After a gruelling but free competition for its top position, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has elected Patrick Oboi Amuriat as its president. I congratulate Mr. Amuriat and wish him great success and God’s blessings in his pursuit of his clearly stated agenda.
I did not vote for Mr. Amuriat. I supported Gregory Mugisha Muntu, the incumbent president whose vision, views and approach perfectly aligned with mine. Naturally, I was disappointed with the result, but I was very pleased with the process and the outcome of this phase of the FDC’s democratization journey.
The nominations, followed by three-months of campaigning, offered all candidates the freedom to seek the party’s highest office. Unlike the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), where a former party secretary general’s attempt to become the chairman and the country’s president was met with brutal force, the FDC demonstrated a refreshing adherence to the fundamental principles of democracy.
Unlike some colleagues who were uncomfortable with Dr. Kizza Besigye’s open support for Mr. Amuriat, I was very pleased that he had exercised his rights and erased doubts about his leanings. Democracy must never be conditional or suffocated. Every individual, no matter his status in a party, must enjoy equal rights with everyone else.
Obviously Besigye’s support for Amuriat was a critical determinant of the outcome. Indeed, it is my informed and confident opinion that the contest was between the Besigye and Muntu visions for the party. Besigye rightly fought hard to achieve his objective. He won this round.
Besigye believes in militant and physical defiance to the dictatorship. This single strategy was very well articulated by Mr. Amuriat during his speech at the conference.
Furthermore, Besigye and his supporters believe that he is the legitimate president of Uganda, complete with a people’s government.
The latter was reiterated by Wasswa Birigwa, the party chairman, whose pre-election speech at the Delegates Conference, erased all doubt about whom he supported. To Birigwa, Amuriat and many other influential party leaders, Dr. Besigye’s election as president of Uganda in 2016 must be consummated. A mass physical defiance movement is an avenue towards this goal. Militarism must be met with militancy, and must happen now!
On the other hand, Muntu believes that building a well-organized party, whose fortunes are not tied to an individual but are founded on very strong institutions, is the critical step in the struggle for change in Uganda. Whereas Muntu supports defiance as a tool of resistance, he is opposed to any activities that could, once again, land this country in bloodshed.
Furthermore, Muntu believes that our agenda must not be to capture power just for the sake of it. It has to be purposed on effecting a sustainable change of the political culture in this country. That is why his emphasis is on a long-term, marathon run that entrenches the party at the grassroots.
Clearly Besigye and Muntu offered the party two distinct and irreconcilable strategies and values. Besigye prevailed. Therefore, the FDC now embarks on a single agenda of defiance whose outcome will become clear with time.
Fortunately for Amuriat, he comes into the presidency with pre-election support by the party chairman, at least two of the party’s deputy presidents, the secretary general, the treasurer and his deputy and the secretary for mobilization. Unlike Muntu, who spent his term in office looking over his shoulder as he was undermined by senior party leaders that had refused to accept his election in 2012, Mr. Amuriat is likely to enjoy their support. At least that is my hope, for the FDC cannot claim full democratic credentials until its leaders learn to accept defeat.
One person who will not undermine Mr. Amuriat is Mr. Muntu. His track record shows a man who has always solidly stood behind Dr. Besigye after losing an election to him. His concession speech on Friday night affirmed this position. Muntu leaves the party leadership with a great legacy of genuinely democratic behaviour.
Muntu has not disclosed his next course of action. Though he does not hold a formal leadership position in FDC, one thing that is certain is that he is not out of politics. A professional military man, Muntu told his supporters that they should not panic because of the loss of this battle for the party presidency. He assured them that the war for genuine democratic change and justice remained and he would continue with the struggle.
Those who reflect on the Besigye/Amuriat versus Muntu visions and strategies, and not on the personalities involved, will find it easy to decide whether or not the new FDC has room for them. My advice is that people should not make hasty decisions. The post-election period is always an emotional time. The disappointment of loss can cloud one’s judgement.
I personally prefer an emotion-free clinical approach to political decision-making. No rush with this. The questions I ask myself are: What is the FDC’s purpose? What is its plan of action? What are its priorities at this time? What are its current and likely practices? And how do I fit into the new FDC?
Fortunately, there is very clear contrast between the Besigye/Amuriat agenda and the Muntu vision and strategy.