22 May 2016

Uganda: FDC At Crossroads As 10th Parliament Opens

Photo: Eric Dominic Bukenya/Daily Monitor
The 9th Parliament in session. As the 10th Parliament commences business, FDC, the majority Opposition party, has to fill some posts such as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and chairpersons of several parliamentary committees.

To act or not to act, is the main Opposition Forum for Democratic Change's (FDC) dilemma in appointing the next Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP) and committee heads allocated to the Opposition in the House.

Since Uganda returned to multiparty democracy after a referendum in 2005, all the subsequent elections have resulted in FDC having majority membership of the Opposition parties represented in Parliament. This has ensured the party appoints the LoP and chairpersons of several parliamentary committees allocated to the Opposition.

Section 6B(1) of the Administration of Parliament Act (2006), provides for the election of the LoP from an Opposition party with the greatest numerical strength.

However, FDC officially rejected the results of the February 18 presidential election and has called for an internationally-backed independent audit of the election results. This is on top of purportedly swearing in Dr Kizza Besigye, the party's presidential candidate in the election, who they claim won the elections with 52 per cent.

But by taking up slots allocated to the Opposition, observers and analysts say FDC will have effectively and officially recognised President Museveni, who was sworn in on May 12 for a fifth-elective term in office and the ruling NRM government as having won the 2016 general polls.

The ball is in FDC's court and the party has been holding several meetings in a quest to resolve the issue.

On May 18, the party president, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, made an unusual visit to Parliament, in what seemed like being in solidarity with several FDC legislators, who were taking oath of office that day. He was, in fact, on the same podium with Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa as he took oath of office.

Gen Muntu did not mince words when it came to FDC's view of the NRM government and the party's role in the 10th Parliament. He said while FDC considers the NRM government illegitimate, the party would support its MPs because Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive are separate entities.

On how the party would handle the LoP position, he said consultations were still ongoing.

"We are still carrying out consultations among the members of FDC; the 10th Parliament caucus is still carrying out consultations so we are waiting to hear their views on it. We have been carrying out consultations before and we will make our final decision very soon," he said.

Gen Muntu says the decision on the LoP will be dependent on the members of the 10th Parliament because "they are the ones who are going to be in Parliament".

This decision, according to policy analyst and activist Godber Tumushabe, can be disastrous to the party's future prospects. Mr Tumushabe says FDC as a party would have shot itself in the foot by taking on any Opposition responsibilities in Parliament. "It would be a serious error of judgment if they [FDC] went ahead and elected the LoP or committee heads. Judging from what they have told us, they are not the Opposition but the government in power," he said.

But Dr Sabiti Makara, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University, says FDC has no option but to swallow the bitter pill and take up the offices allotted to the Opposition.

"If they don't appoint the LoP, other parties can and will. They will have to rethink their position. If somebody successfully beats you whether fairly or unfairly, then you have to reconsider your stance," he said.

With 14 MPs in the House, the Democratic Party (DP) could have a realistic chance if FDC defies and opts not to take up the Opposition leadership.

In the 10th Parliament, whose members took oath last week, FDC has 36 MPs, DP 14 and the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) six MPs. The entire Opposition is in control of only 56 parliamentary seats. On the other hand, NRM has more than 280 MPs, with the majority of the Independent legislators also siding with the ruling party.

A sneak peek into FDC shows it would be a snowball's chance in hell for FDC members to give up the LoP and committee leadership positions, including defying the party leadership if it decides not to make appointments for the positions.

Already, some FDC members have either expressed interest or are likely to vie for the LoP job. These include Mr Elijah Okupa (Kasilo), Samuel Odonga Otto (Aruu County), Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo District), Winifred Kiiza (Kasese Woman), Prof Ogenga Latigo (Agago North), Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri) and Hassan Kaps Fungaroo(Obongi).

Sources within FDC indicate that the party vice president for northern Uganda, Mr Reagan Okumu, is interested in the job and could be the establishment's preferred candidate.

In fact, Mr Okumu was the FDC leadership's preferred candidate (for Aswa County) but had to run as an Independent after Gulu High Court judge Margaret Mutonyi ruled that a decision by the FDC to handpick Mr Okumu for Aswa County flag bearer was unfair. He went on to defeat his opponent, Mr Christopher Acire.

Since its inception, only three men have held the LoP post. These include Prof Latigo (2006-2011), Mr Nandala Mafabi (2011-2014) and Mr Wafula Oguttu (2014-2016). Both Mr Wafula and Prof Latigo were not re-elected when they vied for office after serving as LoP.

Mr Mafabi has since been elected the FDC secretary general, while Prof Latigo, who has been out of Parliament for five years, is tipped as a strong contender for the job.

The LoP post has in the past been a contentious issue and threatened to split FDC. This time, however, it may well decide which direction the party will take in its quest to end the more than 30 years of NRM rule. At this point, the FDC is 'damned if they do, damned if they don't'.

Samuel Odonga Otto, Aruu County MP

Age. 39

Background. Born Samuel Odonga Otto on November 11, 1977 in Aruu County, Pader District. He has been in the House since 2001.

Education. He holds a degree in Political Science from Makerere (1997-2000).

He also holds a Bachelor of Law degree from Uganda Christian University and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre.

Work experience. He has served on the committes of Presidential Affairs and National Economy. He is known for speaking his mind, including making controversial decisions, sometimes openly going against those of his FDC party.

Winifred Kiiza, Kasese Woman MP

Age. 46

Background. Born November 26, 1970, the Kasese Woman legislator is the current FDC Women's League leader. She has served on the parliamentary committee of Local government Accounts, Gender,Labour and Social Development and the Business Committee. Ms Kiiza has been in Parliament since 2006.

She has previously served as an Opposition Chief Whip. Before joining Parliament, Ms Kiiza was a district councillor (1998 - 2005).

Education. She holds a Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies from Makerere University, a Bachelor of Procurement and Logistics Management from Kyambogo University and Diploma in Stores Management from Makerere University Business School.

"I have the capability and competence to be the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament because I have acted in that position for a long time when I was Chief Whip.

That gave me enough experience that I now want to put in practice. For the last 10 years, that post has been taken up by men and I think we should give it a feminine touch. I wouldn't want to think my party would want to disappoint its women by denying them a chance to serve.

I began this journey by leading five MPs from within Kasese, I will start with those to bring more to FDC. It would be bad for me to aspire if I did not have the numbers."

Abdu Katuntu, Bugweri County MP

Age. 51

Background. Born on March 12, 1965, Mr Katuntu has been Bugweri County MP since 2001, where he has had active participation in the Committees on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Rules, Discipline and Privileges.

He has also served as Shadow Attorney General. He previously worked as a State Attorney (1991-1992). He is a practicing advocate.

Education. He holds a Bachelor's of Law degree from Makerere University and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre.

"The president of the party appoints the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. The question of who that will be rests with him. If he appoints me, well and good and if he doesn't, it is no big deal. I only looked for the vote of Bugweri. I will serve in any capacity that my party assigns me."

Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, Obongi County MP

Age. 39

Background. Born January 30, 1977, Mr Fungaroo has been the Shadow minister for Defence in the 9th Parliament.

He was also Shadow minister for the Presidency and anti-corruption (2008 - 2011) in the 8th Parliament. He has previously worked as FDC secretary for organisation and mobilisation, FDC secretary in the president's office and FDC deputy secretary for human rights, among other duties.

Education. He holds a Bachelor's of Public Administration and Management from the Islamic University in Uganda (2009).

He also holds a diploma in clinical medicine and community health fom Gulu Medical School (2002). He attained his secondary school education at St Mary's College, Kisubi (1997) and St Joseph's College, Ombachi (1994)

Ogenga Latigo, Agago North County MP

Age. 64

Background. Born on November 12, 1952, Prof Latigo would not be new to the job if he is appointed. Prof Latigo was the first LoP since Uganda's return to multiparty politics.

He served from 2006 to 2011 when he lost his parliamentary seat.

Education. He holds a degree in agriculture from Makerere University (1974 to 1977). He worked for Makerere university for some time before leaving in 1980 to join Nairobi University where he graduated with a Master's Degree in Zoology.

In 1984, he joined the International Centre for Insect, Physiology and Ecology. In 1989 he did his Doctorate at Makerere University and later joined Ohio University for another doctorate. He returned to Makerere University as a lecturer in 1990 and in 1997, he was promoted to associate professor.

"If I didn't want to provide leadership, I wouldn't have come back to Parliament in the first place. My leadership in Parliament can include being an ordinary member up to the LoP. There are many positions that members of the Opposition can be assigned to.

If I am asked to lead the Opposition again, it is something I wouldn't shy away from. I have my faculties intact and knowledge and capabilities of where this country should go."

Cecilia Ogwal, Dokolo MP

Age. 70

Background. A seasoned politician, Ms Ogwal has been in Parliament since 1996. She was born in Dokolo District on June 12, 1946.

Education. She is a graduate of Nairobi University (1970).

Work experience. From 1979 until 1980, she worked at the Uganda Embassy in Kenya, as the liaison officer for returning Ugandan refugees.

From 1980 until 1981, she worked as the operations manager at the Uganda Advisory Board of Trade. In 1982, she was one of the founders of Housing Finance Bank, working there until 1984.

She served as the chairperson of Uganda Development Bank from 1981 until 1986. She served as the acting secretary general of Uganda Peoples Congress (1985 to 1992).

She was a member of the Constituent Assembly, which drafted and promulgated the 1995 Constitution. She remained a high-ranking official in the UPC political party until 2004. During the 2006 parliamentary elections, she lost her Lira Municipality seat to Jimmy Akena.

"With us [FDC], you don't have to show your interest like in NRM. We leave the leadership of the party to choose who they want. What I want to be very clear on is that if I am called upon to take up the position, I will serve my party and the country. That doesn't mean I am campaigning for it. The final decision rests with the party president."

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