Focus on Besigye’s next move in quest to ‘rescue’ Uganda after losing party

Sunday February 25 2024

Kizza Besigye (R) with FDC officials at Katonga in Kampala, Uganda on February 21, 2024. PHOTO | NMG


Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Dr Kizza Besigye seems to have lost hope of regaining control of the party he formed after a bitter split last year, following accusations that the party leaders had received money from President Yoweri Museveni.

The party president Patrick Amuriat and secretary-general Nandala Mafabi were accused of receiving money, although the duo denied the allegations, but also declined to explain the source of the money they used during the 2021 election campaigns.

The FDC splinter group headed by Besigye plans to form another political party after proposals were presented to the faction’s meeting on February 21.

Dr Besigye, a former confidant of President Museveni during and after the Bush War, quit the National Resistance Movement (NRM) 25 years ago, accusing it of abandoning the ideals that had taken them to the bush, fighting a war between 1981 and 1986 that cost the country many lives, now faces another hurdle.

Read: Museveni’s glee as opposition party stalwarts rip it apart

The party that he helped form and lead for years, is saddled with contradictions with no hope for reconciliation.


The terms set for reconciliation are tough, requiring the group led by Amuriat and Mafabi to leave office. In response, the Amuriat group demands that the Besigye group apologise and rejoin them, which appears unlikely.

The National Electoral Commission gives the party Ush2 billion ($511,000) every year, and its spokesperson Paul Bukenya says they recognise FDC as a party and would not want to be involved in its internal quarrels.

That means the Amuriat faction still draws this money for their activities. The Electoral Commission allocates Ush35 billion ($9 million) every year for political party activities. This money is shared out according to the party’s numerical strength in Parliament.

“As NEC, we have been categorical, the imposters must denounce their nefarious conduct and scandals, which include the coup they are perpetrating, the chaos and mayhem they caused at Najanankumbi, the party headquarters, and apologise for the public odium they have invited to the party. They must stop holding out as leaders of the party and vacate Najanankumbi. They have to go through a cleansing and exorcising process,” said acting party president, Erias Lukwago, who is also Kampala city mayor.

Mr Amuriat dismissed the Wednesday meeting on Katonga Road, at Dr Besigye’s office, as illegal, hosted by people masquerading as FDC party leaders and asked the police to “take (a keen) interest” in their activities. Similar communication was given to the police last year and the faction’s meeting was blocked. This year’s meet went on uninterrupted.

Read: Uganda opposition unite to demand justice for political prisoners

In the Wednesday meeting, Lukwago said that during their National Executive Committee meetings, some members suggested a new branding.

“A section of members have mooted a rather novel proposal that since the vision, heart, and soul of members of the party resides here at Katonga, the bona fide members who are committed to the struggle to push back against the junta should consider getting a new brand and move on with the vision of building a new Uganda with new institutions. This would essentially entail having a new political formation,” he said.

Consultations first

The decision for a new party could be taken in the next two months as members asked for wider consultations, but the former party spokesperson, who is also the faction’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, recently announced that he had left the party. He said reconciliation and fighting for the party will also be impossible as the other group is supported by the government.

“The FDC party was forcibly taken over by Mr Museveni. I don’t want to fight a losing war. I don’t want to spend the rest of my political career fighting to rescue the FDC; I want to spend the rest of my time fighting to rescue Uganda,” he said.

But he added he cannot be part of a new political party since he is still a serving MP under FDC, until the next election cycle, less than two years away.

Dr Besigye said the group will need to go to the grassroots and explain what happened. Whether Besigye’s group rebrands or forms a new party - which some members have said will be costly and time-consuming.

Read: Battle for once popular Uganda opposition party

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, using an office away from the NRM party structure, called the Office of the NRM Chairman, has been mobilising the youth, commonly referred to as Bazzukkulu (grandchildren), giving them material or financial support.

Finally, a group recently launched Patriotic League of Uganda, replacing two-year-old MK Movement to promote Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba ahead of elections give through a parallel office, away from the NRM party structure, called the Office of the NRM Chairman, coordinated by Hadija Namyalo, the President has been mobilising the youth, commonly referred to as Bazzukkulu (grandchildren), giving them material or financial support.

Meanwhile, a group claiming to support Museveni’s son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, recently launched a new organisation, Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU), which replaces the MK Movement launched two years ago to promote Gen Muhoozi ahead of elections. As Gen Muhoozi did not attend the launch of this league, questions linger as to whether he will be on the ballot.

On Muhoozi’s team are members of his father’s Cabinet, including Information state minister Godfrey Kabbyanga, who says theirs is not a political party but a group fighting to correct wrongs in government.

“You have been hearing (talk) that we want to sell FDC to NUP, why would we do that? You think what ate FDC cannot eat NUP? We must guard against propaganda,” he said.

He hinted at forming a pressure group or social movement, which would mean abandoning participation in the forthcoming elections.
When Dr Besigye left NRM in 1999, he formed a political pressure group, the Reform Agenda, which he used to galvanise support in the 2001 elections, but the grouping metamorphosed into FDC in 2005 after it was joined by other parties and groupings.

With elections are around the corner, it will be another huge task to face President Museveni, who has been quietly mobilising for support.

Political observers say it is not about whether Museveni will contest, but a matter of when he makes the announcement.

Justice Minister Norbert Mao, leader of the Democratic Party, accused of selling it to Museveni, this week called on the president to hand over power peacefully, saying his role in government had been to prepare for a peaceful transition. President Museveni has denied ever discussing any transition with him.