23 December 2012

Uganda: Muntu Eyes 2016, Splits From Besigye

There is little indication that Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, the new president of the opposition FDC is warming the seat for an eventual flag bearer that would lead the party into the 2016 presidential elections.

Now we have it: what appears to be hard, convincing evidence of Muntu's ultimate and most bold desire to run for president. A month after his election, the general has unveiled a plan that would change the party's tact and approach and revolutionise opposition politics which ultimately would drive President Museveni out of office come 2016.

In a 5,214-word document, part of which was circulated to some delegates on November 22, the day of the election, Muntu calls for a radical change in the party approach, from merely criticizing the NRM to articulating alternative policies that can be pursued. Muntu also announced his desire to recruit moderate NRM supporters who desire change. This carefully crafted document was supposed to be delivered at Namboole but for unclear reasons it was not.

Sources in the party told us that the document represents Muntu's thinking on a number of issues and is a strong indication that he has set his sights on the 2016 elections though publicly he remains guarded on whether he would take on Dr Kizza Besigye, the former party president, in the contest for the party flag bearer.

"Over the next four years, the president of FDC should offer a new vision to the country and the first task, therefore, is a message that will re-inspire our supporters and those who have not yet come on board. Let Ugandans look at FDC and see a future government that will listen and care for the poor and the vulnerable, a government that is honest and clean, fair and just and respects the law," Muntu urges.

FDC under Besigye has toed a confrontational path that largely targeted the person of President Museveni. But Muntu, in his document, has signalled a shift to an issue-based approach.

FDC weaknesses

Muntu recognizes that in its current shape, FDC cannot take power because it is divided. His pledge, he says, is to ensure that there is unity and teamwork in the national leadership. This unity, he writes, must be funnelled into a team consensus around an alternative vision for the country and a strategy that will strengthen the party's performance.

He also hopes to use a robust message and vision to inspire the youth to join the party.

"With a revitalized message, FDC can and must also reach out to new political constituencies, especially regions where NRM traditionally gets its highest levels of support, and moderate leaders in NRM who want reform in the country," he states.

Muntu argues that without a strong message, the party might find it difficult to attract potential donors, thereby affecting the implementation of their activities. The former army commander says the party must go beyond the strength it has demonstrated in presidential election campaigns and build a legislative majority as well as a majority in local councils.

"... I will dedicate a lot of my time and effort to the task of recruiting strong candidates for Parliament and the various LC positions. Strong candidates running for various electoral offices will help us strengthen our grassroots mobilization for lower-level offices as well as the presidency of the country and will give momentum to efforts to build party structures at lower levels," he says.

Muntu says that the party must find a way of tackling rigging in national elections. He says he is going to do his level best to persuade Parliament to pass electoral reforms without which, he says, participating in elections will be futile.

Defeating NRM

For FDC to win in 2016, Muntu says, Ugandans must be told what the party will do with the power when it gets it. He writes that Ugandans must look at FDC and see a future government that will listen and care for the poor and the vulnerable, a government that is honest and clean, fair and just and respects the law.

Ugandans, he says, should see in FDC, a government that can be trusted and expected to invest public funds in priority areas, a government that will transform Uganda and move it forward on the path of development and democracy.

"Let them see us as the government that knows their problems and is serious, creative and effective about solving those problems, a government that will stop the stealing, jail the corrupt and strictly follow the law, and a leadership team that will lead by example," he writes.

Regarding the contentious issue of oil revenues, Muntu disagrees with President Museveni - but only on the emphasis of where the money should be invested. While Museveni prioritises infrastructure, Muntu stresses education and training.

"The oil revenues must support the development of our human resource base, the development of people, through widespread access to quality education and training at all levels, as well as energy and infrastructure," the document reads.

Muntu writes that the leadership of FDC should be able to reform the civil service, the local government system and all areas of government, currently in a crisis of corruption, incompetence and systemic dysfunction."

Then he delivers what he believes to be the clincher in changing the country's political dynamics from NRM to FDC.

"NRM has for a long time enjoyed support in Western Uganda and Buganda. FDC has enjoyed support in Northern and Eastern Uganda. To remove NRM from power, FDC must break NRM's support in the West, then break it in Buganda following which we must consolidate our support in the north and east," he writes.

But while Muntu may be doing the right things, some observers warn that he may not be able to capture the imagination of millions of barely literate voters in a poor country. Aaron Mukwaya, a senior lecturer in the department of political science at Makerere University, said Muntu's strategy of dwelling on issues as opposed to personalities is good but not so many Ugandans will appreciate it.

"That [articulating alternative policies] is what leadership is about. Telling people how you are going to change their lives and how you plan to get things moving, but you see many of our people are not yet politically mature. That is why name-calling appeals to them," Mukwaya said.

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