The acquisition of the Social Democratic Party by former Vice-President Prof Gilbert Bukenya marks a new shift in his ploy to wrest the presidency from Mr Yoweri Museveni.
Our sources have told us that Bukenya, who is still the NRM chairperson for Wakiso district, bought SDP from former Makindye East MP Michael Mabikke and three other members last month.
After buying the six-year old party, Bukenya reportedly got the Electoral Commission (EC) to regularise the transaction. The purchase however, has triggered fierce internal wrangling. Seventeen party members have now contested the change of name.
On learning about the deal, in which Bukenya is alleged to have paid a large sum of money to Mabikke and group, the majority of SDP executive members, led by Organising Secretary Fred Kavuma, decided to take action against Mabikke. The Observer has seen a government gazette that officially announces the change of the party’s name.
“In accordance with section 11(3) of the Political Parties and Organisation Act No. 18 of 2005, SDP has changed its name to Party of National Unity (PNU). The colours and symbols have remained unchanged,” a notification issued on August 4, signed by Engineer Badru Kiggundu and published on August 22 says.
Speaking to The Observer yesterday, Kavuma did not hide his bitterness about the whole affair.
“It is unfortunate that because of greed for money, the minority of our fellow members have chosen to sell the party we struggled to buy six years ago not only as their personal property, but even forged names of other members who don’t agree to the selling idea.”
Other members alleged to have endorsed the sale include National Chairman Muhammad Kyambadde, Secretary General Henry Lubowa, and National Treasurer Eddy Kizimula, a former youth Councillor at the defunct KCC. Contacted yesterday for a comment, Kyambadde denied selling the party. He said they gave it to Bukenya free of charge.
“Though we have been keeping this decision a top secret we only feared that ordinary members if informed would blow it out of proposition but most of them are aware that we’re the group to front Bukenya as a presidential candidate…Bukenya never gave us a coin for this name,” Kyambadde said.
Those who changed the name say that Bukenya insisted that since he is a socialist, SDP will be a better launch platform. Kyambadde’s remarks angered many SDP executive members who include JB Asea and Mubarak Munyagwa, mayors of Lugazi and Kawempe respectively.
“I and my many councilors stood on the SDP ticket and we won many seats. We recently printed SDP T-shirts and people know us as SDP, why sell the party?” Asea said.
Bukenya has a tough fight ahead with, some SDP members threatening to take legal action against the EC and others involved in the process. Through RM Ruhinda Aocates and Solicitors, the deputy secretary general, Amin Morgan, on September 23 petitioned the EC. He gave the commission one week to revoke the approval of change of name or face legal action.
In the letter seen by The Observer, majority of the executive members contend that under Article 12 of the SDP constitution, change of their party name must be sanctioned by the national conference and not by the National Executive Committee.
The letter is copied to Mabikke.
SDP was bought from Kampala district Woman MP Nabilah Naggayi Sempala six years ago. Contacted for a comment yesterday, Bukenya said he was locked in “a long crucial meeting.”
Paul Bukenya, the deputy EC spokesman, promised to get back to us, but had not done so by press time.
Source : The Observer