Uganda's largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change, is buzzing with activity as three senior members canvass votes to take over its leadership.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Nathan Nandala-Mafabi; the secretary for Mobilisation, Gen Mugisha Muntu; and Tororo County MP, Geoffrey Ekanya, all hope to replace Dr Kizza Besigye as party president. Muntu, Mafabi and Ekanya officially launched their campaigns last week in Iganga, Kasangati and Tororo, respectively.
This is a momentous exercise for FDC and an important event in the history of Uganda's contemporary multiparty democracy. How this exercise is handled could have implications for how all who aspire to a mature Ugandan democracy feel about their country and its future. Already, the first days of official campaigning have attracted controversy, with accusations and counter accusations seeking to undermine one candidate or the other. This is not a very good omen.
While politics, by its nature, tends to be adversarial, and competition is no cup of tea, the FDC needs to convince Ugandans that they are capable of giving the country a different kind of leadership - a different kind of politics. This should be politics that prizes transparent processes, not one where the end justifies the means; politics built around issues of concern to Ugandans rather than around who comes from which part of Uganda.
The FDC must know that it carries the hopes of millions of Ugandans - hopes that the opposition can provide meaningful check on the party in government. The party, therefore, has a responsibility to strengthen our faith in democracy. It is one thing for people to feel that a sitting government is wanting; it is quite another for them to believe that the standing opposition would usher in change for the better - if it got a chance to govern.
The challenges that face an opposition party in a constrained political environment like Uganda's are well-known; yet the respect that citizens give opposition parties and their leaders is earned through putting the parties and the country ahead of individual self interest.