FDC legislators call for dialogue to end crisis

FDC party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat (right) and the Secretary General, Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi (2nd right), during a press conference at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi, Kampala, on July 19, 2023. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI. 

What you need to know:

  • With 24 hours left to Friday’s pivotal meeting of the FDC’s National Council, which is the party’s highest decision-making body, at least 16 of the 31 MPs said dialogue is the best and only way out of the deteriorating leadership crisis. 

More than half of the Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) membership in Parliament yesterday called for talks between their party’s warring factions.

With 24 hours left to Friday’s pivotal meeting of the FDC’s National Council, which is the party’s highest decision-making body, at least 16 of the 31 MPs said dialogue is the best and only way out of the deteriorating leadership crisis. 

All party MPs are members of the national council by virtue of their positions. Many of them yesterday told the Monitor they will attend the July 28 meeting where it is hoped that long-standing disagreements will be discussed and resolved.

They also warned that if nothing is done about “the parallel power centres” within the party, FDC’s very future could be at risk. 

In the meantime, some of the MPs advised that it would be wise to defer party structure elections planned for between July 17 and August 6 this year. 

A suspension of grassroots elections would allow for reconciliation of opposed forces ahead of the November 23-24 national delegates conference where FDC’s top leadership is supposed to be chosen, they said.

The first round of those elections to choose grassroots leaders from Uganda’s 71,230 villages largely flopped last week after the party chairman, Mr Wasswa Birigwa called them off -- despite the objections of FDC president, Mr Patrick Oboi Amuriat and his secretary general, Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi. 

Mr Birigwa cited escalating tensions between the president, secretary general and other leaders whose heated disagreements exploded into full public view last week. 

Party spokesman, Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda and Mr Erias Lukwago, who is FDC’s vice president for Buganda/central region had called for an outright boycott of the elections, demanding that the council first addresses the issues they have raised in the dispute.

Daily Monitor listened as Mr Anthony Akol, the Kilak North MP, lamented that given the proliferation of parallel power centres, which are not speaking the same language, the party is being torn apart.

 “The power centres have become too many, the Katonga Road [centre] headed by [founding president] Dr Kizza Besigye; Najjanankumbi [headquarters] head by Amuriat and others coming from Nandala, Lukwago and Semujju, that’s where the problem lies,” he said, adding, “… in every setting, there are problems, what matters is how it is resolved”.

Mr Joab Businge agreed with his Kilak North counterpart, saying that “naturally, given Besigye’s influence the more he continues to be at another centre of power or influence, members’ loyalty will also continue to be divided”. 

“That is a big source of problems,” the Masindi Municipality MP said. “I think the founding father of the party, Dr Besigye must come back and give some nurturing because right now we are likely to increasingly lose good human resources”.

Mr Businge feared that “with the trend of things, [he] doubts there can be meaningful healing because [of] the antagonism”. 

To Mr Atkins Katusabe (Bukonzo West), FDC is not in crisis yet, but the warring camps must put aside their differences.

“For those people who are tearing one another in the media, that is a fundamental sin. I call upon everyone within the FDC family to sacrifice our interests as individuals and put FDC as a political family first; and provide extraordinary leadership…,” he said.

Such leadership would require a deeper engagement, Mr Peter Julius Egimu (Ochero) said. 

“It is in our interest that these issues should be resolved amicably... I know the biggest challenge has been when people want to take up positions, people [attack each other]. We shall all be there [at the national council meeting] and hear from both sides so that we can come to a logical conclusion,” he said.

 Mr David Isabirye (Jinja North) spoke to the historical nature of the dispute, observing that all processes, including grassroots election, be suspended so that the internal issues are addressed. 

“In fact, I would think that we ask the national council [for a] six months extension so that we reorganise ourselves. We don’t want a split in our party. We want it when we are together and united,” he added.

This view was, however, sharply opposed by the Gweri MP, Mr Julius Tom Ekudo, who said it’s through elections that the issues can be sorted out.

 “I don’t think postponing elections will sort it out. Instead, it will worsen because more issues will come up. We must go ahead with elections. Those who lose and leave are not mature politicians. If you lose, stay and wait for the next chance,” he said.

Both Mr Nicholas Kamara (Kabale Municipality) and veteran opposition leader, Ms Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo Woman) pushed for dialogue.

 “We shall wait for the National Council to see whether we can resolve our internal contradictions. The best way forward is reconciliation,” Mr Kamara said, echoing Ms Ogwal’s view that while conflicts are unavoidable, “the best way is to resolve them without tearing each other down”. 

“Overall there is a leadership problem; pull and push forces distracting the party on which direction it should go. To resolve the conflicts at FDC, members need to openly communicate,” Ms Ogwal said drawing from her many years of experience. 

The elderly Dokolo MP said members are concerned and are aware of the triggers, “but regardless, we can find a solution and bring back the party together”.

 An almost equally experienced Mr Yusuf Nsibambi (Mawokota South) shared Ms Ogwal’s assessment, but also said the conflict is personal.

“The issue is between individuals; people having ego. There are no ideological differences; no blatant [plan to] sale [the party] like it is with DP and UPC... There is a council of elders handling it, a national council coming up. Let’s wait and see what comes out of those meetings.  There is no cause for alarm,” he asserted. 

His colleague from Maracha, Mr Lee Denis Oguzu said that while conciliatory efforts are pursued, the different factions must refrain from openly attacking each other.

Mr Oguzu urged “those in the conflict to exercise restraint… The only way they can come out of this is by listening to each other. That will require some neutral arbiter”.

But it won’t be easy as Mr Emmanuel Ongiertho (Jonam) warned, noting that “the damage done is deeper than when Amuriat was elected [as party president] instead of [Maj Gen Mugisha] Muntu.

“They need to go back and meet internally. People should admit where they have gone wrong, especially around the money [question],” he said.

Yesterday afternoon, FDC spokesman, Mr Ssemujju (Kira Municipality) said all those involved in the wrangles, including himself, should step aside. 

“I offered advice to Amuriat and Nandala to step aside and in doing so, recommended other people who should do the same as well. If they recommend that I should be among those to step aside, I will oblige for the sake of the party. I am willing not to serve for the sake of retaining sanity in the party,’ he said.

Another old hand and one-time leader of the opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ocan (Gulu City Woman) handed out a motherly telling-off.

“Dr Kizza Besigye is our founding father of the party but I feel that some members have not been giving him the respect he deserves, which is wrong. If a member feels that the doctor did anything wrong, it is unwise to go to the media and start abusing him,” she said, adding: “Why not call and meet him to discuss the matter privately, rather than going to the press to abuse him? To the warring factions; forgive one another and we move on”.

There was an overall sense of disapproval in the MPs’ responses yesterday -- a feeling that the factions have conducted themselves poorly. 

Ms Lucy Akello (Amuru Woman) rebuked them, saying instead of sitting down like mature people, both parties chose to go to media.

“My biggest disappointment has been that these two groups chose to go to public, thinking that the public will help them to solve their internal issues, which is not true. Now see where the issue has reached,” she said.

She proposed a closed-door session between them where an honest conversation can ensue.

“The more people you bring on board, the more you escalate the problem… They should not involve media and social media until they agree on a way forward,” she said.

Also unhappy was Mr Naboth Namanya (Rubabo) who said he hoped the July 28 national council will be attended by all party leaders.

“Things happen. People agree to disagree. We are in the process of resolving the stand-off. That is what we hope to achieve [from the national council],” he said

Mr Moses Kabuusu (Kyamuswa) criticised what he said was the arrogance of some leaders.

 “When people charge at each other like that, they likely have irreconcilable differences that I will not be party to personally. We have given advice and we hope they take it.  That arrogance will not help our party. Everyone needs the other,” he said. 

“…I implore our leadership to leave arrogance and bickering and look at the party as bigger than individuals. If they do not listen to me, I will go to those who want to work with me,” he said

For weeks, the FDC has been in turmoil over allegations made by Mr Ssemujju and others that Mr Amuriat and Mr Mafabi were plotting to compromise FDC and jump into bed with the ruling NRM establishment. 

On Friday, a special elders committee is expected to submit its report to the national council on this issue and the equally divisive allegation that billions of shillings were received by Mafabi-Amuriat for campaign financing in 2021 -- allegedly through State House.

By Franklin Draku, Esther Oluka, Elizabeth Kamurungi & Damali Mukhaye.