FDC – Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has been at the helm of Uganda’s opposition politics since its foundation in 2004 following a merger that brought together Reform Agenda, Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO), and other political groups. At its foundation, the party admired emulating values of democracy but over time, the practice has exposed FDC as a party largely anchored on principles of defiance and violence. Democratic space has so shrunk that politics of intolerance, greed, and selfishness has of late further drowned the party into paralysis as party leaders deliberately fail to manage internal differences, culminating in separations and now a split. We saw a climax of these differences in July 2023 when the party split into different factions accusing each other of acquiring money from ‘evil’ sources. This is how I see.
Defiance and violence
Defiance as an extremist political strategy became popular in 2011 following the riots that engulfed many Arab states – later dubbed the Arab Spring. While FDC ought to use it to manage an interplay of its national and international interests, the extremist strategy instead frustrated the small space that was available for democratic politics within the party. It became an instrument of coercion against members who believed in other (diplomatic) approaches. Intolerance and failure to accommodate alternating political opinions became a culture. Defiance became a party machinery at the cost of democracy and this was the launch of the self-demolition project. Consequently, the party lost a way of identifying and nurturing potential leaders as many were labelled moles and spies because they believed otherwise. We have seen some joining and/or forming other political parties, as others choose to remain politically independent. Examples include Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Betty Kamya, Owek. Nabbosa Ssebuggwaawo, Katuntu, Mapenduzi, Elijah Okupa, among others. All these potential leaders were FDC diehards and later frustrated.
Greed, selfishness & grievances
The current split in FDC stems from allegations that Amuriat – party president & Nandala – secretary general acquired money from ‘strange’ sources during the 2021 electoral period. Although it’s not very clear what the purpose of this money was, what’s clear today is that this wouldn’t be the first time for the party to be funded by strangers. On July 19, at Najjanankumbi, Nandala expressed mistrust in the genuineness of wealth owned by conveyors of these allegations. He appeared suspicious of them having accumulated wealth unethically, according to FDC standards. Same day, the Katonga-road faction led by Besigye disclosed that the party had been receiving funding from ‘strangers’ even before. Now that we know, next to discover is why this implosion materializes now. Possibly, this time greed dominated the appropriation process hence grievances from the receiving end. But before that, if the party repeatedly acquired ‘monies’ prior to 2021, why does the habit become harmful and strange now? I find this tendency very selfish from the other group.
In my opinion, FDC have crossed a point of no return. At this point, even if the party survives, factions are bound to stay. This split is so perplexing that on one side you have a faction led by their long-time leader Besigye against the current party leaders. It’s unclear whether the alleging faction will form a new party, pressure group or seek refuge in other parties. All these are possible and won’t be new in our regional politics. A similar situation engulfed Kenya’s Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) when they split into FORD-ASILI (meaning ‘original’) led by Kenneth Matiba and FORD-KENYA led by Jaramogi Odinga & Wamalwa. Soon, it could be ‘FDC-ASILI’ vs. ‘FDC-UGANDA’.
We ought to know that even in ‘real’ democracy – if it exists anyway, all can’t have similar opinions always. Political groups must desist from labelling their members moles and spies because it demoralizes potential leaders. Worst of all, these people you keep accusing of ‘eating’ money from strangers will be forced to ‘eat’ it when loyalty ultimately loses value. Having a different opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that someone acquires money from your competitor.
Tweheyo Charles is an analyst of politics & international relations.