6 December 2012

Uganda: Muntu Faces Mafabi Revolt

For some, a concession speech by Nathan Nandala-Mafabi a fortnight ago seemed to suggest that the leader of opposition in Parliament and Budadiri West MP had magnanimously conceded defeat.

But unravelling events in the aftermath of a tightly contested party presidential election seem to point to a bigger split within the main opposition party, FDC. Mafabi and the new party President, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, have failed to bury the hatchet after the latter defeated the former by 32 votes.

Mafabi and his team have their own explanation for their loss and it leans heavily on a flawed electoral process. They say Muntu didn't win fair and square. Rubaramira Ruranga, the chairperson of the Mafabi team, wants the FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso, who supported Muntu going into the election, and the Chairman of the party Electoral Commission, Dan Mugarula, to resign, before they can work with Muntu.

Former party President Dr Kizza Besigye and the party chairman, Sam Njuba, have tried to reconcile the two camps but with little success. In fact, two days after the Namboole election, Besigye called a reconciliation meeting at Najjanankumbi but the meeting turned stormy, dogged by accusations and counter accusations.

Besigye, Njuba intervene

The closed door-meeting, chaired by Njuba, was attended by Mafabi, Mugisha Muntu and Geoffrey Ekanya and their campaign officials. According to a source who attended the meeting, the party Secretary General Alice Alaso wept after she was accused of messing up the Namboole election and voting severally.

She demanded an apology from the Mafabi team, short of which, she threatened to resign as secretary general. Instead of an apology, Oduman Okello stood up and repeated the same accusations, prompting Alaso to storm out of the meeting.

After the botched first meeting, Njuba has tried again to reconcile the two but with little success. According to a new Njuba proposal for reconciliation, each camp is supposed to name two negotiators for a compromise. The decision reached is supposed to be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) which is supposed to take the final party position.

Enter Alaso

However, the Mafabi group has vowed not to nominate members to the Njuba reconciliation committee before Alice Alaso resigns.

"The secretary general and the chairperson of electoral commission should first resign before we start reconciliation talks," Maj Rubaramira told journalists yesterday.

If Alaso and Mugarura don't resign, Rubaramira said, the Mafabi team will not participate in the talks. In fact, some party members who are in the Mafabi team have vowed not to step in Najjanankumbi, if Alaso is still the secretary general.

"FDC will crumble if we keep these people [Alaso and Mugarura] in the party," Maj Rubaramira said adding, "FDC can only be strong if it remains cohesive without divisions". Rubaramira faults Alaso for multiple voting and messing up the electoral process that led to Mafabi's loss.

The Mafabi group accuses Alaso of removing seven of Mafabi's supporters from the voter register and issuing an accreditation card to a body guard to Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire. Rubaramira also faults Alaso for messing up the East African Legislative Assembly internal elections in which Salaamu Musumba, a senior party official lost to little-known Anita Amongi.

"It is hypocrisy to demand for reforms in the national Electoral Commission when ours is still rusty" he explained.

Some 360 members have petitioned the party leadership for reforms and the resignation of Alaso. The two party leaders now run two separate offices. Muntu is based at Najjanankumbi and the Mafabi group is based at its Naguru offices.

Those in the Mafabi group include Boniface Toterebuka Bamwenda, the deputy party spokesperson, Jack Sabiiti, the party treasurer, and Margaret Wokuri. Mafabi's camp has also rejected a get-together bash with Muntu's team, originally scheduled for December 12, 2012.

"We still have a lot of issues to sort out before merrymaking," Rubaramira said.

Besides, the bitter relationship, Mafabi is already preparing for another election showdown with Muntu come 2014 for the party president. Muntu, Rubaramira explained, is just supposed to finish the term Dr Besigye didn't finish; so, in 2014, the party will hold another delegates' conference in which new party office bearers will be elected.

According to Rubaramira, Mafabi is already crisscrossing the country to thank his voters for the support and in preparation for the 2014 party elections.

Muntu responds

Muntu acknowledges there are internal party issues to sort out but insists there is no cause for alarm. "Yes, there are internal issues to sort out. I'm told there is a petition but I have not received it. Let us wait and see what happens," Muntu told The Observer on phone, stressing his willingness to work with all party members.

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