Ssemujju and Lukwago Losing FDC Battle

Lukwago and Ssemuju. PHOTO/FILE

Parliament on Oct.11 dealt former FDC publicity honcho Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda another blow when it allowed his position as chief whip of the party to be filled by a leader of the opposing side in their fight for the party.

The Wednesday plenary was chaired by Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, but the directive that sealed Ssemujju’s fate was drafted by the Speaker, Annet Anita Among.

“The court ruled that FDC national delegates conference was free to appoint new office bearers. I therefore take the opportunity to congratulate Hon, Nsibambi as the new FDC Party whip in Parliament,” Among wrote in a directive read by Tayebwa.

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In that single line, the Speaker pierced Ssemujju in two points; first by kicking him out of office and secondly, by endorsing the election of new office bearers at an FDC function that Ssemujju and his camp are challenging in the courts.

Speaker Among’s action is the latest in a series of events that appear to have left the Kira Municipality legislator and his colleagues; Erias Lukwago, Kizza Besigye, Wasswa Biriggwa and others bruised in their fight for the leadership of FDC.

The group comprise what has come to be called the FDC-Katonga; because they operate from the offices of Kizza Besigye and his so-called People’s Government which are located along Katonga Road in the Nakasero neighbourhood of Kampala City.

Their opponents are the so-called FDC-Najjanankumbi group led by Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi.

Their split follows a fall-out between Besigye on one hand and Amuriat and Nandala on the other over what has been “dirty money” allegedly solicited by Nandala from President Yoweri Museveni. The claim is that with that move, the Nandala-Amuriat group signaled a readiness to be “bought’ by Museveni.

The twist of events appears painful for Besigye who in 2017 handpicked Amuriat for FDC president against the front-runners; then-party president Mugisha Muntu and his arch-rival Nandala Mafabi. Amuriat was then a relatively unknown MP who had just lost re-election.

Both groups have recently held what they called Delegates Conferences and elected new leaders for the party. But each group dismisses the leaders chosen by the other and which side will emerge dominant is still up in the air. Recently, however, the FDC-Katonga group has suffered a series of defeats in courts, banks, Parliament, and among the security forces which appear to recognise the Najjanankumbi group as the bona fide FDC party representatives.

Losing battles

Significantly, however, although the FDC Party has 31MPs in parliament, only a few of them have thrown their weight behind either group. The FDC parliamentary caucus is a powerful body and whichever side it endorses could become the mainstream FDC.

For example, although the leadership of parliament on Oct.11 announced Mawokota County South MP, Yusuf Nsibambi, as the new FDC party whip in Parliament, he could become a lame-duck whip if the majority of FDC MPs boycott his leadership.

The Amuriat camp had, for example, first nominated Nsibambi to replace Ssemujju as party whip on Aug.15. But Speaker Anita Among shelved the decision after FDC MPs led by Buhweju County MP, Francis Mwijukye, petitioned her challenging the appointment of Nsibambi.

The Oct.06 court ruling appears to have opened a gap for the Speaker to acknowledge Nsibambi’s appointment. It is also telling that Nsibambi’s unveiling resulted in excitement during the plenary, mainly by MPs of the ruling NRM party.

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Equally important will be recognition by donors and representatives of foreign governments and institutions, and government institutions such as the Electoral Commission, the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) and the National Consultative Forum.

Also to be First to be courted will be the mainstream FDC supporters in the towns and villages across the country. Most of these are die-hard pro-Besigye voters. For them, Amuriat, with his alleged stained links to Museveni’s money, is not a viable leader.

The Ssemujju-Lukwago-Besigye group also recently suffered a set-back when it attempted to block the Amuriat-Nandala camp from accessing the FDC money accounts in various banks, including dfcu and Centenary banks.

Lukwago who is the party president as per the Katonga group wrote to the banks advising them to refrain from conducting transactions with Nathan Nandala Mafabi and the FDC treasurer general, Geoffrey Ekanya.

In a letter to the banks dated Sept.25, Lukwago reportedly informed the banks that the Secretary General (Mafabi) and the Treasurer (Geoffrey Ekanya) who are signatories to the party accounts were on suspension.

“As long as they remain in suspension, their signatures on those accounts cannot be valid,” he reportedly wrote, according to an announcement made during a press conference at their Katonga offices.
FDC Katonga faction

Nandala scoffed at them: “The blocking of the bank accounts can’t take place. It is like somebody on the road saying he is going to block the accounts of Bank of Uganda. You block them as who?”

“Those are just wishful thinkers,” he said, “None of them has the capacity to block the bank accounts.”

Lukwago was appointed interim president for six months by the party’s extraordinary national delegates’ conference on September 19, 2023.

The conference which was convened by FDC national chairman, Wasswa Birigwa, kicked out the Najjanankumbi group leaders.

But the Amuriat group held their own delegates conference on Oct.06 and voted in new executive committee members with Amuriat, Nandala, and Ekanya retaining their positions.

The Lukwago group, led by Wasswa Biriggwa and 27 others, had sought to block the Amuriat delegates’ conference but they were thwarted by a ruling by Justice Musa Ssekaana of the civil division of the High Court in Kampala in what has famously been called “the midnight ruling.”

Although the Lukwago group had argued that only Wasswa Biriggwa, as FDC party chairman holds the prerogative to call a delegates conference, they were caught flat-footed when court allowed as valid a notice inviting party members to a delegates’ conference signed by one of the FDC vice chairpersons.

The court steam-rolled Lukwago’s claims that the notice was a forgery. Lukwago had claimed that on July 27, the day when Kibuuka Mukalazi apparently signed the notice, he was in a Nairobi hospital receiving treatment.

The court outcome was a double whammy for the Lukwago group because, a similar earlier petition by the Amuriat group against them had been allowed by the High Court.

Three individuals Arafat Ntale Mwanja, Jamal Wante, and Marlick Ssazi, all claiming to be aggrieved by a decision by the Lukwago group to hold an FDC Extra-ordinary National Delegates Conference on Sept. 19 petitioned the High Court to halt it.

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They alleged that the responsible offices of the party had been excluded from the preparation and organisation of the said extraordinary National Delegates Conference, that its scheduling was rushed, and its organisation done in bad faith with intent to embarrass the party and cause irreparable damage and loss.

The petitioners named Amuriat and Nandala as respondents although it is Biriggwa who called the delegates conference. High Court Civil Division Judge Esta Nambayo threw out Lukwago’s attempts to be listed as the lawyer representing the party and Biriggwa.

Outside the courtroom, an upset Lukwago called the court maneuvers, a “sweet heart deal.” Following Justice Ssekaana’s “midnight ruling,” the Amuriat group held their delegates conference on Oct.06.

What was noticeable was the presence of police to maintain peace. This was in direct contrast to what occurred during the Lukwago-Ssemujju delegates’ conference where police sealed off the venue at Nature’s Green Beach Resort Hotel in Busabala.

Even when the Lukwago team switched to Katonga, the police got engaged in running battles with some delegates and successfully blocked some from attending. The Lukwago group later said the Police were in cahoots with goons who terrorized some of the delegates and stole from some of them. The group told journalists that it is absurd the police who are meant to protect Ugandans are instead working with criminals.

Ssemujju’s choice

The two incidents showed the extent to which the Amuriat/Nandala side is getting ensconced with the institutions of government which is unusual for opposition parties in Uganda.

In other instances, the police and members of other security agencies have become a common feature in the tussle between the Birigwa-Besigye-Lukwago side and that of Amuriat-Nandala.

The police and security agents were first deployed at the FDC headquarters at Najjanankumbi, Entebbe Road in Kampala in July this year. This was soon after allegations that Amuriat and Nandala got ‘dirty money’ from Museveni in the run-up to the 2021 presidential election.

The push to gain such backing has pushed other embattled opposition party leaders into partnerships or pseudo alliances with President Museveni.

In 2015 the police were deployed at Uganda House; the seat of the Uganda Peoples Congress when Jimmy Akena was declared winner of the opposition party’s internal presidential election. When the Milton Obote Foundation; the business arm of the party, later argued that Akena’s election was null and void based on a ruling of High Court Justice Nyanzi and wanted to kick him out of Uganda House, the police was deployed and he was not evicted.

A few months later, in 2016, Betty Amongi; then an MP for Oyam South constituency on the UPC ticket, accepted a position in President Museveni’s cabinet. Amongi’s appointment was a clear message because she was a close consort of then Lira Municipality MP Jimmy Akena who is the son of the party founding father; the late Milton Obote.

Akena soon announced that the UPC cabinet had mandated him to sign a memorandum of understanding with Museveni’s ruling NRM party. This MOU creates an alliance or co-operation between UPC and NRM.

More recently in July, soon after President Museveni appointed the president-general of the opposition Democratic Party (DP), Norbert Mao, to be Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the police was deployed to guard DP offices in Kampala from angry members of the so-called DP Youth Brigade.

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Mao’s appointment and later the election of the DP Secretary General, Gerald Siranda, to the East African Legislative Assembly, followed the signing in July 2022 of a working cooperation agreement between Museveni and Mao.

On July 23, President Museveni wrote an open letter welcoming Mao to the NRM.

Museveni wrote: “I welcome you to the NRM.”

He then listed what, in his view, were the reasons why the letter had to be shared with the public.

“Our close working relationships with UPC and DP, are steps in the right direction. We also work closely with sister Joyce Sebugwawo, a Mengo supporter,” Museveni wrote.

For now it is not clear if Museveni will add Amuriat- Nandala on the list favoured to cooperate with him. What is clear is that Museveni is winning as FDC tears itself apart ahead of the 2026 election. But it is equally true, that FDC’s loss could become a win for another opposition party; the National Unity Platform of Bobi Wine.

Ssemujju, for example, has said that he is open to quitting FDC completely and forging a new path.

He first made the revelation in August while pushing for Amuriat and Nandala to leave their positions in the party over the so-called “dirty money” scandal.

Speaking to NBS Television, Ssemujju said he could leave FDC and join another platform.

”If the FDC can reform, I will be glad. If those who have captured it want to take it to Museveni, I wish them well. We will identify another platform whether it will be individual or group, and then we will continue,” Ssemujju said.

”FDC is not a religion, it is not my faith, not my clan. If FDC is no longer a forum for democratic change, really, what business do I have with it? You can say anything but I will move on. Even if there are no parties,” he said.

He repeated the utterances in an interview with the New Vision on Oct.10.

“By law I’m FDC until the last year of this term of office. That is what the constitution says. So I’m still FDC one hundred percent until that time.

Ssemujju added: “In 2016 Amama Mbabazi nearly became the main opposition candidate without a party. Politics will make its turn by itself. That is how Mbabazi came and that is how Robert Kyagulany came. Nobody knew by 2017 that Kyagulanyi would be the main opposition candidate in the 2021 election.

“If Museveni finally takes over FDC like he has started, I will not be part of it.” So Ssemujju looks like he has a direction, if not a plan for life after FDC. It is not that clear for the others, including Besigye, Birigwa and Lukwago.

SOURCE: The Independent Uganda

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