Birigwa picks nomination form for re-election bid

National Chairman of Forum for Democratic Change Wasswa Birigwa addresses the media during a press conference in Busabala, Kampala, on July 26. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Whereas the party chairman denies picking up nomination forms, a highly placed source confirmed that he asked for the reservation on September 14. 

The drama in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) took a twist yesterday with reports that the national chairperson, Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa, had picked forms to defend his seat in the upcoming Opposition party internal elections.  

However, in a telephone interview with this publication late yesterday evening, the party leader denied picking up nomination forms or sending a representative to do so.

“I don’t have a representative there, but there could be people who love me so much that they picked them up,” he said.

A credible source intimated to this newspaper that despite siding with the Katonga Road faction,  the party chairman reached out to the Najjanankumbi headquarters on September 14,  asking for the nomination form to be reserved. 

Mr Birigwa heads a faction of the party that is opposed to the delegates’ conference at which the elections will be held. A rival extra-ordinary delegates’ conference he called remains in abeyance.

FDC’s electoral commission secretary Augustine Ojobile said Mr Birigwa was one of four people who had picked up nomination forms for the position of national chairperson. He claimed that Mr Birigwa sent a message via a social media platform to indicate his interest.

“The FDC party put in place ways a person can pick nomination forms from the electoral commission, they were put under the electoral guidelines that were passed by the National Executive Committee on May 12 and they include physically picking the nomination forms, writing a mail, text message or WhatsApp message to the electoral commission using a known telephone numbers, mail address under a person names and sending a representative to pick your nomination forms,” Mr Ojobile said.

“Our current chairman Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa sent us a message, showing his interest in participating in the elections, like any other person that sent a message they were able to pick the nomination forms through their representatives,” he added. 

We could not independently verify the claim by yesterday night. Mr Ojobile did not share the social media message and did not reveal the name of the emissary who picked up Mr Birigwa’s nomination forms, saying he needed permission from his superiors at the party to do so.

“What I can confirm is that he authorised a person to pick nomination forms for him,” Mr Ojobile said.

He said apart from Mr Birigwa, the party chairman position has attracted the interest of three other officials: Mr Jack Sabiiti, a former MP who currently heads the party’s Elderly Council; Mr Kibuka Mukalazi, who is currently the party vice chairperson for Central Region, and Mr Hassan Kusemererwa, who failed to win the Fort Portal Central parliamentary seat on the party ticket in the last election.

The biggest Opposition party from 2006 to 2021, the FDC now finds itself split down the middle into two camps. One camp, seen as loyal to former party leader and four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye, accuses the other, seen as loyal to party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Secretary General Nathan Nandala Mafabi of secretly receiving money from State House ahead of the 2021 general elections.

The two groups have come to be described as the Katonga faction, based at Dr Besigye’s private office in the city centre, and the Najjanankumbi faction, where the party headquarter is located.

The Katonga faction, to which Mr Birigwa appears to belong, has, until now, shunned the party’s electoral processes that are being organised by the Najjanankumbi faction. They say internal disputes should be resolved before elections, and that the party’s National Council did not approve the electoral roadmap.

Mr Birigwa has since called an extraordinary delegates conference to discuss the internal contradictions, but the party president and secretary general have refused to sanction it.

If confirmed, Ambassador Birigwa’s decision to run to retain his position would represent an attempt to retain legal control over the party but could also legitimise the electoral exercise. He is the only party official affiliated to the Katonga faction reported to have shown interest in the disputed election.

Mr Ojobile told this newspaper that party spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, vice chairperson Proscovia Salaam Musumba, and deputy president for Central Region Erias Lukwago – all of whom are affiliated to the Katonga faction – had not picked up nomination forms.

“…[They] didn’t pick [up] nominations because they were caught up by time, but still their positions have people varying for them,” he said.

Mr Ojobile said the positions of party president and secretary general have attracted three contestants.  Those vying for party president include Moses Byamugisha, Dan Matsiko who leads the party Diaspora chapter in South Africa, and the incumbent, Mr Amuriat. Mr Mafabi will seek to defend his secretary general position against Achili Peter and Yasin Seruugwa, both political unknowns.