How FDC Katonga arrived at decision to form new party

Left-right: FDC Najjanankumbi leaders Nandala Mafabi, Patrick Amuriat and Hassan Kaps Fungaroo. Photo/File

What you need to know:

  • Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) splinter group that’s based at Katonga Road, in Kampala, has hogged headlines after it fronted an idea of forming a political party. But Derrick Kiyonga writes that the idea of forming a political party has been gathering pace for months, with some members suggesting that it should be christened Front for Democratic Change.

When the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) split last year into what’s now known as the Katonga Road branch, led by former president Kizza Besigye and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and the Najjanankumbi branch led by Patrick Amuriat Oboi and Nathan Nandala Mafabi, many thought the tug of war over the ownership of the political party would be settled in a court of law.

But with the 2026 elections beckoning, the Katonga faction came to the realisation months ago that FDC isn’t worthy of being fought over and that a new party should be formed.  

“The truth is that you can’t fight NRM  out of Najjanankumbi, so the grassroots elections have been ongoing in preparation of the new party,” said a source familiar with the planning at Katonga Road in Kampala where Dr Besigye’s offices are found.

Since last year, the Katonga faction under the temporary leadership of Lukwago has been holding grassroots elections that would produce the delegates that would participate in the delegates’ conference.  

But the real intention of these grassroots elections, sources say, has been to lay ground for the formation of a political party since the Katonga group believes that the Najjanankumbi faction is now totally discredited.

“The truth is FDC as we know it is finished. You can’t redeem it any more. So, the agreement internally is that a political party must now be formed before the elections ripen,” another source that’s close to discussions in Katonga Road faction explained.  

Mr Wasswa Birigwa

Though internally there is an agreement that a political party is in the offing, when the Katonga faction’s national council sat last week, several proposals were muted as they searched for a way forward.

One of the proposals was to see if they could reconcile with the Najjanankumbi faction, provided they apologise for their alleged crime of pocketing money that allegedly had roots in the State House.

This proposal seems not feasible with the Najjanankumbi faction insisting they will never disclose the source of their funding.  

“We will not disclose and betray our funders. They could be government, business people, or civil servants. This is meant to protect them from the junta,” Amuriat said last year.  

Instead, Najjanankumbi turned around and asked the Katonga faction to table evidence showing them pocketing billions from the State House.  

“[Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim] Ssemujju’s clique has made accusations without evidence. If this is not malice, why don’t they bring evidence?” Mafabi, the Najjanankumbi faction’s secretary general, asked.     

When Lukwago was announced by the Katonga factions as FDC’s legitimate president, Amuriat reacted by asserting that they had reached a point of no return.   

“I had a lot of respect for our founding president [Besigye] but I’m a man who can’t be a bootlicker of anyone,” Amuriat said.  “The code that has brought us together as FDC has been broken today.”

The second option the Katonga national executive committee (NEC) gave to its national council was forming an amorphous social movement or pressure group that could go into an alliance with other political parties.

But this option doesn’t seem to favour those who want to stand for elective offices in the 2026 General Election. 

“The Electoral Commission can’t allow them to share FDC symbols. We are going for elections, some of the MPs, especially those who are incumbents, wouldn’t want to lose their seats because they must get the vehicle that would enable them to register. If they don’t get a political party to register they will either register as Independents or they will go back to Najjanankumbi,” said Mr Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a senior lecturer at Makerere University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.     

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Indeed, the third option Lukwago presented to the national council was to form a political party.

“A section of members has mooted a rather novel proposal that since the vision, heart, and soul of members of the party resides here at Katonga, the bona fide members who are still committed to the struggle to push back against the junta should consider getting a new brand and move on with the vision of building a new Uganda with new institutions. This would essentially entail having a new political formation,” Lukwago said.

Members of Katonga’s NEC, which is the party’s third highest organ after the national council and the national delegates’ conference, told this writer that as far as they are concerned, forming a political party is the only way forward. 

“At the level of the national executive committee, we think we need to form a political party, but we couldn’t push it through the throat of other leaders. That’s why we had to give them a wide range of options in the national council meeting that took place this month. The final decision will be communicated about two months from now,” Mr George Ekwaro, a member of Katonga’s NEC, said adding that the national council, which is made up of the district chairpersons of the party and members of the NEC, will make the final decision.

FDC politicians holding elective positions who are allied with the Katonga faction have made it clear that they will disassociate with FDC in the run up to the next general elections.  

“By law, I am still conscripted to remain in the FDC, if I leave now I’ll be subjected to a by-election. The remaining part of my political career will not be to fight over FDC, but to continue fighting [President] Museveni,” Ssemujju said recently.   

Ssemujju’s decision to come out and say he will quit FDC gives credence to the notion that the political party is in the offing. 

Front for Democratic Change
Sources privy to discussions say one of the names being discussed for this political entity is Front for Democratic Change, which will also be known as FDC in short. 

“We can call the party Front for Democratic Change, not Forum but a front because we want to bring a militancy in it,” Ekwaro said.   

A source, who preferred anonymity, confirmed that calling the new political party Front for Democratic Change has been discussed, but there are fears that the electoral body might reject that name.

“The name looks similar to that of Najjanankumbi group. So people fear that the Electoral Commission might use it as an excuse to stop the registration of the political party,” a source who preferred anonymity said.  

Political activist Dr Kizza Besigye addresses the media in Kampala on December 21, 2021.   PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Though Katonga faction members are keen on starting a new political party, Besigye warned last year when the FDC split that political parties must reinvent themselves to deliver the desired change instead of just competing in elections.  

“I think Col Besigye meant to say, ‘political parties must dissolve themselves, disappear completely for Ugandans to see any desired change,’” Yusuf Serunkuma, a political theorist, said. 

Serunkuma is of the view that political parties can’t uproot what he terms as “an entrenched dictatorship” that is now in control of Uganda.

“Dictatorships now know how to manipulate political parties. They just go into your structures and splash money. That’s what they did to UPC, DP, FDC and that’s what they are doing to NUP,” Serunkuma said.