Uganda: FDC Divided Over LoP Post

Back-to-back meetings of FDC top organs from Monday to yesterday evening have brought to the fore divisions within the party, with members torn between appointing a Leader of Opposition (LoP) for the 10th Parliament or follow the 'defiance campaign' and reject the position.

As the largest Opposition party in Parliament with 37 MPs, FDC is obligated to appoint the LoP but a section of members in the party contend that their candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, won the presidential elections and they, consequently, cannot be the party in Opposition.

The Electoral Commission declared that the FDC flag bearer polled 3.3 million votes (35 per cent) in the February polls, losing to President Museveni who garnered 5.6 million votes (60.7 per cent), but Dr Besigye insists their internal tally gave him more than 52 per cent of the total votes cast.

By naming a LoP, those against the idea say FDC will effectively be accepting defeat in the presidential elections.

However, the Catch 22 is that with a kitty of more than Shs3b and attendant perks like office space on Parliament's Second Floor, previously occupied by the Deputy Speaker, and a government facilitated motorcade, the LoP position remains highly coveted.

Kasese Woman MP Winifred Kizza and Dokolo Woman Cecilia Ogwal are the front-runners for the job while 8th Parliament LoP and Agago North MP Ogenga Latigo stands an outside chance.

Facing resistance

But the process to appoint LoP is facing resistance from sections of the party, with out-going LoP Wafula Oguttu, Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi, Kira Municipality MP Ssemujju Nganda and the secretary for mobilisation Ingrid Turinawe leading the campaign not to name a LoP.

Party officials and supporters known to be fiercely loyal to Dr Besigye are leading the campaign not to name a LoP.

FDC president, Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu, who holds the ultimate say over the matter, is more inclined to appointing a LoP but wants consensus built.

On Monday morning, the party's steering committee, a nucleus organ composed of top leaders, met but could not agree on substantive position while the National Executive Committee (NEC) that convened on Monday afternoon also failed to agree.

With building consensus failing, the party decided to hold meetings with the Parliamentary Caucus yesterday afternoon to definitively put the matter to rest.

Mr Oguttu told the Monday meeting that it would be despairing for the party to name a LoP when it believes it won the presidential elections.

"The question is: Why name a LoP when we know that we did not lose an election," Mr Oguttu said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Party spokesman Ssemujju Nganda said FDC will appoint a "leader" in Parliament but could not definitively indicate whether the envisaged position will go by the legally stipulated title of LoP.

"A process of naming a leader is on and we are going to have a leader in Parliament," Mr Semujju said.

Asked whether the appointed 'leader' will go by the title of LoP, Mr Ssemujju responded: "There is nothing to discuss about the title or name. That's for you in the media."

Outgoing Opposition chief whip Cecilia Ogwal, who is interested in the job, said the party met and discussed all sticking issues at a two-week workshop in Mukono but did not resolve not to appoint a substantive LoP.

"I can tell you with all the confidence that the party is going to name a Leader of Opposition as stated by the Constitution. We cannot go against the law. Those [calling for not appointing a LoP] are private discussions that have not been brought to the party," Ms Ogwal said.

But with FDC dilly-dallying over the matter, DP is trying to pull the rug from under its feet with its secretary general Mathias Nsubuga writing to the Speaker demanding for a change in the election of LoP.

DP wants the LoP subjected to an election where FDC proposes names but all Opposition parties in Parliament are given a chance to vote.

DP is also demanding for a share of leadership of the four accountability committees, which are currently held by FDC, and a share of the budget allocated to the Opposition in Parliament.

"All Opposition parties in Parliament should participate in choosing a LoP because he is our leader," Mr Nsubuga said.

Against

The resistance: The process to appoint LoP is facing resistance from sections of the party, with out-going LoP Wafula Oguttu, Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi, Kira Municipality MP Ssemujju Nganda and the Secretary for Mobilisation Ingrid Turinawe leading the opposition.

Source: The Monitor

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