The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has arguably made a dramatic departure in its next president. It not only represents a change in the party, but in the person of the party.
In its selection of Engineer Patrick Oboi Amuriat, FDC is challenging the nation to test the political caliber of the people from Eastern Uganda, and particularly from Teso. At no other time in the history of Uganda has the mantle of national political leadership fallen on the shoulders of an Etesot.
The main ethnic groups from other regions have had a bash at it, significantly because of sometimes their population numbers. However, despite Iteso, for a long time being numerically second to Baganda, some demographics have had a questionable political bias to this, relegating them to fifth position.
True, there have emanated other type of leaders from Teso in the whole matrix of political, administrative, military or other competences, reflecting the national caliber of Ugandans, but it has not been in the leadership of a major political party.
Indeed, from the time of the Colonial administration to the immediate Independence era, Iteso were generally referred to as good administrators, and/or sober-minded security performers.
That is a long throwback which may not necessarily be applicable now. There has been a general decline in the moral and performance character of the nation that one may be forced to admit that these competences have since waned.
Yet, Amuriat represents a fresh departure from the usual turf of political endeavour. Other Iteso political leaders have merely played second fiddle to the other national leaders; from the time of Cuthbert Obwangor, in the first Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) Government, to people like Yuventino Etatao of the Democratic Party (DP); to Michael Mukula, who is currently a vice chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Only Ateker Ejalu, then, can be said to have led a national movement in the appearance of Save Uganda Movement (SUM) which patterned with other national movements like, Kikoshi Maalum and Front for the National Liberation (FRONASA), to “liberate” Uganda. In the murky history of FRONASA, the name usually associated with its initial leadership, Raiti Omongin, gets muddled up in the scrambling claims for its actual founder.
With last week’s FDC election of Amuriat as its leader, this is pretty clear. Or, is it?
Even before the start of FDC campaigns that culminated in the Namboole party polls, Amuriat has been intricately tied up with the former FDC President Kizza Besigye.
And in the campaigns, they have been no less than political Siamese twins, to the extent that they were recently arrested together in Rukunguri for the “murder” of a protestor. The circumstances of the “shooting” or “stoning” to death of the man will no doubt emerge in the on-going court case.
A great deal has been read into this association. There are those who argue that Amuriat is a mere Besigye “stooge”, simply holding the candle light for the latter to present his candidacy in the forthcoming general election of 2021.
In this scenario, if Mugisha Muntu, or any other person, other than Amuriat, had won the FDC poll, it would have announced the complete eclipse of Besigye’s political career. By “fronting” Amuriat, Besigye is able to keep his hopes for the national presidency alive.
This poses other ramifications. Some political pundits think that FDC has all along been a useful conduit for the NRM to claim it as a serious opposition party to its dominance. It gives the NRM a veneer of “democratic” practice in that FDC always presents a “serious” challenge during the elections. Here, the perception is that Besigye only plays up to the national political gallery in assisting the NRM to “win” the elections.
Is Amuriat comfortable with this? It is said that the NRM Government earlier on offered him an executive position in the Uganda Railways Corporation, which he turned down. This may have been an attempt to compromise him and foment a trick to sideline his singular political ambitions in FDC. Will there be more pressure against him from this quarter, knowing how NRM has broken down opposition politicians?
It is difficult to swallow these arguments taking into account the many brushes Besigye has gone through with the NRM regime; including pouring red pepper in his eyes, in attempt to blind him. Had it not been for the immediate action of taking him for treatment in a Nairobi hospital, Besigye may well be a blind man now. How does one reconcile these positions? With Amuriat testing the NRM vitriol against Besigye, will he also be a “stooge”?
Then, without Muntu, Besigye stands out as a colossus in FDC, to the extent that when consideration to contest the 2021poll come along, and assuming that President Yoweri Museveni is the NRM candidate, Besigye will immediately eclipse Amuriat for the party to select its standard bearer. Given that Amuriat has been on Besigye’s political coattails, it is difficult to see Amuriat refusing to cede that role to Besigye.
On the other hand, if Museveni, taking into account the Age Limit debate, is not the NRM candidate, then Besigye would immediately stand out as a preferred presidential contestants against all comers, because of his long tenancy and national profile. Amuriat might not find it such a cake walk as Besigye would.