“We have been accused of not going to the party headquarters, but those guys have made it impossible for us to go there. The moment you step there, they assume that all their financial problems are going to be solved. They ask for all kinds of favors from us, which we are also incapable of solving because we also have constituents who are equally demanding,” another MP told us.
The President of National Unity Platform Robert Kyagulanyi addressing newly elected political leaders from different parts of the Country
All seems not to be well in Uganda’s youngest and largest
opposition political party, the
National Unity Platform-NUP.
Claims and counterclaims abound as those
in the party leadership and the supporters are accusing the elected leaders of
veering off the right path of pushing for change in the country.
The foot soldiers, a moniker given to NUP's young and
enthusiastic supporters who have kept at the side of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
ever since he entered the political realm in 2017, are unhappy that the elected
officials might just have used them to achieve their political ends. The
elected leaders also have an axe to grind with the way the party is being
In a dozen interviews with leaders of the party and elected
officials, each has a disagreement with the way the other is carrying out their
responsibility. The elected officials,
mainly have an issue with the way the finances of the party are managed and how
the party appoints its leaders.
“Every month we contribute one million
Shillings as Members of Parliament, even the councilors at KCCA and other
district leaders pay something. But what does that money do? How about the money
the party has been getting from fundraisings? Our leaders must know that a
political party is a public entity that must be run transparently,” said an MP
who didn’t want to disclose his name
so as to speak freely.
Another Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA Councillor who also asked for anonymity to
speak freely wondered how the party arrives at decisions to fill vacant party
positions. “How was Alex Waiswa Mufumbiro appointed deputy Party
spokesperson? He is not alone, there are other positions that the party leaders
have filled without explanation. But there is one common denominator with these
appointments; those appointed are all loyalists of the president,” the
However, to be fair to Kyagulanyi, the party constitution, which is currently under review by the Medard Lubega
Sseggona led committee, mandates the NUP
president to make most appointments in the party. Away from the way
the party is managed, some elected leaders also have issues
with the supporters who keep hoovering around the party headquarters as if elections are still ongoing.
“We have been accused of not going to the party headquarters,
but those guys have made it impossible for us to go there. The moment you step
there, they assume that all their financial problems are going to be solved.
They ask for all kinds of favors from us, which we are also incapable of solving because
we also have constituents who are equally demanding,” another MP told us.
This sentiment was echoed by four other MPs who equally asked
for anonymity in order not to stir a backlash. “It is these guys who
are fuelling propaganda against us on social media that we have been bought.
Unfortunately, it seems like the party leadership is condoning their behavior.
Sometimes you are tempted to think maybe what we hear these hangers-on say is
actually from the leaders,” another MP said.
This is the same feeling among some supporters of the leader of the opposition in parliament
Mathias Mpuuga who was attacked by the party deputy Spokesperson Waiswa
Mufumbiro last month. Speaking
at the memorial service of Frank Ssenteza, the NUP supporter who is said to
have been run over by a military truck at the peak of the presidential campaigns
in December last year, Mufumbiro accused the parliamentary leadership of
sleeping on the job while the party is bleeding.
He mentioned the continued
incarceration of MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana, saying business seems to be normal in parliament. In his reaction,
Mpuuga said he would not accept being schooled by ignorant people on how to
lead the opposition in times of trial like now. “Mufumbiro is very close
to party leaders, would I be wrong to assume that they are speaking through
him,” an MP wondered.
But in the past,
Kyagulanyi has also expressed dissatisfaction with the way some leaders in
parliament have quickly forgotten the reason they were elected. Speaking at the press conference recently,
Kyagulanyi said their idea of accepting parliamentary leadership on the side of
the opposition even when they maintain that they won the 2021 general election
was to use it as a front to expand the frontiers of the struggle for
“We didn’t send you to parliament for individual benefit,”
In fact, Kyagulanyi and many of his close confidantes have
also expressed dissatisfaction with the way parliament is being run. In their retreat at Kyagulanyi’s Busabala Beach
last week, some MPs and party officials close to him said the gentleman’s way with which Mpuuga is
leading the opposition is not in line with the kind of leadership that their
“Mpuuga’s style of leadership is too gentle and that is not
what we are as NUP; a party of young people envisaged. Even the people who inspire us like Julius
Malema don’t handle every matter in a dialogue form. With the government we are
dealing with today, we must be very aggressive because this is a government
that doesn’t believe in dialogue or democracy,” an MP said.
He added that giving an alternative policy agenda that
is perfectly written, like Mpuuga’s Legislative Agenda launched last year, may
sound nice and appealing to the elites but it has no effect on the majority of
"You need to have people who can jump on the tables to
stop the government from bringing a bad policy because that is what these
people will listen to. Mpuuga must know that most of us were not elected
because we were the best orators or because we were the wisest. We were elected
because people thought that we had the guts to resist the government’s bad positions no matter what. Our people voted
for fighters and we must live to that expectation. Unfortunately, we the
fighters are denied space because they believe we might say things that the
leadership doesn’t want us to say,” the MP added.
Makindye East MP,
Derrick Nyeko who admits that Mpuuga has been a good leader thus far, equally
admits that moving forward, there is a need to blend activism with dialogue. “In a system where people are fed up with
the government, they probably need a team of leaders who will aggressively
articulate their issues from the normal way we know it. After knowing that
neither the police nor the court can provide justice probably the best way of
confronting such a state is by standing firm and fight. I think the first
approach of coming up with a legislative agenda to show the people that we know
where we want to take the country was the best approach. Now that the people
know that we can lead, I think the next stage is to take on the aggressive part
to demand that this government delivers,” Nyeko added.
quick to add that all the decisions that have so far been taken, were arrived
at collectively. For Frank Kabuye, an MP representing Kassanda
South, the current animosity between the leaders and some of the supporters is
a manifestation of the expectation that people have in them.
“There are somethings probably our voters would want us to do
at a faster pace than we are moving that’s why some believe we have not lived
to their expectations. Our supporters in the ghettos don’t want to hear about
things like order, procedure, information, which we do in parliament. What they want to see is their leaders throwing
tables either in parliament or on the streets to show their displeasure with
the actions of the government. But we are leaders we must balance between
leading and doing politics,” Kabuye said.
His thinking is in sync with that of Joyce Bagala, the shadow
minister in charge of communication. Speaking to Uganda Radio Network, Bagala, said there is no rift between the shadow
cabinet and the party leadership. She however was quick to add that in every
society, people will always have divergent views.
“I want to say that there is a lack of knowledge on the part of
some of our supporters on how parliament functions. People who don’t sit in
parliament may want us to deal with certain things in a different way but we
also believe that we should handle them in another way and that is okay,”
Bagala, the Woman MP
for Mityana district said.
She however appealed to party leaders who might have any
issue with the way the parliamentary leadership conducts itself to reach out to them other than
publicly blasting them. “We understand that Ugandans are desperate for change;
it is not that they are unhappy with us and our leadership. That’s why
sometimes our people make statements that are regrettable. But there is always
the right forum to address any issues with fellow leaders,” Bagala said.
Efforts to speak to Waiswa Mufumbiro or Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokespersons were futile as they didn’t pick
nor return our
calls to their known telephone numbers. It should be recalled that
where NUP finds itself where the
Forum for Democratic Change, which led the opposition for 15 years until last
year when it was dethroned by NUP was.
There were some party leaders and supporters who believed in
confrontational politics while others believed in building party institutions
as the best method of taking on President Museveni.
The ideological differences between the institutionalists and
the activists eventually led to the splitting of the party in 2018 that led to
the formation of the Alliance for National Transformation-ANT led by the
immediate former FDC president, Maj
Gen. Mugisha Muntu. For now, what is not clear is whether NUP will follow in
the FDC's footsteps all the way and eventually lead to a split of the party will
learn a lesson and change the trajectory. Only time can tell.