Defiance, greed & grievances in FDC

Author: Charles Tweheyo. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Whereas interests, selfishness, greed and prominence are vital drivers of political participation, if uncontrolled, can easily ferment into structural frustrations.

All is not well in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda’s all-time lead Opposition political party.

The party was formed in 2004 following the amalgamation of Reform Agenda, Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO) and the National Democratic Forum. While its name portrays admiration of democracy and good governance, FDC has over time  been identified with defiance and violence and lately, politics of intolerance, greed and selfishness has further drowned the party. 

July was the climax when factions accused each other of hypocrisy, and since then, conflicts have constantly accumulated. But this is just a manifestation of the long-time pretentious politics leaders of the FDC chose to adopt. 

Through; Defiance and violence: This extremist political strategy became popular in 2011 following the Arab Spring riots that engulfed many Arab states. While FDC ought to use it to interplay its national and international interests, the strategy instead frustrated the space that was available for democratic politics. 

It became an instrument of coercion against members who believed in other political approaches. Intolerance and failure to accommodate alternating opinions became a culture.

Defiance became a party machinery and those who believed otherwise were labelled moles, spies and consequently, the party lost potential leaders as many joined and/or formed other political parties, while others chose to remain politically independent. Examples include Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, Beti Kamya,  among others. These were potential FDC leaders.

Greed, selfishness and grievances: The current implosion in FDC stems from allegations that party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat and  Mr Nandala Mafabi, the secretary general, acquired money from ‘strange’ sources during the 2021 General Election. Although it’s not very clear how much, what’s clear is that this wasn’t the first time for the party to be funded by strangers. 

On July 19, at Najjanankumbi, Mr Mafabi expressed mistrust in the wealth owned by conveyors of these allegations. He appeared suspicious of them having accumulated wealth unethically.

On the same day, the Katonga-road faction led by Dr Kizza Besigye disclosed that the party had been receiving such funds even before. Now that we know, why does this implosion materialise at this time? Possibly, this time greed dominated the appropriation process hence grievances from the receiving end. But before that, if the party repeatedly acquired ‘monies’ prior to 2021, why does the habit become harmful and strange now? I find this a tendency of selfishness within members of the Katonga Road faction.

A point of no return has been crossed. What’s perplexing about this split is that on one side you have a faction led by their long-time leader Besigye against the current party leaders. It’s likely that the Katonga-Road faction will either form a new party, pressure group or seek refuge in other political parties. All these are possible and won’t be new in the East African politics.

A similar situation engulfed Kenya’s Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) when they split into FORD-ASILI, a Swahili word meaning ‘original’ led by Kenneth Matiba and FORD-KENYA led by Jaramogi Odinga & Wamalwa. Soon, it could be ‘FDC-ASILI’ vs. ‘FDC-UGANDA’.

Lesson: Even in ‘real’ democracies, political party members never possess similar opinions all the time. Having a different opinion doesn’t necessarily mean someone is motivated by your competitors.

These people you keep accusing of ‘eating’ will eventually ‘eat’ when their loyalty ultimately becomes unvalued. Also, whereas interests, selfishness, greed and prominence are vital drivers of political participation, if uncontrolled, can easily ferment into structural frustrations within political parties, especially where individualism overshadows ideological independence.

Charles Tweheyo is a political and international relations analyst.