With the countdown, down to three days to the delegates' conference that would elect the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) new president to replace Dr Kizza Besigye, the tribal card is likely to play an integral part at the ballot.
All three candidates; Geoffrey Ekanya, Nandala-Mafabi and Mugisha Muntu used the weekend to woo the 53 party delegates in the Masaka sub-region. A week after he hosted the party's district chairpersons from Buganda in Mbale, to showcase his mobilization skills, Mafabi, according to sources, headed to Kalangala on Friday, one of the districts that he had failed to penetrate. Meanwhile, Ekanya, on Saturday, met the sub-region delegates at Laston hotel in Masaka town.
Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu was due to meet the same group on Sunday in Kyotera, Rakai district.
Mafabi travelled to Kalangala hoping to win over the majority of delegates there. The move seems to have paid off. He was able to engage some of the party's leaders, who were known to be vehemently opposed to him. Although six of the nine delegates from Kalangala turned up for Mafabi's meeting at Upland Guest house, he at least managed to convince the party's district Chairman Robert Munaaba and the Bujumba county flag bearer Ismail Wagaba who had turned away the Kalangala delegates.
Out of excitement, some of the delegates started warning their colleagues against handing the party's leadership again to a Westerner."
"Our colleagues in DP have for long accused FDC of being a party of Westerners, this is the only chance for us to change this and give the party a national character," one delegate said.
In his address, Mafabi appeared desperate to avoid the tribal talk. "We should avoid this talk of let's vote someone because he is from another region...we should vote for competence," he said before taking a swipe at his main challenger, Muntu, whom he accused of failing to do his mobilization duties in the party.
"Whereas I and Hon Ekanya (from Parliament) earn in Ugandan currency, Gen Muntu at the EALA was earning in US dollars. I used the binusu [coins] from Parliament and mobilized the Elgon zone, and the results are clear, and Ekanya mobilized his area and managed to win a few posts for the party; Gen Muntu, with his dollars, has delivered nothing. How many leaders do we have in Ntungamo where he comes from?" Mafabi said.
But Ekanya urged delegates not to ignore the tribal dynamics when choosing the party's next leader.
"Yes, our slogan is One Uganda, One people, to mean that the party is all- inclusive, but don't be deceived to think that issues of tribe, religion, etc will not work. We may try to hide, but how will it help the party as we move towards the 2016 general elections?" said Ekanya.
Support from MPs:
With reports suggesting a stiff competition for the support of the party's Members of Parliament, Ekanya downplayed the importance of the MPs support, reasoning that their support is not any different from that of the ordinary delegates. There are 36 FDC MPs in Parliament with Mafabi reported to be supported by at least 19 legislators followed by Mugisha Muntu with about 15 and Ekanya one.
Speaking with bitterness about legislators opposed to his candidature, Nandala said, many of them feared being held accountable once he is elected the party president.
"There is, for example, one who pocketed Shs 20m that the party rejected from Basajjabalaba during the 2010 delegates' conference. This same person also went away with Shs 10m meant for the party's youth leaders who were meeting in Kawempe that same year," he said.
"Then we failed to deal with some of these characters because some people said the party was still growing, but now, the party is grown enough to deal with such cases of indiscipline. They are being bribed by ministries that induce them with foreign trips yet we agreed that none of us should accept to go on such trips facilitated by ministry budgets because at the end of the day, we fail to keep the government in check."