The Observer (Kampala)

12 December 2012

Uganda: Besigye Fails to Unite Muntu With Mafabi

After weeks of mediation between Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, newly elected president of the FDC, and his defeated rival Nandala Mafabi, the lead negotiator, Col Kizza Besigye, has failed to secure a post-election truce.

Sources familiar with the negotiations tell us that the retired colonel and out-gone president of FDC is hugely frustrated. Besigye had hoped to get the two working together sooner rather than later but the two principals seem to be running parallel agendas.

The talks officially collapsed on November 24 but there are indications they could be revived this week over a dinner at the party national chairman Sam Njuba's residence in Kasangati. Sources say Besigye has privately told people close to him that he fears the differences between the two camps could develop into a bigger rift.

"Besigye's message has been that the party is bigger than any individual so all of us should concentrate on building a strong organisation," a senior party official told us last week.

Many party supporters still expect Besigye to get the two camps talking because he is mutually respected. However, beyond talking to them, Besigye is yet to secure concessions from any of the two parties.

"His problem is that he is not decisive and fears to annoy any of them," the source said.

Besigye's dilemma, the source explained, is going hard on one camp and risk alienating the other. That, he fears, would split the party further. On one hand, he recognises that Muntu's election has generated a wave of optimism which can be capitalised on to attract more supporters to the party.

On the other, he recognises that Mafabi remains a key leader in Bugisu, having single handedly established party structures there. His mobilisation skills are thus needed. The task of mediation has now shifted to Sam Njuba, the national party chairman, who is not finding it easy either.

During the November meeting, sources told us Njuba at one point failed to take charge of the meeting as officials from the two camps traded insults. When things boiled over and some officials started storming out, Njuba was forced to adjourn the meeting.

Today, he has organised a dinner for the two camps at his residence in Kasangati Nangabo, but officials from Mafabi's camp led by Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, say they will not attend it.

Mafabi's team has put forward conditions they say have to be met before any negotiations take off. Key among them is the resignation of Alice Alaso, the party secretary general, and Dan Mugarura, the chairperson of the party's electoral commission.

Grievances

They accuse the duo of engaging in electoral malpractices during the delegates' conference on November 22. In the same vein, some in Muntu's team say Mafabi is not interested in mending fences, arguing that he has kicked off campaigns to topple their man come 2014, when the top job comes up for grabs again.

They say Mafabi is using the country-wide tours meant to "thank delegates for supporting him" largely to undermine Muntu's leadership amongst the party supporters at the grassroots. Margaret W'okuri, a Mafabi strategist, said her former candidate has the right to thank delegates even at the risk of being misunderstood.

She added that it was critical to resolve all outstanding issues, including those related to recent campaigns.

"Remember there were irregularities in the primaries [for MPs in 2011] and some people said 'let us move forward'. There are people who were given money to mobilise for the party but have never accounted for it. This is an opportunity to resolve all these issues; if we do not, the cancer will grow and eat up the party," W'okuri warned.

Alaso told The Observer that the Mafabi camp should give specific reasons for their objections.

"It is not just a matter of someone shouting at a press conference that so and so should step down. Let them state clearly what I did wrong. I will defend myself before the disciplinary committee," she said.

In an interview with The New Vision, Muntu downplayed fears that differences between his and Mafabi's camp would hurt the party in any way.

"We shall engage all members openly and reason will prevail. All those who are discontented will be listened to. There are no factions in FDC. What you are witnessing is normal in a competition," Muntu said.

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