This Is How a Muntu ‘Third Way’ Party Could Succeed or Fail

On Monday former Forum for Democratic Change leader, Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu, posted on Twitter an announcement that he and like-minded colleagues would begin political “consultations” in Hoima District.

If you proceed from the view that the main political parties are the ruling National Resistance Movement and the opposition FDC, Muntu is seen as seeking a “third way”: A centrist party between the NRM seen as having been disemboweled by President Museveni, and an increasingly militant FDC, which is beholden to Kizza Besigye, although he’s no longer its leader.

There is a belief that a more moderate FDC, will attract middle-of-the-road NRMs, and soft anti-Museveni elements, and create a winning combination.

It is an appealing prospect, except it runs into many problems. Besigye, though no doubt very influential in FDC, is actually not its leader. Those asking to “leave” are effectively asking him to give up his political rights. It is something no other Ugandan politician has ever been asked to do. Indeed, those arguing that Mr Museveni should leave now, after 32 years in power, are offering the incentive of his being able to “influence events” from outside as an elder statesman. But Besigye, is being asked not to do that, but to disappear.

On the other hand, Besigye’s shadow looms too large over FDC.

All this should tell us that Besigye political hold on key opposition constituencies has nothing to do with FDC, but with Museveni. He exists an anti-thesis to Mr Museveni, and as long as Mr Museveni is in power, not even a “third way” party, however moderate and inclusive, will politically disappear him even if he went and hid in his house in Kasangati. In fact, his stature would rise.

It’s not straight-forward, and in his own deliberate manner, Gen Muntu tries to deal with it in the long statement announcing the “consultations”.

He makes the attractive point that anti-Museveni politics that is almost exclusively focused on removing him from power is misguided. That, as Uganda’s and Africa’s history teaches us, if no institutions are built, and if the systemic problems in the country’s economy and social space are fixed, Mr Museveni will leave and we shall see another strongman.

Gen Muntu wants a values-based politics, infused with high ideological purpose, built around tasks like dealing with youth unemployment, and giving young people a stake.

Well and good, except seeking regime change is not necessarily in contradiction with building a more democratic and fair future Uganda.

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