The leader of Opposition in Parliament, Nathan Nandala Mafabi isn't the only one who wants some officials in the Forum for Democratic Change out of jobs pointedly as a pre-condition for reconciliation.
The Party's Secretary General and Serere Woman MP, Alice Alaso and Kampala Woman MP, Nabilah Naggayi Sempala now want him out too, and are pushing Party President Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu to recall him, The Observer has learnt. This new move further compounds the ugly post-election row that threatens to cripple the party since Muntu beat Mafabi by 33 votes in the November 22 Namboole poll to replace Col Kizza Besigye as party president.
Mafabi has since said the electoral process was flawed and called for the resignation of Alice Alaso, whom he blames for "orchestrating the rigging at Namboole."
Party Spokesman Wafula Oguttu told The Observer at the weekend that; "It is true that some people want Mafabi to be removed but majority of the party does not agree with that because they are not giving any justification. In any case, if Muntu accepts that view, it will be madness because it will lead to a split in the party. By the way, the review (of Mafabi's leadership) has always been there but it does not necessarily mean that he is to be recalled. It is about assessing his performance and if they find an individual suitable, they can be retained."
Apparently, The Observer has learnt that Alaso, Sempala and other high-level officials at FDC notified their president Mugisha Muntu of their intention to have Mafabi fired during an FDC MPs meeting that sat at the party headquarters, Najjanankumbi on January, 14. The anti-Mafabi lobby is citing incompetence in his job as leader of opposition in Parliament and his refusal to recognize the presidency of Muntu as grounds for his dismissal.
"This group alleges that Mafabi has refused to accept that he was defeated and yet he remains incompetent in the House," said a party member who is familiar with the meeting.
The meeting, which was chaired by Muntu and attended by over 15 lawmakers, was convened to discuss the party's agenda in Parliament and matters relating to the Truth and Reconciliation committee that will ultimately reconcile the Muntu and Mafabi factions.
But the meeting instead ended up discussing the removal of Mafabi who was conspicuously absent. "Why should some people think that they are bigger than the party?" one lawmaker allegedly asked in reference to Mafabi's team.
Apparently, the meeting turned its guns on Mafabi after he deliberately skipped the meeting yet he was supposed to report to the MPs on the progress of FDC's agenda in Parliament. Sempala apparently said that if Mafabi is not ready to respect the FDC leadership, he should be recalled from being the Leader of Opposition. But, in response to her, Kumi County MP, Amuriat Oboi said it was unfair for the meeting to rush to conclusions before listening to Mafabi.
"It is very hard to deal with a loss and we need to grant everyone a fair hearing; after all, we need each other and if it means going to kneel before some people, we can do it for the sake of this party," Oboi said, triggering a bitter exchange from MPs.
Muntu at this stage intervened. He ruled that removing Mafabi has never been his option. "I have had enough rumours that there is a plan to recall Mafabi but that will not happen," Muntu reportedly told the meeting. Eventually, the meeting resolved to reach out to Mafabi.
Some MPs, who attended the meeting, confirmed the attempts to recall Mafabi but were reluctant to divulge details. "It is true there are some elements trying to ask for the removal of Mafabi but we shall not allow that to happen," said the Ayivu MP, Bernard Atiku, who attended the meeting.
However, Oboi told The Observer that the future of the party weighs heavily on how it heals the rifts. "It will be very good if we emerge from these rifts but it is very bad if we continue to hide our heads in the sand," he said, adding that reconciliation should be a priority. "I appeal to members to remain calm because we need each other. Let's not behave like we are not united by a common view," Oboi said.
We understand that MPs in Muntu's camp are demanding a review of the leadership in Parliament. Apart from pushing for Mafabi's recall, they are also interested in shuffling the leadership of committees. However, Geoffrey Ekanya told The Observer that this move is not related to the FDC presidential race.
"This has nothing to do with Muntu's win. We agreed as a party that the opposition leadership across the board would always be reviewed after two and half years," he said, adding that any change that comes from the review should not be misunderstood.
"So, in this review, the party considers performance and output but if anyone failed to live up to expectations he/she will have to be deployed elsewhere regardless of their background in the party," he said. Mafabi has so far spent 18 months on the job. So, he will be up for review in a year's time.
According to the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, the leader of opposition is chosen by the majority party in the House, who, in consultation with the party, names the shadow cabinet and the leadership of the accountability committees.
Currently, the opposition MPs chair the accountability committees which include the Public Accounts committee, Local Government Accounts committee, committee on Government Assurances and the committee on commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises.
MPs in the Mafabi camp, who attended the meeting included Oboi, Jack Wamai Wamanga (Mbale municipality) and Bernard Atiku (Ayivu). The Muntu-leaning MPs included; Reagan Okumu (Aswa), Odonga Otto (Aruu), Alaso, Sempala, Kassiano Wadri (Terego) and the Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal.
Muntu won the FDC presidency after a tightly fought race. In a bid to resolve the post-election row, a Truth and Reconciliation committee chaired by seasoned counsel Ladislaus Rwakafuzi to investigate the alleged malpractices cited by the Mafabi camp was set up recently.
The team, which includes Athanasius Rutaro, Nasser Mudiobole, Elizabeth Abong and Stephen Okwalinga as members, will conduct inquiries for 30 days before submitting a report to the National Executive committee through the party chairman.