FDC plots to boot Mafabi, Amuriat

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:

  • Insiders revealed that the planned ousting of the two officials has been decided by one of the warring factions as an interim measure.

A plan to topple the embattled top leadership of the Forum for Democratic Change is expected to be put into motion within a week, party sources said yesterday. 

Party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat and secretary general Nathan Nandala Mafabi will reportedly be relieved of their duties after a vote of no confidence in their continued leadership is taken on September 19. 

Insiders revealed that the planned ousting of the two officials has been decided by one of the warring factions as an interim measure. It is also a key plank of a broader effort to “restore sanity” in what was once Uganda’s most formidable Opposition political organisation, they said. 

Monitor has also learnt that a motion for the no-confidence vote will be presented to delegates at the extra-ordinary national delegates conference called by Mr Wasswa Birigwa, the FDC national chairman, on the said date.

Delegates will reportedly sit in judgement over Mr Amuriat and Mr Mafabi for their alleged breach of the party constitution and for plunging FDC into turmoil.

“While we have a set agenda for this particular conference, it will be amended to include various matters, including passing a vote of no confidence in the errant party officials who have escalated the fights in our party,” remarked one of the sources.

But even as this plan is reportedly being fine-tuned through countrywide mobilisation of delegates, an immediate problem remains: There are two competing delegates meetings planned within the next 30 days; one on September 19 and the other on October 6.

Organisers of either meeting are arguing over who has the authority to convene a conference to choose the party’s new national leadership -- who were originally supposed to have been elected this November.

Last evening, FDC legal counsel, Mr Moses Tugume offered the interpretation that as national chairman, Mr Birigwa exclusively enjoys the powers necessary to call such a meeting. 

FDC party national chairman Wasswa Birigwa.

On the other hand, Mr Tugume said, the conference called for October 6 is problematic because the reported convener, party elections chief Boniface Toterebuka Bamwenda, does not have the legal authority to call such a meeting.

“The National Delegates Conference has the mandate to elect the National Executive Committee members and the mandate to convene and chair it is reserved for the national chairman. Whereas the electoral commission can hold any meeting, it cannot hold elections in a meeting that is not called by the chairman” Mr Tugume said.

At the same time, party rules say the secretary general’s office acts as secretary to a delegates’ conference for two practical reasons: taking minutes which become part of the official record, and, where necessary, signing off resolutions with the party seal. 

Under FDC regulations, the seal remains in the custody of the secretary general, which fact highlights the quandary that awaits. Having said he was not formally informed of the meetings, it is doubtful that Mr Mafabi will accept Mr Birigwa’s invitation to attend the September 19 conference planned for Busabala, Sabagabo-Makindye Parish in Wakiso District. 

It is two months since political hostilities broke out in July following accusations that Mr Amuriat and Mr Mafabi had betrayed FDC and allegedly received ‘dirty money’ from State House. 

Mr Simon Wanyera, a personal assistant of the Kampala Deputy Lord Mayor, Ms Doreen Nyanjura, is arrested at FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi during the NEC meeting on July 28. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The crisis deepened last month when Mr Birigwa and Mr Bamwenda announced separate conferences, pitting the factions against each other.

Mr Birigwa’s agenda covered receiving of reports from the party chairman, president, secretary general, and treasurer general. It is this agenda that sources say will be amended to include a motion for a vote of no confidence.

Additionally, there are plans to disband the FDC polls organ led by Mr Bamwenda, and to declare grassroots elections he purported to have organised in August a sham.
If the vote is carried, an interim caretaker president and secretary general would be chosen while holders of the other executive positions temporarily remain in office.

“The party will elect substantive leaders after one year when sanity has returned in the party,” another source said.

Yesterday, Mr Birigwa did not deny that such a plan is in the works. “Since you have been reliably informed, then you don’t need me to comment,” he said, adding, “All the powers to call a delegates conference are vested in the chairperson and no one else, so is the agenda, which can be amended with the help of the delegates.”

He also indicated that police protection for the September 19 meeting at Nature’s Green Beach Resort, Busabala is assured.

Amuriat speaks
On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Amuriat said while he is aware of plans to eject him, Mr Birigwa did not involve the secretary general, therefore the September 19 meeting is without consequence.

However, it is not stipulated anywhere in FDC’s constitution that the chairperson should consult the secretary general before calling a delegates conference. Article 28(4)iii only provides that the secretary general shall be secretary to the delegates conference.

Although he was unavailable for comment yesterday, Mr Mafabi has previously indicated that he was not informed and has not delegated his deputy to act on his behalf.

Mr Amuriat also said “…those delegates are not eligible leaders because we had elections which [brought] new leaders. [Dr Kizza] Besigye and his friends are going ahead and talking to delegates of 2018 who are not delegates, therefore any outcome from their meeting cannot be implemented under the law.”

He added: “Our friends are daydreaming and should settle knowing that we have elections which can remove us, not a kangaroo method… If they believe we should be removed, they should come on October 6”.

Dr Besigye mobilises
Meanwhile, FDC’s founding president, Dr Besigye, and other top party leaders in the faction opposed to the Amuriat-Mafabi camp, have been traversing the country, mobilising for the Busabala conference.

FDC party founding president Dr Kizza Besigye addresses the media at this Katonga Road offices in Kampala on August 7, 2023. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI. 

While in eastern Uganda, the caravan was escorted by the deputy president for the region, Ms Salam Musumba. In the west, they were led by Mr Roland Kaginda Mugume, who is also member of Parliament for Rukungiri Municipality.

Deputy FDC president for central region, Mr Erias Lukwago yesterday said they were in Masaka after meeting delegates in Mityana on Monday. 

They are expected in Kampala Metropolitan area today.
“The caravan to mobilise the delegates to attend the forthcoming conference is ongoing. All those we have met are optimistic and concerned about the fate of their party,” Mr Lukwago, who is also Kampala lord mayor, said.

“This delegates conference is the only chance we have to resolve the impasse in the party. The other two organs, including the National Executive Committee and the National Council, failed to resolve the fights in the party.”

He also questioned Mr Bamwenda’s actions.

“Where did the electoral commission get the power to call and preside over the National Delegates Conference? The chairperson is given absolute powers to call for a special delegates’ conference, and it is not indicated anywhere that he should consult anyone,” Mr Lukwago said.

Since Amuriat and Mafabi want to overthrow the party constitution, sanctions are supposed to be taken against them. The delegates will make these decisions come September 19,” he said.

Removing leaders
Article 30(j) of the party’s constitution specifies that the party president, secretary general, and national chairperson can only be removed by the National Delegates Conference.

Legal counsel to FDC, Mr Tugume explained yesterday that a member is allowed to petition the delegates’ conference, listing the reasons why any of top officials should be relieved of their duties. During the conference, the petitioner is given the opportunity to speak to their petition, and the accused are expected to defend themselves.

The delegates then vote to decide whether to remove or retain the accused person.
Additionally, the same delegates have the authority to resolve to select an individual to act in place of an ousted official.

“All of these top three positions have deputies. The delegates conference can decide to appoint one of them to act in the same position until permanent leaders are elected.”

Inside FDC constitution 

Article 22(5) gives the power to the national chairperson to call an extraordinary meeting in any of the following circumstances: (i) when the chairperson so decides, (ii) on receipt of a petition from half of the district executive committees, (iii) on receipt of a petition from 30 of the delegates from at least 50 districts in the country, and (iv) when the national executive committee requests it.

Article 28(b) grants powers to the chairperson to convene and chair the National Delegates’ Conference and National Council, among others.

Article 30(i) stipulates that an office in the party shall become vacant if the relevant organ passes a vote of no confidence in the office holder following the procedure set out under the rules of procedure issued by the National Executive Committee. 

The necessary quorum is two thirds of the more than 1,900 delegates expected to be in attendance.

Article 29 stipulates that the electoral commission organises, manages, and oversees all party elections. 

Mr Amuriat yesterday conceded that the chairperson of FDC’s electoral commission does not have the power to convene a delegate’s conference, but also twisted himself in knots in trying to talk around the provision.

“The EC chairperson called for the meeting of delegates to elect NEC leaders, not the National Delegates conference,” Mr. Amuriat said, adding that, “Unlike previously where we could receive reports in the delegates’ conference before elections, there won’t be receiving of these reports. We shall only elect NEC leaders”.

It is this position which emphasises the awkward position Mr Amuriat faces. The legal advisor of the party, Mr Tugume has indicated that the National Delegates Conference, which can only be convened by the national chairman, enjoys the exclusive legal mandate to elect NEC members.

“If every leader within the party had the mandate to call for a delegates’ conference, there would be commotion because we have over 100 leaders,” Mr Tugume said.