THE MUNTU SAGA & OTHER STORMS THE FDC PARTY HAS ENDURED OVER THE YEARS
By John V Sserwaniko
The departure of Gen Muntu has hit FDC so hard that many have been left thinking it’s almost unprecedented yet in actual since its inception in 2005, Uganda’s biggest opposition party has endured many other equally challenging moments. In this news feature, we make reference to previous turbulence in the party to expose the fact that this isn’t the first time FDC is going through turmoil.
WHAT HAPPENED B4:
After moving across the country securing signatures for its registration, a group of financially capable FDC founding leaders travelled to South Africa to persuade Kizza Besigye, who had fled in 2001 due to persecution, to return and lead the new party. Among them was Gen Mugisha Muntu. Sources in that delegation have told this news website that it wasn’t an easy meeting in South Africa. “It wasn’t easy at all because Besigye himself had made up his mind not to return. He was fearful the Museveni system would harm him and had made up his mind to prolong his stay in exile and here was a team telling him please come back and avail your charisma to finish what you started,” recalls a delegation member. “We eventually convinced him despite his insistence that he was emotionally and financially unprepared for the fight. But what shocked everyone came when we broke off from the meeting. Gen Muntu told one of our friends that ‘eeh but that he returns to be the flag bearer that one I’m not very comfortable with.’ Unknown to us at that time he was articulating views that were held by some members of what came to be known as the FDC Ankole group. That is how the likes of Eriya Kategaya, Richard Kaijuka and Miria Matembe coiled but the friend asked Muntu then why didn’t you raise your objections in the meeting?” recalls one of the FDC elders who travelled to SA to meet KB. This official says that was the beginning of animosity and uneaseness by some diehard KB supporters towards Gen Muntu. On return to Uganda, KB travelled the whole country and large crowds greeted him culminating into his violent arrest as he entered Kampala to prepare for the campaigns. He was humiliatingly charged with rape and treason regarding the PRA. His detention even led to doubt whether he would be able to get nominated as the FDC candidate. The elder says by this time the team had already solicited and obtained the required signatures for KB’s nomination. As if to take this as a blessing in disguise, some key Muntu supporters facilitated the young innocent party supporters like Sam Mugumya and others to move around seeking fresh signatures for the Muntu nomination as a plan B. It turned out Muntu, who the elder says always wanted the prestige of being on the presidential ballot paper, was quietly funding this solicitation of fresh signatures for him to carry the FDC flag as KB languished in Luzira. “Dr. Suleiman Kiggundu was party chairman and he called an urgent meeting to protest this under hand behavior. He asked people where money had come from all of a sudden. Kiggundu’s assertiveness encouraged others to begin saying but this man [KB] is in trouble because we travelled to SA and asked him to return. We can’t sacrifice him by nominating someone else. Once we do that we shall have made it easy for Museveni to hold onto him for as long as he likes,” the founding elder recalls. Gratefully, this is a narrative many have corroborated including Yusuf Nsibambi who has always mentioned this in his radio talk shows. The SA turbulent post-meeting discussions is something Gen Muntu also referred to during his Thursday presser at Hotel Africana. He said he had always competed with Dr. KB openly “including in South Africa where I informed him that Dr Besigye by the way I intend to compete with you for this position.” Kiggundu’s firm leadership ensured the 2006 turmoil was overcome and the FDC carried on though the likes of Matembe, Kaijuka and Kategaya immediately showed displeasure and eventually kept their distance from a party in whose founding they had actively participated.
KAMYA VS. ALASO;
Then during the founding delegates’ conference in 2005, chaos almost erupted on the position of SG. It had to be Alice Alaso (ex-UPC) to achieve regional, ethnic and gender balancing. Augustine Ruzindana, who was considered very senior, accepted to be Deputy SG in order for a female (Alaso who many dismissed as this young girl) to take the position. Beti Kamya, a very ambitious flamboyant eloquent lady who had flocked with KB and kept the RA fire burning as he hid in SA, too was asked to forget about the SG post in order for an Easterner (Alaso) to take it. And gratefully the hitherto despised Alaso delivered the Teso vote for KB and other FDC candidates in 2006. Kamya didn’t easily take this loss at Namboole and a number of her Baganda co-ethnics threatened to even quit FDC but KB skillfully talked to her and she grumblingly accepted the position of envoy in his office as party president. Kamya, who spent the entire night crying in Hotel Africana, eventually kept quiet and stood for Rubaga North MP Seat which she easily got riding on the momentum Besigye’s key created that year. Then came the determination of LoP for 2006-2011. The Baganda felt they had sacrificed too much and it was their time to eat things and their candidate was Sam Njuba who was like Besigye’s mentor. It was a hard decision for the party. Yes you had Njuba very senior and had even chaired the KB task force in 2001 causing great risk to himself as Museveni didn’t easily forgive him for that “betrayal.” Yet there was also equally senior Ogenga Latigo whose Acholi-land had convincingly voted for KB and other FDC candidates. Latigo was also considered to be more eloquent and more charismatic. KB finally (PP then had the last word) gave the position to Ogenga, angering some Baganda in FDC but still life carried on partly because Njuba called for reconciliation while urging his co-ethnics to move on.
Then came the death of Dr. Suleiman Kiggundu in 2008 which in itself hit the party real hard. The man from Butambala had vast connections and was always good at fundraising. He was also very anti-Museveni whom he died cursing over the collapse of his Greenland Bank. As if his passing wasn’t bad enough, Beti Kamya who felt she had waited too long surged forward demanding to replace him as party chair. She argued as Buganda region they needed that position to intensify mobilization so that next time they also produce many MPs as Teso, Acholi, Lango and West Nile had done. She never got the position and this prompted her to declare a mother of all wars on the party after resigning her special envoy position. She was eloquent and for many in the central region, FDC was synonymous with her. She had media connections having spoken for the Besigye crusade since 2001. It was really not an easy moment for FDC because she even had supporters that several times would raid Najjanankumbi and beat up party officials during the resultant crisis meetings. She was MP at that time and had a constituency in Kampala and some financial logistics as well. To demonize FDC and portray it as a party that hated Baganda, Kamya positioned herself as a Federalist and an impression was created FDC sidelined her because of her strong support for Federo. Alice Alaso then was SG and had never reconciled with Kamya since the 2006 DC at Namboole. Alaso, working with Gen Muntu then head mobilization, took up the task to ensure Kamya is decisively isolated and neutralized. She had originally mobilized the entire FDC Buganda caucus under which she advocated for the Kiggundu position. Muntu and Alaso efforts, sometimes coordinated by Ibrahim Kasozi who was then a KB blue eyed boy, gradually paid off as the Buganda caucus leaders (like Joyce Sebugwawo, Bwanika Bbale, Sewava Serubiri etc) abandoned Kamya and addressed reporters at Najjanankumbi saying they had realized she wasn’t acting in good faith. Sebugwawo, who has been with KB since 2001, was the game changer in all this because she had more connections in Mengo. Obed Kamulegeya, then a PA to KB who even replaced Kamya as envoy, is another person who worked hard to neutralize the Kamya effect as he even would drive Kibuli Sheikhs to Kasangati to pray and emotionally bless KB to remain strong after the Kamya turmoil. Kamya even tried to ally with Sebaana’s DP in her efforts to gang up on FDC all aimed at portraying it as anti-Buganda but the DPs coiled the moment she moved to form her own party as opposed to joining DP directly.
ALEX ONZIMA SAGA;
As the Kamya chaos calmed down as she concentrated on marketing her own UFA, there was the Alex Onzima saga. He was a very senior leader and held the position of FDC Vice Chairman Northern region. His fallout partly resulted from disagreements with fellow West Niler Kassiano Wadri over the splitting of Arua district. Onzima wanted it split and Wadri opposed. The party official position agreed more with Wadri arguing that balkanization wasn’t good for Uganda. Onzima felt alienated and started talking to Museveni directly until he was appointed Minister. Gradually that Onzima storm too passed and Wadri clearly emerged as the big man for the FDC from West Nile.
THE OKUMU REVOLT;
There was also the issue of Reagan Okumu, a staunch Besigyeist since 2001 and is actually the one who ran RA as KB chilled in SA. Okumu also appeared on many talk shows to discredit Kamya’s claims against FDC. One time Opondo described him as the hatchet man of the FDC party easily speaking about Kamya things with bosses like Besigye only whispered about. Just like Njuba, Regan was also very close to Winnie Byanyima with whom Kamya didn’t exist well in the RA. There was always fear, mistrust and suspicion between these two brain ladies in the RA days and Kamya accused Njuba and Reagan of not just respecting but fearing Winnie during RA meetings. So what was Reagan saying? Immediately after the 2006 elections during which he humiliated NRM by delivering the entire Acholi to FDC, Reagan grew in stature as many saw him as Acholi’s undisputed kingmaker who caused the likes of Jacob Oulanyah to lose their seats. He became fearless and sources say he felt bad that KB made Ogenga Latigo LoP and not him who had worked with him since 2001 (Ogenga joined in 2006). So Reagan started saying KB had failed to defeat Museveni twice and it was time for FDC to get another flag bearer who doesn’t come from Western region. He even threatened to stand against KB in case the man from Rwakabengo insisted on being the flag bearer in 2011. This created lots of turmoil too in the FDC party and it cost Regan in the subsequent party DC where Latigo defeated him to remain the party Deputy President for Northern region. Delegates considered it abominable to criticize KB in the manner Reagan had done.
THE MUNTU CHALLENGE;
The other moment that weren’t easy for FDC and many thought it would break up was 2009/10 when Muntu first contested against him in internal party elections. This happened many times but Muntu is proud the party emerged stronger each time they competed. The IPC was another big challenge for FDC because principal parties like DP and UPC remained cagey claiming they didn’t want to be swallowed by FDC. The party, whose head KB was criticized for investing resources in the IPC project, limped through this very embarrassing period which saw KB compete with Mike Mabikke and Hussein Kyanjo for the position of IPC flag bearer for 2011. Prof Nabudere was the mediator through all this.
RUBARAMIRA RURANGA QUITS;
Then came the Muntu-Nandala duel. This too wasn’t easy as the resultant chaos became the justification for the likes of Rubaramira Ruranga to defect back to NRM. Gen Muntu maintains that the consequences of the Nandala contest still haunt the party to this day. He believes the wounds never healed despite his efforts at reconciliation. The defeat of Salaam Musumba by Anita Among for the internal party elections to determine EALA reps was also somewhat a watershed moment which the party surmounted. Closely related to this was the EALA-related coup JPAM accomplished resulting into FDC having zero reps at EALA even when it was the major opposition party. FDC insisted on boycotting the entire EALA process because NRM refused to cede more positions to FDC, UPC and DP but the two older parties reneged on this understanding and in the end sent Mukasa Mbidde and Chris Opoka to Arusha leaving FDC officials with an egg on their faces. Raising the money to finally buy the party headquarters was rather a difficult process as well except that Garuga Musinguzi who was selling to them was a very understanding member and founder of the party who allowed them all the time to pay his debt to zero. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.