature against the FDC flagbearer, Mr Bruce Musema. Daily Monitor could not independently verify this claim.
“I am not on the ground [now], but when I reached there, I found the entire [FDC] team in Mr Wadri’s camp. He is a leader who has the people at heart and I think that is what people of Arua understand,” Gen Muntu said.
Explaining why he did not support the FDC flagbearer, Gen Muntu said he campaigned for Mr Wadri because he knows the man and warned that for Opposition to take power, they must go beyond the party and individual differences.
“For me, it is beyond the party issues. The people on the ground have said yes to him [Wadri] so who am I, who is in Kampala, to go against that? I do not live there so the people on the ground know whom they want and I had to go by that,” he added.
Gen Muntu is not alone. The former vice chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Mr Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East), has also defied his party to back his former boss.
Mr Wadri chaired PAC in the 9th Parliament but lost his Terego bid in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Asked whether supporting an independent candidate against the party flagbearer was not betrayal, Mr Mwiru, who is also deputy FDC spokesperson, said: “I am not a stone, I have realised where light is. If those people want, they can withdraw their candidate because I cannot be behind a candidate who is just empelekeze (an escort in the race).”
A coalition of Opposition politicians led by the former presidential candidate, Mr Abed Bwanika, Mr Mwiru, Mr Francis Gonahasa (Kabweri, FDC) and DP party mobiliser Sulaiman Kidandala, among others have backed Mr Wadri.
They addressed a news conference in Kampala and praised Mr Wadri as “a political colossus”.
“There will be no single victory for the Opposition parties unless we come together under one coalition. Our ground research has showed that Mr Wadri has the impeccable ability and is more versed in politics than any other Opposition candidate in Arua. We have chosen to go with him,” Mr Gonahasa said. Jeema has also withdrawn their candidate in favour of Mr Wadri.
When contacted yesterday, FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said: “I think the issue of Wadri Kasiano is not an ordinary thing because he is one of the founders of the party and a senior one, that is why his candidature has been divisive, but every FDC member will have to support the party’s candidate,” Mr Ssemujju said.
“Even at personal level, I felt very bad when I learnt he was campaigning as an independent candidate, but the principle of the party is that the person who campaigned in the general election will be the party candidate for the next five years,” he added.
The Arua Municipality seat fell vacant after the killing of Ibrahim Abiriga (NRM), distinguished as “yellow man” for dressing in ruling party colours.
Abiriga was shot dead together with his bodyguard near his home in Kawanda, Wakiso District, on June 8.
Other candidates in the race include; NRM’s Nusura Tiperu, Mr Kennedy Madira (DP) and independents Francis Elton Nyero, Sunday Anguandia, Alfred Nyakuni, Jackson Atima, Simon Avutia, Safi Bavuga and Robert Ejiku. The NRM team led by their secretary general Kasule Lumumba has since shifted their base to Arua ahead of the polls scheduled for August 15.