Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, Gen. Mugisha Muntu, has extended an olive branch to his successor, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, two days after announcing his departure from the Opposition party.
“If ever there is anything he wants from me, say, like advice, I will give it to him in an open and honest way,” he said during a nearly two-hour press conference in Kampala, convened primarily to unveil his new political ambitions.
Muntu has parted ways with FDC, intent on forming his own political party, which will be launched before December 25 this year.
The name, symbol, colour, political objectives and other aspects of the party will be defined starting today until the time of the official launch.
For this, the breakaway group will engage the public and sector experts so that it is, according to Muntu, an inclusive, forward-thinking and ideologically sound process.
They also plan to mobilise the people by building grassroots structures. They have created an online portal with the “specific purpose of discussing with you”.
But that political move, according to its chief architect, is not aimed at undermining other political parties or mudslinging.
After mounting speculation about his future in FDC after losing the party leadership to Amuriat in the evening of 2017, Muntu finally called it quits on Tuesday – a move that had a defining illustration of the cracks within the party.
And the former army commander, while addressing reporters at Hotel Africana on Thursday, was not shy to highlight this.
FDC has been rocked by infighting as a result of two different strategies, which “we have failed to reconcile”.
“We became a destabilising factor in all the Opposition,” Muntu said. “We have fought each other to the point of paralysis.”
He therefore sees his departure from FDC as an “opportunity for the party to rebrand” because the internal wrangles inspired by opposing differences in strategy should be no more.
Muntu’s decision to leave the Opposition party this week followed what he called countrywide consultations amid growing talk of his apparent fractious relationship with Amuriat, who beat him in the November 2017 FDC presidential election.
The retired military officer, who turns 60 next month, had been at the helm since 2012, when he beat then-Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nathan Nandala Mafabi to replace Dr. Kizza Besigye, the founding party president.
He gave the party presidency a second shot, only for his eventual defeat to deepen divisions with the party.
But during Thursday’s press conference attended by several politicians and other actors, Muntu said he respects Amuriat “as the legitimate president of FDC” and that he did not leave the party because he lost to him in last year’s election.
At a time of growing instability within the party, signs of Muntu’s impending exit were written all over the board, especially after deeming it difficult to reconcile the two strategies – one was of defiance and the other, which Muntu subscribed to, was of building structures from the grassroots.
“It was not a secret,” he told reporters. ”
Along the way, his group had kept discussing the options:
1. To reconcile
2. To stay in the party and continue fighting within
3. To stay in the party but remain passive
4. To separate (hoperfully in a mature and amicable way).
Muntu and co decided that options 1 and 4 were the more reasonable. But once reconciliation failed, they decided to quit and pursue a different political path.
Despite the separation, Muntu insists that the Opposition need to work together. His team is “in touch with other political forces”, including Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) and Democratic Party president Nobert Mao.
“We are also reaching out to the progressive leaders within the Movement (NRM). (…) We need to reach out to each other so that we form a strong and credible alternative,” he said.
Opposition figures, including Alice Alaso, MPs Gerald Karuhanga, Winfred Kiiza (former Leader of Opposition in Parliament) and Angelline Asio Osegge attended the packed press conference.
Members of the party national executive committee were also there.
“None of the leaders here has been coerced and manipulated,” Muntu underlined.
He used the platform to underline his credentials and role as an active political figure. “I have fully participated in building internal democracy in the FDC.”
At the beginning of the press conference, former Serere Woman MP Alaso said that while they knew they have made a “tough choice”, it was important that “the groups invited understand the political seasons in Uganda”.
And the man she flanked (Muntu) made it known that their departure was in good faith — that the action was beneficial to FDC and the breakaway group as it will “allow FDC to pursue its goal”.
Moving on, Muntu’s group want to ensure that their exit is as smooth as possible and that dialogue is kept alive.
One key questions remains: How will Muntu’s latest political direction influence Uganda’s political climate?
WHAT ELSE MUNTU SAID
On being arrogant: “I cannot judge myself. I don’t know whether I am arrogant. I try as humanly as possible to be humble.”
On stability: “If a party does not have internal stability, it cannot concentrate on what it wants to do.”
The flag: “It is not the flag that will take us to power. Instead, it is the organisation [being organised] that will.”
On being a mole: “If I was a mole, I would stay in there to destabilise FDC. I was also called a mole when I was in the bush. I was put under surveillance until they recognised that I was not one. There is nothing in my life that I have concentrated on than the building of my character. People will be shocked when they get to know who the real moles are.”
On ‘secretly’ meeting with President Yoweri Museveni: “I last met him in 2004.” But he says he sees no reason why he should be covertly seeing the NRM leader, explaining that if he had wanted to, he would have taken advantage of the time he was the army commander. But instead, he said he used his time at the helm of the army to “build internal systems of accountability within the army”.
Issues with Besigye?: “I have no problem with Dr. Kizza Besigye. We will meet because we were both in the same political environment.”
How many exited FDC with you?: “At this point, I don’t know. But I don’t think that’s what we should focus on now. We should not focus on things that are going to build more tensions. The MPs who came here were invited as guests. We are not out to compete with our colleagues in the Opposition.”
On a power sharing deal: “I would not stand in the way of anything that would come from a power sharing deal.”