This year’s elections of Uganda’s representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has garnered more publicity than in previous exercises largely not because of the impressive views of the candidates but more because of the political games that were played to the very end.
Although the East African Court of Justice changed rules to accommodate representatives of all shades of opinion in Uganda’s parliament, the biggest opposition party in Uganda’s Parliament was dramatically edged out of the race in what the losers now say is a conspiracy to undermine them.
This is the second time in a row, when Uganda’s biggest opposition political party, the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) will not be represented in EALA.
Whereas in 2012 FDC boycotted from the EALA elections following a disagreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) on the number of slots that had to be accorded to FDC, this time round, despite its passionate participation, it stood out as the only shade of opinion in Uganda’s House that failed to secure a seat.
But FDC’s poor show, worse than Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and the Democratic Party (DP), is perhaps less surprising given the high wall of animosity between the two parties, but also due to NRM’s huge numerical dominance in the House.
The status quo factor
According to sources within the ruling party, it all started when NRM members including the Kabula Member of Parliament James Kakooza who, during a meeting held at the Prime Ministers’ office this week vehemently advocated for the maintaining of the status quo of Uganda’s entire representation in the Assembly on grounds of experience. This automatically excluded FDC since it had no representation in the previous EALA owing to the party’s 2012 boycott of the elections.
In addition, aware of the numerical strength of the ruling party in the House, the electoral college to the regional House in which they were planning to seek re-election, the trio have overtime positioned themselves in a leaning position towards NRM to the extent that on D-day, NRM members sympathetic to the claim of preserving the status quo, found merit in supporting their (referring to Mbidde, Nakawuki and Opoka’s) EALA bid in return.
At the same time, efforts by the ruling party to frustrate FDC by the ruling party were obviously expected.
There was no better time for NRM to unleash their numerical onslaught (in the House) to FDC, a party they have hitherto considered as arch-rivals, having given them a run for their money in previous presidential elections courtesy of the retired Col. Kizza Besigye.
Little wonder therefore that the anger meted out, for example to Ingrid Kamateneti Turinawe , one of FDC’s candidates was masterminded by NRM members albeit in concert at some point with other members across the political divide in revenge for the latter’s alleged ‘piglets’ attacks on Parliament.
But no body could understand the effect of this rivalry better than the Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza.
She told colleagues that the fact that FDC’s Ibi Ekwau garnered 176 votes albeit not enough to earn her a place in the EALA was no mean feat for which she applauded the House.
“I thank you very much for giving my candidate Ibi Ekwau votes. My party has only 37 members in this House and therefore the fact that my candidate garnered 176 votes is indeed victory,” Kiiza declared.
Some political pundits have also attributed FDC’s dismal performance to the party’ internal bickering over the EALA slots in the run up the elections that saw the Party’s president Mugisha Muntu write a heated letter to Parliament withdrawing Kamateneti’s candidacy.
The letter has since split the party Secretary General Nandala Mafabi and its president Muntu in different camps with Kamatenet openly defying Muntu on various platforms including the social media.
To make matters worse, when Dr. Kizza Besigye came out in an attempt to quell the silent war within the party over the EALA slots, he ended up trivializing the regional Assembly arguing that it has no direct bearing to the solution of Uganda’s political problems which Besigye maintained is the main stay of his FDC party. He therefore dismissed the competition for EALA slots as diversionary.
“We have more important issues that need our attention or else this nation goes to the dogs but surprisingly every body is now talking about EALA, EALA, EALA. What has EALA got to do with our political problems as Uganda?” Besigye asked.
FDC Party Spokesperson and Opposition Chief Whip told The Sunrise that FDC fell prey to the conspiracy between (UPC and DP).
“Just like they did it in the previous EALA election, they did the same in this election. The only difference is that they did not enter into a written agreement but all the same it is no wonder the results are the same,” Ssemuju said.