Opposition Divisions Worry Donors

In spite of last week’s successfully organised reforms meeting, the opposition is not doing enough to resolve internal disputes and work towards fielding a single presidential candidate in 2016, sources in the donor community have said.

Speaking to The Observer on the sidelines of the electoral reforms meeting, two officials from the donor community said they did not expect an opposition presidential victory if they do not galvanise their fragmented support under a single candidate.

“They have done nothing on the ground and it is getting late,” said one of the officials, who requested for anonymity so he could speak freely. “Museveni is going to have a smooth ride [in the 2016 elections].”

Contacted for comment, some opposition leaders conceded that they had not developed a g coalition, but added that the process should not be rushed for the sake of it. The secretary general of the Democratic Party (DP), Mathias Nsubuga, told The Observer that no single opposition party is currently in the right shape to defeat the NRM. He, however, added that the opposition needed to “cautiously work” on a winning strategy.

“We have to be careful,” he said. “I think in 2011 if we had defeated Museveni, we would not have reached a consensus on how to share power because the IPC was rushed.”

Not enough:

Just before the reforms meeting, the opposition got a shot in the arm when they united to propel FDC candidate Lucy Akello to victory against NRM’s Amongin Okilli in the Amuru Woman MP by-election. It was the second opposition by-election victory in the last six months and the 10th from 17 by-elections since the 2011 general elections.

The donor representatives said the by-election victories and the reforms push demonstrate that the opposition can work together if they unite. However, they doubt if such unity can be replicated when the stakes are higher.

“At the lower level, they can seem like they are working together because the stakes are low. When it comes to the presidency, there are too many egos involved. Everyone thinks they can defeat Museveni on their own, which is a fallacy,” said another official.

Ahead of the 2011 general elections, an opposition effort to field a joint candidate failed prematurely after some parties such as DP and the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) pulled out over differences with the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Nevertheless, the donor representatives say by this time of the last election cycle, opposition parties were already working through the Inter- Party Coalition (IPC) to develop modalities for fielding a joint candidate. This time round, the louder noises are from opposition leaders saying they could boycott the election altogether if certain reform proposals are not adopted.

“We want to see a g opposition challenge the NRM all the way but at the moment that is not happening,” said one of the officials, adding that the opposition parties can pick lessons from the failed 2011 effort to develop a better and more well-defined arrangement for 2016.

Responding to those sentiments in a separate interview, the president of Justice Forum (JEEMA), Asuman Basalirwa, said it would be premature for anyone to write the opposition off, with more than a year left to the elections. According to Basalirwa, the opposition is conscious of the need to unite and field a joint candidate in 2016 but the process leading to that goal requires patience.

“It is the small things that lead one to the big things,” he argued. “To unite, you need to build consensus amongst yourselves. I can tell you, for instance, that it was not easy for all parties to support a single candidate in the Amuru by-election but we did it.”

Internal wrangles:

The donors worry that internal wrangles within the major opposition parties may scuttle the possibility of them coming together early enough. In FDC, party president Mugisha Muntu and his challenger Nathan Nandala-Mafabi have failed to reach any political agreement. Mafabi, who is influential in the Bugisu sub-region, has lately criticised Muntu’s leadership style, accusing him of running down the party.

Muntu, on the other hand, argues that under his leadership, FDC has quietly built robust party structures at the grassroots despite sabotage from opponents such as Mafabi. Wrangles also persist in DP. Norbert Mao, the party president general, is yet to reconcile with some party members who contested his election such as Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Mukono municipality MP Betty Nambooze and Mathias Mpuuga, the Masaka municipality MP.

In fact, Lukwago recently said he could contest for the party leadership at next year’s delegates’ conference. As for UPC, party president Olara Otunnu has had to battle it out with a group of party officials he dismissed in 2011. The officials, including former chairman Edward Rurangaranga and David Pulkol, the director of research, have since taken him to court for alleged unfair dismissal.

Pulkol told The Observer this week that Otunnu’s leadership style was bound to kill UPC.

“He does not call any meetings. How do you expect the party to move forward?” asked Pulkol, adding that he would challenge Otunnu for the party leadership next year.

Sources in the diplomatic community have intimated to The Observer that behind the curtains, donors have tried to help some of these opposition parties put their houses in order but – so far – with little success.

Source : The Observer

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