Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, a former leader of opposition in Parliament, recently caused a stir in the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) when he issued a statement announcing that he had given up his position of the party’s deputy treasurer general.
Mafabi was rumoured to be on his way out of FDC due to irreconcilable differences with party president Mugisha Muntu, who beat him to the party’s top job in 2012. In an interview with Sadab Kitatta Kaaya, Mafabi denies forming another political party. He says he is instead readying himself to save FDC from sliding into dictatorship.
You recently announced that you had resigned your position as FDC deputy treasurer. What pushed you to resign from the party leadership?
I have never resigned. My term of office and all the other FDC leaders’ expired on February 19, 2013. We have since been volunteers. It didn’t make sense volunteering for two years because, when I was in the race with Gen Muntu for the FDC presidency, he said that we are going to build grassroots structures which are robust so that we can win the 2016 elections.
We are nearing 2016 but we have not built any single structure. It is because of the volunteering that people thought that there is no need for [internal] elections. That is why me and Jack [Sabiiti] put them to order and said, we had agreed that there will be elections right from the grassroots.
You recall that on April 4, 2013, there was a purported national council [NC] meeting which was called [but] in reality, there was no national council. That was an expired NC which claimed to have extended [our] terms of office.
First of all, they had no powers [because] their term had expired two, you cannot extend what has expired. You can only review. That is why we said, well, we need to hold grassroots elections because some of us are eyeing other posts in the party. Some people are not interested in the elections because they are comfortable in their positions.
We are telling them it is a mistake for them to [live] in the comfort zones. We need to take power and, to take power, we need to have grassroots structures. We are aware of some of our colleagues who fear elections. [According to the party constitution] you serve only two non-renewable terms in a position.
My first term as deputy treasurer general ended in 2009 and my last term [in the position] ended in February 2013, just like everybody in that party’s [leadership].
I even got a letter from Gen Muntu saying that he had accepted my resignation. He should have written to me, thanking me for having volunteered, and in fact if they appoint anybody to [the offices I and Sabiiti held], it will again be making another fundamental mistake whereby if anybody took [FDC] to court, it will lose the case.
What is the real problem affecting FDC? Is it the leaders or resources?
The problem is [people enjoying] their comfort zones. Someone is a member of Parliament and feels that he has [arrived]. To have a g party, you must have people from [the village level] up to the president. I Nandala, I am not comfortable that I am the only one who should be an MP.
We should have very many MPs, district chairpersons, councillors and leaders at all the other levels. That is the reason why some of us say that there is a problem.
When you talk about money, it is the leader who mobilises for money. If there is no money in FDC, I then blame it on Gen Muntu because if he cannot mobilise for money, then he cannot be a leader. So, I am sure he has the money. I served under Dr Kizza Besigye and there is no activity that never took place because we didn’t have money.
We had money [to fund] any activity that we planned. I am hearing of the issue that the party is broke but during Besigye’s time, we always had the money. By the way, Besigye is a colonel and [Muntu] is a major general. [In the army], a colonel is of a lower rank than a major general. We would have expected the general to be on top of things.
Having worked under Dr Besigye, why don’t you use that experience and help your current party president to move the party forward?
In which way? We have helped him. We hung on as volunteers. Jack [Sabiiti] was treasurer general, I was his deputy, and we have been there. You remember in July, at Hotel Africana, and it is the same Observer paper you work for that quoted Gen Muntu saying that any party without grassroots structures is no party it rather packs its bags and goes.
In fact, he has already indicted himself he has no grassroots structures [so] he should have packed yesterday. Those are the arguments we are trying to raise you cannot take almost two years without grassroots structures. In fact, I will be sincere to you I wouldn’t have started saying this until they went to the media and said that I and Sabiiti had resigned.
We said, ‘No, we have not resigned. Our terms [of office] ended in 2013. Those who are raising the issues are sticking in office illegally, and they don’t want to go for grassroots elections so that we can replace leadership.’ Maybe I want to be the secretary for environment or the treasurer general.
The secretary general has issued a notice for a delegates’ conference don’t you think that some of these issues can be addressed at the delegates’ conference?
I am told that they want to come and amend the constitution. I will tell you the most interesting one the president wants power so that he can chase anybody. If I have been voted by the delegates’ conference, why should the president have powers to chase me? It should be the delegates’ conference to chase me.
If there are issues with me, I should go [through] the process of the disciplinary committee and if there is a case, they should say we have suspended you, pending the delegates’ conference. In fact their constitution is going to be worse than the UPC constitution and the NRM which is also going to adopt the dictatorial tendencies.
There will be no difference with dictatorship. In fact the earlier they dropped those changes, the better. The only amendment which was vital is that the grassroots structures should start from the village level.
The president wants to sack anybody who rises against him. You know weak leaders hide themselves in laws. We are aocating for a democratic society and, by the way, political parties in the current state must be there to woo people to join them but if you think of sacking, where will you get the people? You’ll sack until you sack yourself too.
Will you be part of the delegates’ conference?
I will make a decision later but, honourably, I have to raise other issues in the delegates’ conference if it is there. I may not go into that but I will have to raise other issues.
Are you suggesting that the party has problems of intrigue?
There are people who have personal interests – maybe those are the ones you can call intrigues – but I don’t think there are intrigues. Some people even do things [ignorantly]. Some think they can step on others so that they jump others assume that they have [arrived]. That is it.
I am told that [Muntu] has been building structures underground. I don’t know. Maybe they have been built in Ntungamo but in Bugisu, I haven’t seen any. Maybe that’s why they are coming up to say there are intrigues but they are not there.
Assuming Gen Muntu extended an olive branch to you…
Olive branch for what? I am a member of FDC and I am in FDC. If people don’t get up and do what is right, I am giving them a short time, I will mobilise members throughout the country and you will see what we are going to do.
What are you going to do?
I will mobilise them to rise up against a leadership that is not performing. People have died, right from the days of Reform Agenda, people are in exile, others have lost families, or have got disabled. From 2001, we know what we have gone through. We are not going to accept people who got us on the way to come and destroy what we have been building.
I will not agree. I want to tell you clearly now that at an appropriate time, we shall rise up and say, we cannot accept to be led in such a way. We have struggled, we have reached here… and that is why I give credit to Dr Besigye and that is why I tell people if he is available, I am there for him. He has never wavered he led the party under all difficult circumstances.
In fact these are now comfort zones for these who are now in leadership. It is not like how we started. You saw what we went through in 2001 none of them would say Reform Agenda. Nobody would rise up, we were the only ones [promoting] Reform Agenda but now they are talking. In 2011, I almost died.
Do you want to mean that the current FDC president is part of the group that jumped on along the way?
You follow up [who joined when]. I have told you that I am actually from the Reform Agenda. Follow me up that is why I have said I will not accept anybody who tries to push [FDC] down.
There is talk that you are closely working with Amama Mbabazi to form a new political party and probably this is the reason why you are all out against Gen Muntu.
This issue of Nandala forming a party was [coined] by them. Let’s assume that the party is there in Bugisu, is it the one that has made FDC not to mobilise in Western or Mbarara or at least Ntungamo? Is it the one that has failed them from mobilising in Teso, West Nile and all the other parts of the country?
Is it the one that has made FDC to be silent? A lazy person will always blame his tools. It is laziness and [that is why] they are using the excuse that Nandala has formed a party. Surely, it is like saying that my hoe cannot dig well but in actual sense you are weak and lazy.
Now this talk of me and Mbabazi I was the Leader of Opposition in Parliament [LOP], I was sacked because of competition. The circumstances under which I was sacked are the same circumstances under which Mbabazi was sacked, because when he raised the head [to express interest] in the presidency, he got sacked. So birds of the same feathers will always flock together. But otherwise, as LOP, I used to talk to him as Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
You are out of the LOP’s office and he is out of the prime minister’s office. What more business are you transacting together?
He has to come and consult me on life out of office because he came recently and I had been there for [some time]. I am the one with experience. He has to come, and he is my brother.
Talking about the circumstances under which you were sacked, what were the reasons?
When I was talking to Gen Muntu, he told me that he was relieving me of the LOP position for personal reasons. What would be the personal reasons? I competed with him [for the FDC presidency] that could be one of the personal reasons.
I can’t say that it [is related] to coffee trade. I come from Bugisu, we grow Arabica coffee. I don’t [know] what type of coffee he grows. I married an Atesot woman I don’t know what he married.
How did you feel?
I am a happy man. Can’t you see how I look like? Was I like this when I was LoP? I have time for my family. I have time for my businesses, which had gone down. I am now pulling them up and I have time for friends like you which I never had. I would go to office at 6am and leave after 10pm.
Do you know where you are? This is my firm. I have been a partner here since 1995. I hope you can see you are sitting on a very good chair.
But you recently wrote to the speaker of Parliament seeking for some special favours from the Parliamentary commission…
Favours? Incidentally if I am a past leader, like when they wanted to give me police and I rejected them, surely which favours? I was telling them to do something for past leaders, not Nandala specifically. Nandala can afford food, a car and a house. It was just for institutional purposes.
Even the former LOP, I don’t know where he is. We were trying to help him because the situation he was in wasn’t good. I hope he has got to his feet now but at least not me.
It is a bit unfortunate that The Observer wrote about me in a bad context. I even never wanted to talk to The Observer because you wanted to show me as a person who is desperate. You demeaned me.
As a founder member with some contacts, why don’t you help your party president to raise resources to run the party such that it does not go down the drain?
My contacts are farmers in Bugisu. I have given them to the FDC and they are there. Which contacts are you talking about? Founder members? I and Gen Muntu are founder members because we joined FDC on the same day. I have all along been MP in Uganda and he has been to East African Legislative Assembly [EALA] where there are even more people that he meets.
The first person to contribute to a party is a member. If the members are not there, there must be a problem. Gen Muntu knows the members. If they are not contributing, you should ask him.
How do you look at FDC’s chances as we move towards 2016?
You have heard Gen Muntu saying we are doing very well. I can’t contradict my boss. He will demonstrate to us as party members how we shall reach there.
Maybe he has bought ballot papers which he will give to us to tick. If he doesn’t demonstrate to us how we are going to [win] in 2016, we shall rise against him.
I understand you have interests in being FDC’s presidential flag bearer but at the same time you are a good admirer of Dr Kizza Besigye. Supposing he offered himself for election as FDC flag bearer, would you run against him?
I will give him all my support. I hope he has told you he is going to stand. I am not his admirer [but] his servant and subordinate. He is my boss.
Source : The Observer