The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in Uganda is facing internal issues that have raised questions about its future. The party, originally founded with the noble goals of promoting democracy, honest governance, and tolerance of differing views, appears to be at a crossroads. While some attribute the party’s troubles to President Yoweri Museveni’s influence, it’s important to consider the party’s history to understand the root causes of its problems.
FDC emerged in 2004 amidst growing concerns within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) that the revolutionary ideals were fading. The founders of FDC came from various backgrounds, including former NRM members, old political parties like the UPC, DP, and CP, as well as unaffiliated politicians and intellectuals. This diverse composition made FDC a broad and inclusive organization.
However, as time passed, differences emerged between the party’s leadership and its base. Younger members of the party were eager for rapid and radical change, while more experienced members, particularly those from the NRM, urged caution and gradual progress. This internal division led to conflicts within the party.
Dr. Kizza Besigye, one of the party’s key figures, emerged as a leader of the more radical faction. Those who didn’t express strong opposition to Museveni were often labeled as moles, further polarizing the party. The older, more seasoned leaders of FDC gradually left, with some returning to the NRM and others going silent.
This internal strife led to a significant decline in FDC’s influence. Its representation in parliament dropped from 18% in 2006 to a mere 5% in 2021. Dr. Besigye, though no longer the party president, maintained a strong grip on the party’s base, creating challenges for his successor, Gen. Mugisha Muntu.
Over time, FDC transformed from a diverse organization into an extremist group intolerant of dissent. It lost the vast majority of its experienced leaders. Meanwhile, President Museveni exploited these weaknesses to consolidate his support in various regions of Uganda.
For other political parties, especially the National Unity Platform (NUP), there are valuable lessons to be learned from FDC’s struggles. First, Uganda is a diverse nation with a wide range of ethnic, religious, and ideological groups. Building a strong political base requires accommodating these diverse interests and opinions. Unlike FDC, the ruling NRM has demonstrated a degree of tolerance for differing views among its members.
Second, it’s important to recognize that achieving democratic ideals is a gradual process, not an immediate outcome. Demanding the immediate realization of all constitutional ideals may not be realistic. Instead, working toward these goals over generations can be a more effective approach.
FDC’s internal challenges and declining influence serve as a cautionary tale for other political parties in Uganda. The importance of inclusivity and patience in a diverse political landscape cannot be underestimated.