On September 9 when Dr Kizza Besigye returned his nomination papers, the mood at The Democratic Alliance offices in Naguru was ecstatic.
Buoyed by jubilant chants of his name by supporters alongside a group of journalists eager to get a sound bite, Besigye said he was confident he would emerge as the TDA presidential flag bearer.
Yet more importantly, the FDC flag bearer added: “In the event that I am not selected as the TDA candidate, I will support whoever goes through.”
Besigye’s vow, however, has come under severe test, two days before the alliance announces its presidential candidate on Friday, September 18. On Monday, a section of FDC members accused some elements within TDA of favouring former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who was nominated last week belatedly.
The supporters urged their party to withdraw from the alliance in case Mbabazi is chosen because to them that would be betrayal of the opposition cause.
“Amama boldly says he is representing NRM in TDA! I have never supported NRM and I am not about to do that. Should he be selected to carry the flag of TDA, I won’t participate in the presidential election,” said Doreen Nyanjura, the FDC secretary for trade, industry and investment.
Another party member, Asaph Ntanda, said FDC should stop hobnobbing with non-starters.
“Ssuubi [in 2011] confused us and we lost, now the so- called TDA. In Mitooma district we have rejected TDA,” he said.
FDC, BESIGYE IN CATCH 22
For now, the FDC and Besigye have to cleverly dig themselves out of a pit they helped create. Yesterday, the party’s management committee and later national executive committee sat at Najjanankumbi to find a way around the newfound TDA problem. By press time, the outcome from both meetings could not be readily established.
But sources told us that in the NEC meeting that kicked off at 2:30pm, opinion was split on whether the party should leave the alliance. Besigye, who is not a member of NEC, did not attend the meeting.
The party leadership led by Gen Mugisha Muntu urged the members to remain calm and give unity a chance. He reminded members that FDC, being the biggest opposition party, must set an example for other parties.
“Let us give TDA an opportunity to do its work,” Muntu said, his voice drowned out by chants of “no” according to a person who attended the meeting.
Sources told us that pro-Besigye elements in NEC insisted that should their candidate lose unfairly on Friday, they will urge him not to back Mbabazi. This would, however, put the party and Besigye in a difficult position.
First, FDC is one of the leading proponents of unity of the opposition and has invested heavily to ensure that that TDA works. Therefore, the party would come off as hypocritical if it ditched the arrangement. As for Besigye, if he left the alliance after defeat, it would portray him as a bad loser.
He would also lose the moral authority to criticize other people for not being principled. Last week at a press conference, Besigye accused the TDA of bending the rules to accommodate Mbabazi.
Some people interpreted the statement as an early warning of a rejection of Mbabazi’s selection, if it happened. Efforts to talk to him yesterday were futile. An FDC legislator told us that Besigye has been shaken by the emergence of Mbabazi.
“Besigye is worried that Mbabazi could dominate the opposition space he has occupied for the last 15 years,” the MP said.
Kalinge Omar Nnyago, the former deputy secretary general of Justice Forum, who recently declared he will stand as an independent in the 2016 elections, wrote on his Facebook page yesterday that the idea of TDA while good needs to be rethought.
He wrote: “After weeks of living in denial, it is apparent that TDA, which is a wonderful idea we all contributed to creating, must be re-thought if it is to survive death.
“Whoever loves change that TDA promises should be now pushing for an honest rethink.
“Quitting TDA is not the answer. We have collectively invested in the project: time, money, energy, other resources... we just have to reclaim it. Guys, if you want to finish what you started, just get back to the drawing board.”