A reconciliatory dinner meant to restore post-election calm in the opposition Forum for Democratic Change offered little hope for compromise between the victors and the losing team led by Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala-Mafabi team.
The Wednesday dinner was meant to bring FDC President Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, who won a closely- fought election last month to roundtable talks with Mafabi. But the latter didn't show up. Mafabi, sources in his camp say, instead called a meeting at his former campaign head offices in Naguru to explain the boycott.
After meeting his campaign agents and officials, Mafabi wrote a letter to FDC Chairman Sam Njuba, the dinner organizer and lead mediator, explaining why he stayed away from the dinner. According to sources, Mafabi stated that the dinner at Njuba's residence in Kasangati was sponsored by James Musinguzi, a city tycoon and senior FDC official, whom the leader of opposition in Parliament claims does business with the ruling NRM party.
Mafabi's claim is pegged to recent media reports that said the ministry of Agriculture had entered a partnership worth Shs 7bn with Musinguzi's Kanungu-based tea firm. Kyadondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, who is the shadow Information minister, confirmed to The Observer that Mafabi wrote the said letter to Njuba.
However, Ssemujju, known to be part of Mafabi's team, attended the dinner at Njuba's residence and made the opening remarks by virtue of being the area MP. It's also understood that Mafabi had turned down earlier efforts by Musinguzi to reconcile him with Muntu.
Sources reveal that immediately after the bitter election, Musinguzi invited Mafabi to one of his Kampala residences for negotiations. But the talks didn't take off because Mafabi walked away on learning that Muntu had been invited too. According to party sources familiar with Musinguzi's initiative, he wanted to convince Mafabi to settle for the post of secretary general, currently held by Alice Alaso.
Mafabi's team wants Alaso and the party's electoral commission chairperson Dan Mugarura to resign before any negotiations take off. 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.
Muntu garnered 396 votes to pip Mafabi at the presidency by 33 votes. While Mafabi publicly acknowledged defeat, he has refused to work with the new FDC president, saying the election was rigged. They say Mafabi is using the countrywide tours meant to "thank delegates for supporting him" largely to undermine Muntu's leadership amongst the party supporters at the grassroots.
But Muntu insists that he's ready to work with Mafabi.