In last 3 days, the country has been treated to the FDC drama as we witnessed damning accusations and counter accusations from senior leaders of the party. In all these exchanges, the common denominator is money.
I will not focus on the merits of the accusations by both the Nandala and Ssemuju camps. I want to focus on the issue of leadership of the FDC as a party.
On paper and in the law, Dr Kizza Besigye holds no party position in FDC. But in the minds of Ugandans, FDC is Besigye and Besigye is FDC in much the same way the NRM and President Museveni are perceptionally fused.
The press Conference that Dr Besigye held at his private offices on Katonga road shocked many Ugandans. While he tried very well to give a contextual background and explanation to the feud that is bedeviling the once largest opposition party in the country, he made a huge mistake by externalizing the issue and reducing it to the influence of President Museveni and his capture of the state. There is more to look at internally before you look at the external influences. For example, are the leaders at Najjanankumbi accountable to the members of the party and the public? What does the public think of the individual party leaders? Many hard questions to ask.
While there is a reasonable element of truth in the Museveni theory, we can interrogate the concept of “state capture” in the context of a third world country like Uganda another day.
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Most importantly, Besigye revealed yesterday what the rank and file of the FDC support base countrywide did not expect or want to hear.
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In his honest submission to the media, Besigye betrayed his vulnerability and lack of control over the party machinery. He repeatedly mentioned that he has been overruled on many occasions by his “colleagues”. This show of weakness and lack of control dealt a death blow to the FDC. This is because, over eighty percent of FDC supporters are actually Besigye supporters and Not FDC supporters. I am one of those many young people who joined Reform Agenda and later FDC because of Besigye’s combative style of politics until I realized that to deliver a party to power you need more than just combativeness. You also need an elaborate strategy which is not only SMART but is also well understood by the rank and file of the party. For instance, you need to rebrand and craft a new message for each election cycle. The branding and messaging have to resonate with the core of your support base. Otherwise, you appear and sound stale.
Dr Besigye lacks both a SMART Strategy and proper messaging. One can as well argue that his best days are behind him.
Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the US famously said “The Buck stops Here”. This was to remind everyone that he was the one in charge and all responsibility for his administration lay with him.
In the eyes of the public Besigye is the defacto leader of the FDC. He needed to reassure his support base that he is in charge. In any case, he should have downplayed the conflicts within the party.
The unintended consequence of all these shenanigans sadly, is that NUP is the ultimate beneficiary. The allegations by the Ssemuju faction that Nandala received money from Museveni to fight NUP will earn sympathy of the proportion of Ugandans who do not like president Museveni and anything related to him. NUP will play this out of proportion to their advantage. On the other hand, one can not rule out the conspiracy theory that Semmujju, Lukwago and their Baganda dominated faction might be laying ground for their eventual defection to NUP. In politics, nothing happens as a mere coincidence. Everything is well scripted, planned and executed to achieve a specific Objective.
The Nandala group which holds the instruments of power in FDC and therefore likely to influence the outcome of any party processes, will hang on the party and use it as a bargaining chip with President Museveni. Either scenario suggests that FDC is gone. It is now time for the young brilliant people within the party to decamp before the boat capsizes.
Charles Ole Barasa is a Political Risk Analyst and Regional Coordinator for Team Chairman MK Movement, Bukedi subregion.