State money claims split top FDC bosses

This photo combo created on July 18, 2023 shows top FDC party leaders Ssemujju Nganda, Erias Lukwago, Patrick Amuriat. PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Besides the claims of money exchanging hands, both Mr Amuriat and Mr Mafabi, cloned by critics as allies, are accused of engineering unauthorised countrywide tours.

A long-simmering infighting at the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) bubbled to the surface yesterday, with the party spokesperson publicly accusing Secretary General, Mr Nandala Mafabi, of being in the pocket of the state.

Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju, a journalist-turned-politician, without providing evidence, claimed that Mr Mafabi received an undisclosed amount of money allegedly from President Museveni ahead of the 2021 elections to mortgage the party. 

In that election, FDC picked party President Patrick Oboi Amuriat as its flagbearer, its first departure from four-time Museveni challenger, Dr Kizza Besigye, who opted out. 

With the campaign team claiming lackluster support from ideologues and trimmed financing from Najjankumbi, FDC suffered the worst electoral defeat in its near two-decade history.

Mr Amuriat garnered 337,589 (3.3 percent) of the valid votes miles behind second-placed Robert Kyagulanyi, alias BobiWine, of the National Unity Platform (NUP) that ran away with the Opposition majority in Parliament.

It is the campaigns for those polls that Mr Ssemujju, the Kira Municipality MP, yesterday said Mr Mafabi selectively bankrolled with cash received from suspect sources, allegations that the latter dismissed as howls of a “tribalist and selfish person”.  

“The real sum and source is a subject of investigation by the elders’ committee, because this money didn’t come into the party the usual way, accounting for it has become very difficult,” Mr Ssemujju charged at a gathering of some party faithful in Nsambya, a Kampala suburb, which he called a national consultation. 

The event was held on a day the FDC secretariat previously set aside for voting village and parish-level leaders countrywide, an exercise that Mr Ssemujju and associates denounced as premature and unauthorised, underlining the widenedgulf among party principals.  

The party was founded in December 2004 out of Reform Agenda, a constellation of liberal politicians from diverse opposition backgrounds, and remained sprightly and formidable election contender under the tutelage of Dr Besigye before the lightning of political storms began striking.

Many members, including co-founders, left unceremoniously and disgruntled.

By 2018, the centre could not hold, leading to former FDC leader Muntu Mugisha, an ex-army commander, to decamp with allies to form the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party after he was accused of being a state mole. 

He denied the allegations, saying time would reveal who the true moles in FDC were, a statement that echoes prophetic today as the party battles for its soul amid fresh espionage claims among honchos. 

“FDC is made up of many people, they all must be satisfied that the money [for the 2021 campaigns] didn’t come from (President) Museveni like it is believed,” Mr Ssemujju said without providing an iota of evidence.

Those allegations nonetheless are being investigated by an 8-member Special Elders’ Committee appointed by Mr Amuriat and chaired by Dr Frank Nabwiso. Its findings are expected to be presented to the party’s National Executive Council sitting later this month.

It is unclear then why Mr Ssemujju, who is reportedly gunning to replace Mr Mafabi as the FDC secretary general, has jumped the gun to make adverse public claims against his peers and seniors when the inquiries are ongoing.

FDC Party spokesperson Ssemujju Nganda (left) and Mr Francis Mwijukye (Buhweju County MP), address the media during the National Consultative Meeting in Kampala on July 17, 2023.PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

The jinx troubling the party’s executives appears to have infected the Special Elders’ Committee too, prompting its member and FDC chairman for Mbarara, Mr Stanley Tugume,  to unexpectedly throw in the towel on July 13.

Besides the claims of money exchanging hands, both Mr Amuriat and Mr Mafabi, cloned by critics as allies, are accused of engineering unauthorised countrywide tours allegedly to compromise key party leaders ahead of a future national delegates’ conference.

They have since the start of this month covered Busoga, Bugisu, Sebei, Teso, Bukedi, Lango and Acholi, capping it with a whirlwind trip to West Nile on July 10. 

“In all these meetings, the subject continued to be issues before the [Special Elders’] Committee with you, our appointing authority, taking advantage of your position without considering fairness to all parties that appeared [before] us regarding the [intra-FDC] conflict,” Mr Tugume noted in his resignation letter to party President Amuriat.

He added: “Clearly, there is no goodwill at your level to solve this matter and this committee could be used as a scapegoat to cause more confusion. I refuse to be part of that.”

We were unable to reach Mr Amuriat for his rejoinder to the strident comments and other claims leveled against him by subordinates. 

FDC party wrangles: Ssemujju Nganda calls for transparency

In a telephone interview yesterday, Mr Mafabi counter-accused MP Ssemujju of being a mole, saying he has amassed unexplained wealth having come to the House a threadbare journalist.

“Where did he (Ssemujju) get that money [he now has from]? He has no kiosk that sells airtime. At least, I have a kiosk which sells fuel, but for him, nothing. He came to Parliament as a journalist with nothing, but now you see, he is one of the richest guys around!” Mr Mafabi said.

He added: “You will realise that these are [the] people who got money in the wrong way, most likely they are the people who get money from State House to come and fight us. I want to tell the people of Uganda that I have never got money from the State House [as alleged].”  

Mr Mafabi wondered why the source of the money he spent on electoral activities, and for which he already accounted, is beingquestioned yet no party official ever asked the origin of the Shs16b that Dr Besigye spent on every election.

We were unable to speak to Dr Besigye regarding this claim, and he was reportedly considering to hold a press conference later this week to address the litany of intra-party issues.

He, like FDC national chairman Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa, stayed away from the Nsambya convention where they were expected to feature.

It remained unclear if Mr Ssemujju and allies, conveners of yesterday’s “national consultation”, were seeking to break away from the Amuriat-Mafabi administration to form a faction or whether they were just good governance crusaders fighting for internal reforms within a party they feared was up for sale.

At the Nsambya event, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who doubles as FDC party deputy president for central region, revealed that they had tried multiple times to smoothen the differences of opinion among their notables through dialogue, but without success.

He warned of tough times ahead in the battle to “rescue the party”, a similar phrase used by Buhweju lawmaker, Mr Francis Mwijukye, and Mr Mubarak Munyagwa, the former Kawempe South legislator.

“We are not here to cause any animosity within the party, but to find solutions and ways to advance the struggle that was started by our forefathers,” Mr Lukwago, who joined FDC from the Democratic Party in July 2020, said.

According to Mr Mwijukye, the party’s deputy national treasurer, Mr Mafabi is a “dictator” who has “personalised” the FDC. 

“Right now we are talking of party structure [elections], there is no budget attached to it. It is him to decide from his home on howmuch must go to such an activity and who gets it and who doesn’t,” he said of the secretary general.

He added: “I have been betrayed by my leader, and since I’m a fighter, you cannot betray me, and I keep quiet. Otherwise, the money that is being talked about, the treasurer should know, but he does not know where the money came from.”

Ms Florence Kabugho, the Kasese District Woman MP, said unending conflicts in the party whittled out its Opposition parliamentary majority, and implored the dissenters to cede ground and expedite cleaning up of “our house”.

FDC members accuse party leaders of financial impropriety