The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) heads into today’s delegates’ conference at Mandela National stadium uncertain about the outcome.
There are genuine fears that the conference might exacerbate internal divisions that have bedevilled the country’s leading opposition party over the last two years. Officially, according to the party spokesperson, John Kikonyogo, the conference’s main aim is to adopt amendments to the party constitution.
However, within the party’s corridors, some delegates are readying for another showdown between party president Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu and his closest challenger in the last election, Nathan Nandala-Mafabi.
Mafabi, who was sacked by Muntu as leader of opposition in Parliament after the acrimonious election, has recently questioned his rival’s leadership style. The Budadiri West MP accuses the former army commander of running down the party.
On Wednesday, Mafabi told The Observer that he would attend the conference although he expressed concern that it had been poorly publicised.
“Some delegates don’t even know that the conference is there. They keep changing the dates and [they] fail to communicate,” Mafabi said.
The rumblings appear to have set the tone for Friday’s conference, the second in two years. Joyce Ssebugwawo, the acting party chairperson, told The Observer yesterday that the Muntu-Mafabi rift had led some grassroots leaders to become less inclined to engage in party activities.
“For over two years, we have been engaging, and I had imagined that the differences had been solved. It still surprises me why [Mafabi] is reluctant to end the confusion,” Ssebugwawo said in an interview on the sidelines of a pre-delegates’ conference meeting of the party’s leaders from Buganda region, at Namboole.
She said the party was keen to rejuvenate its structures ahead of the 2016 elections.
“Many of our leaders at the grassroots are lax but we want to organize and rebuild the structures, the leaders are there but are not visible partly because they are not well motivated,” Ssebugwawo said.
Matters were exacerbated this week when Francis Mwijukye, a party activist aligned to Muntu, told The Observer that Mafabi’s views about Muntu’s management style amounted to “political stupidity.”
With tempers already flaring, Kikonyogo said security is expected to be tight and “those seeking to sow chaos will be dealt with accordingly.”
Kikonyogo said while Mafabi is not scheduled to speak at the conference, the party will not stop him from making a contribution on any matter if he wishes to.
On the other hand, Gen Muntu who has been at the helm of the party since November 2012, is expected to defend his leadership style. Calm and usually collected, Muntu is expected to make a presentation before the more than 1,000 delegates on what he has done to build the party and the challenges he faces.
Muntu is also expected to brief the delegates on what steps the party has taken to prepare for the 2016 elections. The conference will be chaired by Joyce Ssebugwawo, the acting party chairperson.
There are voices within FDC who believe that failure to heal the post-election rift has been Muntu’s biggest failure. Yet others accuse Mafabi of being a bad loser. Mafabi recently resigned his position as deputy treasurer, saying his mandate had expired.
The conference, which originally had been planned to take place over a two-day period (December 5 and 6), has been reduced to one day after the party failed to mobilise sufficient financial resources. Kikonyogo said FDC would hold another delegates’ conference on February 27, 2015 to renew its leadership and possibly choose a presidential flag bearer.
Many NEC offices expired last year but the party has been renewing their terms though the national council.
“In January , we shall elect new leadership from the grassroots to the district level who we expect to be the delegates in February,” he said.
The FDC delegates’ conference is attended by members of the national executive committee, the national chairperson, secretary general, secretary for mobilisation at district level, three members from each district at least, all members of parliament and eight eminent members nominated by the national council.
The party’s founding leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, is expected to attend as an eminent member since he does not belong to any party organ at the moment. Kikonyogo told The Observer that one of the key amendments to the party constitution will be to reorganise the party structure.
Initially, the party had set a polling station as its smallest organisational unit. However, it has found this untenable because polling stations are constantly shifted. The plan is to revert to the village level and reduce members on the village executive committee from 19 to 13.
Secondly, the delegates will debate a proposal to amend the constitution and give the party president powers to discipline members of the National Executive Committee (NEC). Currently, the president can only look on even as members of NEC, who are elected, fail to perform their duties. If passed, the president will have powers to suspend a member and refer the matter to NEC.
NEC members can only be disciplined through the party chairperson a system that the party says has not been effective. Kikonyogo said FDC also wants to reduce membership of NEC from 140 to 85. He said the party had discovered that a large membership creates inefficiency and leads to inertia as far as decision making is concerned.
The party will also make changes to the qualification requirements of the party chairman. Kikonyogo said anyone seeking to become party chairman must be above 50 years of age, have a high degree of respect and integrity, and will not be expected to have any other political ambitions.
“We want someone who is accomplished, who is not yearning for any elective office,” Kikonyogo said.
At Namboole, the party will make changes to its organs and introduce a new one, the council of elders, which shall comprise of people who have served the people diligently and are in position to give it aice.
Source : The Observer