In what came as a shock to outsiders former parliamentarian Patrick Amuriat beat General Mugisha Muntu in last week’s poll, to become the new head of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
Muntu’s concession speech suggested that all was not well in the party. During a heated campaign accusations and counter accusations were flying in the air like confetti the net effect being the ejection of the general.
"Thankfully Muntu did not play to the sulkers and announce his departure from the party in a much anticipated press conference on Wednesday....
While insisting that there were “significant undeniable issues and differences” that exist in the party he recommitted himself to continued mobilisation for the party in its ambition to one day run this country.
The challenge in politics – as in any human endeavour, is that while people might come together for a common agenda, there not only are there differences of opinion about how the collective goal can be achieved but there are also personal ambitions that maybe as divergent as the number of people in the group.
So subsequent to the Namboole poll commentators have talked about the divide between “The defiance” wing, whose most prominent face is former FDC boss DR Kizza Besigye and “the compliance” which Muntu is supposed to represent.
"The former tendency seeks to mobilise the disenchantment with the government felt by the largely unemployed youth and the latter tendency are seeking to build party structures, not hope for a spontaneous mass uprising, but use the established institutions – parliament and the judiciary to effect change...
One can see the attraction of the defiance struggle, it seduces with the promise of a quick and dramatic change, its proponents too impatient to go through the processes needed to build institutions and processes that will outlive them.
The victory and defeat for either tendency last week is but only a moment in the democratic evolution of this country.
We forget but democracy took centuries to evolve in Europe. Of course with the benefit of better technologies we can expect that, if democracy is the natural end, it will take us a shorter time to get there.
For democracy to happen in Europe they first had to break away from the grip of the church. Once they had done that they then had to expand the right to determine how society was run away from the royal houses of Europe, a process that was often violent, messy and seemed like a regression into lawlessness. And then in a process that is still going on, they have been working on expanding individual freedoms.
But often in this journey, to those who were in the middle of it, it often looked like an exercise in futility.
Imagine the intelligentsia who took advantage of the peasants’ grievances and directed the French revolution, only for them to be executed themselves after the French nobility had all been guillotined. It must have looked like democracy had failed before it had even started.
"Similar seeming reversals happened across Europe. While the cost was high they all informed the patchwork of democracy that Europe is today, with no two countries having a mirror image of another’s democracy...
The event’s in FDC today will make for a sentence in the history books. They will serve as the building block of our future democracy. A block in a wall is easily dismissed but its removal may render the whole wall useless.
FDC seems to have chosen the path of “least resistance” and they may be validated by one day ascending to power, however boring as it seems there is a place for those who want to build the party and its institutions.
Time will tell. But for now the hardliners took the day, we shall judge their effectiveness in coming years.