FDC mess: Who is telling the truth?

One of the founding fathers of the opposition FDC, Dr Kizza Besigye, gestures as he addresses journalists at his Katonga Road offices in Kampala on July 19, 2023. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Dirty state money, two internal power centers and tribalism feature as the storyline for the split in FDC.
  • Disciplinary action against Ssemujju and Lukwago is imminent, says Amuriat.
  • Besigye insists political parties like FDC must "reinvent to avoid collapsing under the current state capture." 

Dr Kizza Besigye, the former 7-year president of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has said the future of the party is uncertain as it further descended into chaos with duelling Wednesday press conferences amidst a great divide.

“I can’t predict where the party will end but maybe where others (opposition parties) are,” said Besigye.

Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago (L) looks on as opposition strongman Dr Kizza Besigye delivers his remarks during a press conference in Kampala on July 19, 2023. Besigye strongly denied having any ties with President Museveni. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Dirty state money, two internal power centers and tribalism feature as the storyline for the split in FDC- which has catapulted into the limelight through uncompromising verbal artillery from two factions since Monday.

In the frowns mix, FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda and Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago have piled accusations against party secretary general Nathan Nandala Mafambi and president Patrick Amuriat.

“The real sum and source of money brought to FDC [by Amuriat and Mafabi] is a subject of investigations because it didn’t come the usual way,” Ssemujju said at the FDC national consultative meeting on Monday.

FDC president Patrick O Amuriat is seen during a press conference to address an on-going crisis in the party at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi on July 19, 2023. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

Early July 19, members of the FDC factions attended separate press conferences with Amuriat-Nandala loyalists camped at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi while the Ssemuju-Lukwago group was at Katonga for the Besigye address.

Still on Wednesday, Amuriat vowed not to disclose some sources of their 2021 election funding, citing what he described as ‘a long-term policy’ of the near 2-decade old political party.

According to him, a resolution to borrow from friendly sources without interest was passed by FDC’s topmost organ, National Executive Committee (NEC), chaired by Joyce Sseubugwawo who defected to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) in 2021.

“We’re not going to betray some of them that have supported us. Some maybe working in government but do not believe in the government…some maybe ordinary citizens- and so the last thing we shall do is to betray our funders,” Amuriat responded to the claim which was first privately raised by Besigye in 2020.

FDC Secretary General Nathan Nandala Mafabi (L) looks through a document as party president Patrick Amuriat delivers his remarks during a press conference at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi on July 19, 2023. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

By the end of Wednesday, both factions from the wobbling party had not necessarily tabled evidence for several claims- even as mountains of wild allegations rocketed.

“When Besigye was presidential candidate in 2006, 2011 and 2016, our campaigns were very well funded. I was the deputy treasurer general and I have information. The worst funded election [campaign] is of 2021 and it was abandoned because it was Amuriat standing,” Mafabi said on Wednesday at the FDC headquarters.

“I will also give a document which talks about the Shs300m for agents which was given to our founding father who returned it in instalments on the day of voting, and we still have a balance. If he says it was dirty money, he would have returned it at once,” he added.

President Museveni (left) and his brother Salim Saleh. PHOTO/FILE

Further, Mafabi also reintroduced assertions that Lukwago had been issued handouts from the Operation Wealth Creation chief Gen Salim Saleh, allegations previously denied by Lukwago. 

“Who made billboards for Lukwago and Ssemujju? Each billboard had a quotation of over Shs1 billion. Where did they get the money? This double standard should not be accepted. Gen Salim Saleh raised an issue to Lukwago. I know Lukwago goes to court over the smallest thing, why hasn’t he gone to court? Mafabi stated.

“I want to ask Gen Saleh to authorize me to prosecute this case up to the end. Lukwago was paid over Shs500 million by the Attorney General. If Museveni wasn’t interested in him, would he have given him the money?” he added.

Mafabi argues that the Ssumuju-Lukwago accusations are anchored on falsehoods and a very dangerous ploy to damage their long-built reputations.

“They claim we received large sums of money from Museveni to handover FDC to him but this is not a personal property that you just handover to anyone. I cannot carry a party structure to Museveni on a pickup,” the pro Mafabi-Amuriat faction held, insisting they “don’t have any audit query.”

“My qualifications, expertise and experience are sufficient to have those positions but no one has approached me with the offer to become a finance minister or Bank of Uganda governor as they say. I cannot work with Museveni,” he stressed.

NUP question

On Wednesday, Mafabi went ahead to drag the Robert Kyagulanyi-led opposition party into the infighting at FDC.

“Ssemujju and Lukwago alleged that we got money to fight National Unity Platform (NUP). That shows that they are just FDC on top but NUP. That’s why Lukwago was silent in the 2021 election but sympathetic to NUP. These are members ready to destroy this party in the name of NUP,” he emphasized.

FDC Secretary General Nathan Nandala Mafabi gestures during a press conference at the party headquarters in Najjanankumbi on July 19, 2023. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

At Katonga, Besigye July 19 brushed off the heated rhetoric from Nandala, saying people should “differentiate between getting money from Museveni and obtaining it from people who identify with him.”

“During my era, we had no funding from government as the case is today. I felt very angry towards my colleagues because they claim I got money from government. If it was so, why did they keep quiet? That (keeping quiet) is treasonous of people wanting to rescue the country from dictatorship?” the four-time presidential candidate highlighted.

Some members of the Forum for Democratic Change’s new National Executive Committee after swearing-in, September 2021. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Besigye acknowledged that failure to address the money claims, including at NEC meetings since 2020, is what has exploded into the latest episode of turmoil threatening the existence of FDC with the party also torn on how to uproot Museveni, Uganda’s president since 1986.

“Today there’s a contestation on whether elections are useful in ousting the Museveni dictatorship with the People’s Government (led by Erias Lukwago) declaring a war on elections through transition. This approach conflicts with the FDC constitution which commands voters to register and converse for votes,” Amuriat had earlier on highlighted.

“Ironically, People’s Government president Lukwago continues to hold an elective office, making it unbelievable that this has been a serious campaign,” Amuriat observed.

Besigye, who in 2012 cut short his final FDC leadership term after just three years to offer a new approach in ending the Museveni presidency, denied dominating or influencing the party systems since his exit.

“The members who were convened by Ssemuju (on Monday) are working on their own to rescue the party. I’m not involved with them. I think they considered that where things have reached they should invite leaders of the party and see how to rescue the party,” Besigye noted before he cautioned FDC against working under state capture.

“It is not fair for anyone to blame me for the crisis. Since I left about 12 years ago, the party has had two different presidents. So, this is a leadership problem,” he said.

In this file photo, then FDC President Mugisha Muntu (centre) and some of the party leaders elected during delegates’ conference at Uganda Manufactures Association, Lugogo, Kampala on June 13, 2015. Next to Mr Muntu on the left is Mr Mafabi who has fallen out with Mr Ssemujju (far left, back row). PHOTO /FILE

On Wednesday, Besigye told journalists that he only supports the existence of political parties in a functioning democracy.

“If political parties continue to work within this dictatorship without reinventing, they will all perish. Political parties should reorganize to deliver change instead of just competing in elections,” he remarked in Kampala.

Asked to comment on the issue of tribalism in the party, Besigye reacted saying: “When you hear someone bring tribalism in FDC, it is very painful because we thought this is a revolutionary party with ‘one Uganda, one people.’ To start infusing tribes is extremely shameful.”

What next?

Amidst chants touting the dismissal of Ssemujju and Lukwago from the party, Amuriat on Wednesday said: “I’m going to move for disciplinary action to be taken against these errant colleagues of ours.”

His group also said it will do everything possible to battle Lukwago who they also accused of mobilizing thousands to violently disrupt the ongoing scheduled party activities.

“If you want to fight, you can write a letter and we get you the number of people to fight with you. We can even hire Nakivubo for that purpose,” Mafabi told Lukwago.

Mr Ssemujju Nganda (left) and Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago engage during the National Consultative Meeting at Nsambya Sharing Hall in Kampala on July 17, 2023. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

In his address, Besigye said his exact position on the chaos will be informed by a July 28 report following an internal party probe on the matters in FDC but highlighted that "the population will eventually sieve issues in FDC." 

"I have never had any dealings with President Museveni since I exited the NRM. My only dealings with government is when we are at war and I have only met with Museveni during religious public gatherings at Namugongo (Martyrs)," he added. 

Besigye suggested that FDC might end up like UPC and DP which have been castigated for identifying with the ruling government.

President Museveni (left) shakes hands with Dr Kizza Besigye for the first time in 15 years in November 2015 in Namugongo. PHOTO/FILE

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