“Follow an idea from its birth to its triumph,” Bertrand de Jouvenel observed in his 1948 volume, On Power, “and it becomes clear that it came to power at the price of an astounding degradation of itself. The result is not reason which has found a guide but passion which has found a flag.”
The defeat of the noble Mugisha Muntu in the race for the presidency of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has put the last nail in the coffin of descent politics in that party. It marks the final triumph of radical extremism as an organizing philosophy for FDC.
Two ideas have been in contention inside FDC – one represented by the noble Muntu, the other by the radical extremist Kizza Besigye. Muntu believes that FDC should build the party as an institution based on a set of values, principles and policies around which members can be mobilized. These values must not only be practiced but be seen by seen to be practiced; and must distinguish FDC from NRM.
Besigye believes FDC should be a cult and build its politics around his messianic self image. Rather than build organizational structures through which FDC can function, Besigye believes that the party should stimulate passion around him as a hero. This governing philosophy seeks to use character instead of strategy and to build an individual instead of an institution.
Besigye’s governing philosophy has won as it had to. Muntu has always belonged to a wrong party. His ways have never been the ways of the FDC. There are many descent men and women in FDC. But for the most part they have been outwitted, out gunned and our maneuvered by the radical extremists around Besigye.
In rejecting Muntu, the Besigye faction of radical extremists in FDC has now made it clear that it places the pursuit of raw power above the defense and promotion of values; it has rejected the idea that power should be pursued, not as an end in itself but as a means to an end – the end being the realization of the virtues of tolerance of dissent, commitment to democratic principles, belief in institution building and placing collective goals above personal ambition and greed.
FDC was born in a moment of great hope. Many of its founding leaders were holding influential and comfortable positions in government as ministers, ambassadors and other high offices. They sacrificed their comfort in pursuit of these high ideals. They thought they were leaving NRM because it had increasingly come to be based on the messianic role of an individual called Yoweri Museveni whose authority could not be questioned.
Muntu himself was offered a ministerial appointment by Museveni and he turned it down as did Richard Kaijuka and Amanya Mushega. These men left NRM because it increasingly came to seek power as an end and forgot its original objectives. Little did they know that they were jumping from the frying pan into the fire itself. Kaijuka and Mushega saw this long ago and quit into silence. Muntu saw it but refused to quit. He soldiered on.
Over the years, FDC has grown into a cult around the messianic leadership of Besigye. Today, internal dissent in that party is treated as treason, the only legitimate/acceptable way of expressing disagreement with government is through violent defiance. Anyone who disagrees with this strategy is branded a traitor who has been bribed by Museveni, a coward and is attacked with merciless anger. This is a far cry from the party people sacrificed so much to found.
Muntu is a man of high moral principles who deeply treasures democratic processes and institutions. On this criteria he towers above our nation like a moral colossus. He has never fought for power but for values and he has always placed himself as a servant of FDC. Besigye on the other had fights for power and power alone. He is the boss of FDC and the party is there only to serve his ends. Because of Muntu’s nobility, he never fitted into the version of FDC Besigye has created – an uncouth, intolerant, violent, low intellect mob that speaks only the language of fire and destruction.
There are still many good people in FDC. But with radical extremists in charge of the party, these moderates can only hide or get kicked out. Their only option now is to form another party or rejoin NRM. For we must remember that in spite of all its corruption and incompetence, it’s loss of vision and ideology, NRM is still a tolerant and accommodating party.
I know this last sentence is a rope I have given FDC radical extremists to hang me by accusing me of working for NRM. I really don’t care anymore because they constitute an evil we must fight to the bitter end, even if it means allying with the devil tactically in order to achieve the strategic objective of defeating radical extremism in our country. The struggle for the soul of Uganda continues.
Andrew M. Mwenda is the founder of the Independent Magazine