16 August 2017

Uganda: Why I Am for Gen Muntu This Time

column

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) will this November elect a new party president. The five-year term of office for the current president, Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, will expire in November.

Gen Muntu was nominated on Monday to contest and if he wins, this will be his last term. Muntu will face off with Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa, Moses Lukubira, Dan Matsiko and former Kumi MP Patrick Oboi Amuriat. One of the deficits in this campaign is that no woman has shown interest.

Otherwise, all FDC members should pat themselves on the back for subscribing to the only party in Uganda with such an elaborate and honest internal democracy.

And fighting to institutionalize the FDC will be Gen Muntu's lasting legacy. The first time he offered himself to contest against Dr Kizza Besigye, some members doubted his judgement.

I remember my sister Proscovia Salaamu Musumba, one of the reasons I am in FDC, telling me: "I don't know what is wrong with these Banyankore."

That is how many FDCs, including sophisticated ones like Musumba, viewed anyone who dared contest against Besigye. This is because Besigye is the most charismatic and selfless leader that the FDC either has inherited or produced.

He is nearly more popular than the party. Contesting against him is almost criminal, punishable by isolation and other social boycotts.

Yet that is exactly what motivated Muntu. I remember interviewing him while still working with The Observer and he feared FDC was making the same mistake senior leaders in the NRM made - not contesting against Museveni.

Today, we still have people in FDC who think Col Besigye's word is law and opposing it is a crime. Unfortunately, some of them are senior leaders. When you win over state power with that sort of mentality, I am sure you will be another criminal gang.

Because Besigye's mobilization and presidential campaign catchword was 'defiance', even those who have never chased a caterpillar in their lives are dismissing the rest of the party members as being "compliant".

Therefore, to them, this campaign for the FDC presidency is between defiance and compliance. The truth of the matter is that this campaign is between blind loyalists and those opposed to the idea.

If this was a contest between Muntu and Besigye, I would still vote for Besigye but wouldn't allow anyone to turn me into a blind supporter of an idea or person. This is to ask me not to be a leader.

That is why I had refused to vie for any office in FDC during the last election. Group discipline is very limiting.

The media training I underwent as a young man prepared me to be a free thinker and to be critical. I am also a Muslim and in my faith we worship only the Almighty.

I didn't support Muntu in 2012 because I considered it suicidal for Besigye of Rukungiri to hand over the party leadership to Muntu of neighbouring Ntungamo. But even then, I recognized in all my statements that Muntu is a fantastic human being. And there are testimonies.

One of the last assignments I did before quitting active journalism was interviewing senior statesmen who had honourably retired and were going on with their lives outside the state.

Those I interviewed included former finance minister Gerald Ssendawula, former Supreme court judge Prof George Kanyeihamba, Prof Edward Rugumayo and former Buganda Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere.

Mulwanyamuli and Kanyeihamba both met Muntu when he was the army commander and his humility left a lasting impression on them. Mulwanyamuli told me he had last seen Muntu's humility in Tanzania.

It is this humility that many people abuse. Mind you, this Muntu they dismiss as soft descended on Luweero jungles when he was 23 years old to fight a dictatorial regime. Senior leaders of the regime included his own father, Enock Muntuyera, a former UPC coordinator in Ankole. His credentials are impeccable.

Of course his excessive discipline and adherence to procedure is an inconvenience even to me the chairman of his campaign team, but that is his strength and that is what defines who he is.

The restless population, especially the youth, cannot be patient with these attributes. That is why Besigye who combines this with urgency is more popular, but there can only be one Besigye.

But as I wrote in a previous article, when these two and the like leave the FDC leadership stage, genuine supporters will know their departure was a great loss.

I have been involved in identifying and recruiting people into the FDC, and finding credible ones is not simple.

Many politicians have become fortune-hunters because that is the seed that our revolutionary leader has planted. That is why I fear for the future of political institutions in the country. It is, therefore, important to continue building for 'One Uganda, One People'.

The author is Kira Municipality MP and spokesperson of the Forum for Democratic Change.

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