18 April 2017

Uganda: Intra-Party Strife Tests Uganda's Political Value Systems

Photo: Daily Monitor
FDC president Mugisha Muntu (file photo).

Uganda's four political parties with representation in parliament are grappling with internal strife that has put their structural weaknesses under renewed scrutiny.

The friction in the Democratic Party (DP), Uganda People's Congress (UPC), and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is fuelled by contests over the legitimacy of their top leadership, the existing agenda (or lack of it) to consolidate and grow their bases, and the most effective strategy to win power.

Even the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) is not faring much better.

Concern has begun to emerge from its ranks over the need for internal transition.

Like post-independence Uganda, the NRM has never had a peaceful change of leadership in the three decades it has held power -- the longest run of any administration in the country apart from the colonial one.

The latest row in Uganda's oldest party, DP, pits president general Nobert Mao and national vice president Mukasa Mbidde against Betty Nambooze Bakireke, the deputy vice president for Buganda region.

Ms Nambooze, the party's most outspoken legislator, accuses Mr Mao and Mr Mbidde of steering DP in a wrong direction. They in turn accuse her of contravening the party's constitution and resolutions of its National Executive Committee by convening members without the party's approval.

Their rift came to a head on March 31, when Mr Mao and Mr Mbidde reportedly called the police on Ms Nambooze when she was holding a conference for the area under her jurisdiction to rouse the party's ranks and revive its structures and visibility.

InfiltrationThen there is the NRM factor; the ruling party has reportedly infiltrated other parties with the aim of sowing dissension to cripple them - a charge Ms Nambooze laid squarely at Mr Mao and Mr Mbidde's feet.

Under their watch, at least three high profile members, including the party's chairperson, have joined the NRM government in ministerial and ambassadorial positions.

Meanwhile, the FDC has wrestled with fears and accusations of infiltration since its inception in 2004. It is currently in a bitter quarrel with competing factions accusing each other of stagnating its growth.

At the UPC, one faction openly aligned itself with the NRM in the last general election, and one of its legislators was appointed to Cabinet.

"The glue that holds a political party together is what it believes in, its ideology. This is very weak in Uganda, whether you talk of the parties in opposition or even the ruling NRM. All of them have narrowed their interests to obtaining power or keeping it at whatever cost," said Sabiti Makara, a researcher on Ugandan politics, public management and governance.

"Leaders who founded parties were initially driven by strong convictions, and the parties were based on ideological views borrowed from the West, like capitalism and socialism. When this ended, parties, found themselves without major differences that distinguish them," said Deogratius Hasubi Njoki, a policy analyst at DP.

"The absence of clear and strong values is made worse by young people joining the parties who are not bound by any values since they don't exist in a clear way, nor are they enforced in an emphatic way, and who see politics as their only opportunity to get ahead," he added.

A recent assessment of party structures indicates a failure to prioritise the development of a robust ideological base.

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