FDC party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat celebrates with supporters after he was nominated to be the party flag bearer in the 2021 presidential election at the party headquarters in Najjanakumbi, Wakiso District on August 26, 2020. PHOTO/rachel mabala

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FDC keen to pick up the pieces after rough patch

What you need to know:

  • The party suffered many losses in the 2021 General Election.

When the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) recently won the Kyambogo University guild presidential race, party president Patrick Oboi Amuriat drummed up “the real renaissance of the students movement in higher institutions.” 

The Opposition party’s big wigs—including deputy president Adeke Anna Ebaju and spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda—had played telling roles in Serge Tumwine’s landslide win.

The mood at the party’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi is palpably different from what greeted the results of Mr Amuriat’s shoeless campaign garnered during the 2021 General Election. Mr Amuriat polled a distant third back then, winning slightly over seven percent of the vote as FDC lost four seats in an expanded Parliament.

Observers opine that Mr Amuriat delighting in a “renaissance” provides further proof that the youth vote will be important—even decisive—in forthcoming national polls. 

FDC’s national youth chairperson Walid Lubega Mulindwa believes the dynamism of young people and the fact they “love things which are moving” means his party has to keep reinventing itself.

“We are going to launch a strategic plan which will focus on the youth, women, and people living with disabilities,” he said.

After polling disastrously at the ballot in 2021, FDC went back to the proverbial drawing board. It has held a dozen strategic meetings and counting, with the first being staged in eastern Uganda. 

Knocked off its perch
Before a red wave in Buganda region secured the National Unity Platform (NUP) party 55 of its 57 seats in the House, FDC’s default position was being Uganda’s leading Opposition party. Many feared for FDC’s future when Kizza Besigye—the party’s charismatic founding president—dedicated himself to running point on a vague “Plan B.”

To say FDC went into the 2021 poll while in disarray is an understatement. The party’s presidential flag bearer was not decided until the 11th hour after Dr Besigye made clear his disinterest. 

Before, the departure of Mugisha Muntu had struck a telling blow at the heart of the party’s mobilisation structure. Mr Muntu, who went on to form the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party, took with him the former Leader of Opposition and then Kasese Woman MP, Ms Winnie Kiiza. 

He also sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of party stalwarts such as Robert Centenary, Paul Mwiru, and Kassiano Wadri. All three pulled up short in their respective parliamentary races.

Ms Kiiza and Mr Centenary’s successes at the ballot in 2016 helped lead FDC to a clean sweep of Kasese District. Without them (Ms Kiiza retired from elective politics after joining ANT and Mr Centenary stood as an independent), FDC lost three of the six parliamentary seats it won in Kasese in 2016. 

While Kasese rallied behind Dr Besigye in the 2016 presidential poll, the district firmly threw its weight behind Mr Museveni five years later.

Behind-the-scenes talks saw FDC mend fences with Mr Centenary in January. While announcing his return to the party, Mr Amuriat admitted to FDC having not “give[n] a fair hearing for honourable Centenary.” This, added Mr Amuriat, didn’t stop Mr Centenary from “remain[ing] a loyal cadre.”

A source at FDC told Saturday Monitor that after Mr Centenary requested to be pardoned, he was served a party subscription bill he stopped paying once Mr Muntu left the party. The olive branch was fully extended once Mr Centenary cleared the bill. 

Rukungiri bastion breached
Early this month, FDC held a series of meetings intended to iron out sticking points in Dr Besigye’s home district—Rukungiri. Ahead of the 2021 poll, FDC hoped to hold on to its three seats—Rukungiri Municipality, Rujumbura, and Rukungiri Woman MP. 

The party also felt confident that Rubabo County would end up in the blue column. Rubabo County was an outlier since the NRM party had scooped it, denying FDC a clean sweep. 

While FDC finally managed to win it in 2021, it ceded the Rukungiri Municipality, Rujumbura, and Rukungiri Woman MP seats to NRM. The losses in Rukungiri were in many respects self-inflicted wounds. Instead of pulling in the same direction, FDC’s leadership in the western district has been riddled with divisions. 

This was on full display the moment the party’s secretary for mobilisation, Ms Ingrid Turinawe—decided to stand as an independent after being trounced by little known Wallen Niwagaba Tumwiine—ran for the Rukungiri Municipality MP seat. 

This inevitably led to a split of votes as Dr Tumwiine placed second and Ms Turinawe a distant third. This paved the way for Elisa Rutahigwa to deliver Rukungiri Municipality to NRM for the first time since 2011.

Ms Turinawe also faced accusations of egging on Winnie Babihuga to stand for the Woman MP seat after she lost to incumbent Betty Muzanira in the FDC primaries. Ms Babihuga’s decision to stand split the FDC votes, thus gifting the position to the NRM’s Midius Natukunda. FDC retained the Rukungiri Municipality mayoral seat but that couldn’t thaw this disappointment.

Ms Turinawe and other FDC-leaning independents standing in Rukungiri were put on notice in 2020 by Nandala Mafabi in his capacity as the party’s secretary-general. They were told that they ceased being party members the moment they chose to stand as independents. Mr Mafabi, who is also the Budadiri West MP, cited Article 12(d) of the party’s constitution.

Rukungiri is critical to any FDC revival and this was exhibited by the presence of Dr Besigye in the series of meetings that were organised to ensure its recapture in 2026. 

Dr Besigye revealed on his verified Facebook page that the meeting emphasised “the need for both internal harmony and togetherness of change-seeking forces.” Ms Turinawe was, however, a no-show, with many concluding that she is not about to let bygones be bygones.

Fungaroo optimistic
Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, the former Obongi county MP, replaced Turinawe as secretary for mobilisation. He says the party’s mobilisation is driven by the vision of attaining “a united and focused party with full capacity and preparedness to solve and pending issues, more so in this critical moment of the need to transit from President Museveni.”

He added: “The FDC is the official national Opposition party in Uganda. We respect and work with other Opposition parties and we recognise the big responsibility and the expectations of the people of Uganda on FDC because FDC is the only Opposition party of a large network of elected leaders at all levels: Parliament, district councils, and lower local government councils across Uganda.”

During the 2021 poll, the Opposition was annihilated in the West Nile Sub-region by NRM. FDC nevertheless salvaged some pride when it scooped two parliamentary seats—Maracha East County and Jonam County—in the Sub-region. 

It also became the first Opposition party to win parliamentary seats in the oil-rich Bunyoro Sub-region since the return of the multiparty system in 2005. 

Joab Businge and Asinansi Nyakato ensured that Masindi Municipality and Hoima City turned blue.
“It’s clear that we have to work with other Opposition parties because our main opponent is Museveni,”

Fungaroo said, adding, “But as FDC we have shown that we have a national character and we are going to continue to ensure that we recruit across the country.”

Another part of the country where FDC leaders are keen to right wrongs is Mbale District.  FDC lost all parliamentary positions in Mbale, including Bungokho North.

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