Sunday, September 26, 2010


LAST week the Democratic Party leader, Norbert Mao, become the 41st presidential aspirant to pick nomination forms from the Electoral Commission to run in next year’s elections. Moses Mulondo interviewed him about his preparedness and disagreements obstructing the full functioning of the party. Below are excerpts
You said Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) had invested a lot of time and resources to weaken the DP. Can you substantiate your allegations? We have evidence that while Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) was still in the Inter Party Co-operation, FDC had drafted a memorandum of understanding to sign with DP members as part of IPC. But UPC rejected the idea telling them that it was not good for IPC parties to participate in DP’s internal disagreements, aware that a united and strong DP is good for democracy in Uganda. The FDC leader was recently on TV saying that they would work with Samuel Lubega’s group, whom he considers to also be DP leaders. This means Dr. Kizza Besigye does not recognise the established organs of DP. They are also funding Ssuubi 2011 whose agenda is not clear beyond running a smear campaign against DP leaders. And generally speaking, I think 90% of the attacks against DP have come from FDC. They have forgotten that we are not the ones in government. So, we think that if FDC cared about a united opposition, they would support the unity of DP rather than promoting factionalism.
The battle lines for the 2011 presidential race have been drawn, are you ready for the fight?
Yes, I am now ready to lead Uganda. I am familiar with the mechanics of winning because I am not a novice in politics. We have already put up a mechanism to ensure cash flow from well wishers to support our campaigns. We have rejuvenated most of our structures countrywide. Besides, we are coming with a coherent message offering a new beginning for Uganda. So, a combination of our strong messages and rejuvenated grassroots structures can deliver electoral victory to DP. What do you mean by a new beginning? We live in a country that has greatly suffered from broken relationships arising from ethnic and religious tensions, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The social indicators are very appalling. So, the new beginning is about healing our land. We need a leader who knows where Uganda is hurting. So, the mission of our new beginning is about building a fair society. In the past even the children of the poor could afford joining top schools which is no longer possible today. We want a society where even the poor can access quality services. We want to make a government that creates jobs for its citizens and even pays workers a living wage. We want to assure our citizens of a stable income which can guarantee them good health, quality education and home ownership. The new beginning is, therefore, about inclusive development as opposed to the current exclusive development and it is also about reconciling the nation.
Now that you have picked nomination forms for the presidential race, should we assume that you now trust the Electoral Commission which you have been criticising?
By the way, not all battles are fair and we believe it is possible to win even in an unfair battle. We do not believe that the Kiggundu-led Electoral Commission is impartial. We don’t believe they have the competence and neutrality to run a fair electoral process. We don’t trust their transparency because they behave more like an appendage of the ruling NRM party. Do you think victory for the opposition is possible in those circumstances? But the matters at stake are serious. We have the future of our children at stake. We, therefore, cannot just abandon the future of our country. If we mobilise effectively and empower our citizens to believe that collectively, we are more powerful than the NRM regime, then victory will be ours in spite of the EC and the NRM machinations.
How have you planned to deal with electoral irregularities?
Unlike some of my colleagues in the opposition, I believe that we can have regime change through the ballot. And that in case of unfairness, Ugandans can sustain a long time campaign of civil disobedience without violence that can bring about change in Uganda. We intend to focus on the polling stations that we know are notorious as centres of rigging. We shall flood such polling stations with aggressive but knowledgeable polling agents. We will use modern technology to record incidents of violence, intimidation, bribery and rigging. Even if the NRM jams the mobile telephone networks, we have a back up plan to use satellite phones and internet based communication gadgets like magic jack. We have also planned to expose the photographs of those who torment our people like the Kiboko squad and other notorious security operatives. We want to send them a message that it does not matter when, but there will be a day of reckoning and justice will be served. We will also appeal to Ugandans not to sell their vote. We shall tell them that selling their votes at this critical stage of our country will be the highest form of treason, a subversion of our democracy and a betrayal of our children. Our fellow citizens must learn from the people of Gulu who have a common political saying that ‘you can play with my stomach but you cannot play with my brain.’
What makes you different from other presidential aspirants?
Of the serious contenders, I am the youngest. My youth is a unique characteristic. I am, therefore, the flag bearer for the generation born after independence. Even the elderly will vote for me because I embed the hopes and aspirations of their children and their grandchildren. I also speak both Nilotic and Bantu languages. My language abilities will help me break barriers. And also, being a person of a mixed parentage, with a Nilotic father and a mother from Ankole brought up by a Muganda, there is no better candidate to be the bridge between the north and south. It will take generations before another candidate like me emerges. So, since Ugandans share a common bitter past, we should now rally around a person like me who personifies our common hopes and aspirations.
In a recent interview with Sunday Vision, DP’s former legal adviser Erias Lukwago said you ascended to the presidency illegally?
The turbulence in DP has nothing to do with legalities. It is purely political. After the elections, there inevitably emerges a majority side and a minority side. In the same way, after the Mbale delegates conference I emerged as the leader of the majority in DP and people like my brother Lukwago, emerged in the minority. In a democracy there is no permanent majority or permanent minority. So, the main question in DP now is whether the minority accept that the majority should lead the entire party including the minority. People like Lukwago are setting a bad precedence for the internal democracy of our party. By refusing to recognise our leadership, they are confusing our members and making the party vulnerable to scavengers from other parties who want to weaken the party. The DP needs people like Lukwago. I consider him to be a highly talented politician and the best course of action for him and DP is to accept to work together with the current leadership of the party. It is true that he may be upset that he is not one of the top leaders of the party but he is a member of parliament and, therefore, remains an influential person in the party.
Is there hope for immediate reconciliation among the various DP groups before the 2011 general elections?
We have actually reconciled with very many members of our party simply by clearing their misunderstandings. Since we took over the DP leadership, our biggest strength has been the outreach campaign we embarked on. We have also shown ourselves to be the most transparent leadership team because we have made our funding agreements with our partners public. So, our action is to building the party and turning it from a perennial loser to a competitive organisation which speaks volumes in favour of our leadership. We were instructed by the delegates to reconcile the party and unify it. It is not an easy job because some of those who are undermining us seem to be serving other masters. They are caught up in a trap of opportunism and careerism. They have forgotten that being out of the executive does not mean you cannot work for the party.
What reconciliation measures are you coming up with?
We have observed that most of the turbulence is in Buganda and most of it is mere squabbling, which is not based on any principle. The root of this turbulence is based on the over concentration of the party in Buganda and because of that, there are too many power centres colliding in one region within the same party. So we intend to continue working with our party elders, Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa and former party president Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, to hold a unity conference centred mainly on Buganda. Above all, as we work for reconciliation, we are now more conscious of the fact that the national political arena stretches beyond Buganda. So, the narrow mindedness and parochial sentiments that drive some of the colleagues opposed to our leadership will continue to meet with a lot of hostility both in Buganda and outside Buganda. We are not in the 1960s. The level of the consciousness of our people is higher and, therefore, there is no room for the kind of sectarianism that drives those opposing me.
Lukwago further challenged you, saying you have done nothing about corrupt DP officials in your executive yet corruption in DP is as bad as corruption in the NRM?
Obviously, my brother Lukwago, having been in the city politics, has issues with some members of my team. To the best of my knowledge Lukwago, for long worked amicably with some members of my team while they were in UYD. I have inquired from some of the UYD leaders the cause of the tension between them and Lukwago. They tell me that Lukwago expected them to rally behind him as party leader. The only crime, therefore, that my leadership has committed is to support me to lead DP and the country.
Are you saying there are no corrupt officials among DP leaders?
I think the question should be, do I know of any cases of corruption involving members of my team. I have no information of that kind. I have zero tolerance to corruption and I expect those who have information to help me. By the way, before Mbale, people like Lukwago were telling our current team not to support me. Now that I am the leader of DP, they have turned around and they are saying Mao is a good clean leader but he is surrounded by crooks. We consider that a form of cheap blackmail. That said, I am on record for sounding a warning to the DP councilors at KCC to distance themselves from dirty deals. As a result these DP councilors are now opposing the corrupt takeover of city markets, the illegal sell of the town clerk’s house to the mayor and they are resisting the unlawful eviction of the poor tenants of Nakawa/Nagulu estates. This is a direct result of policy direction by our new leadership. If my leadership was corrupt they would not be taking a stand against those dubious deals. They would instead be looking for avenues to cash in.
What about the sh850m deal Lukwago talked about that your team legal advisor, Fred Mukasa Mbidde, got in the sale of a public plot of land at Lugogo?
I am not aware of it. I think Lukwago can help me with the information so that I act. In any case, why are these issues becoming important after we have assumed the leadership of the party?
What is the Uganda of Mao’s dream?
I want a Uganda where the voice of citizens really matters. Right now, instead of being empowered by the state, the Ugandans are victimised by the state. I want a fair society. I want a Uganda where character other than my tribe is used to measure my ability.
What is your guiding principle in life?
I believe in the intrinsic equality of all human beings regardless of whether they are female, male, poor, rich, disabled or not. I believe that human beings are like legal tender where the same currencies will purchase the same amount of goods irrespective of their condition. I also believe in ultimate justice. I am also certain that eventually God will balance the books and all wrongs will be righted. I believe that no matter what one does God’s will eventually prevails. That is why my opponents usually get surprised by my courage not knowing that my plug is in the divine socket. Those are my driving principles.
As a longtime politician on Uganda’s political scene, what, to you, is the major problem with Uganda’s politics?
On the side of the leaders the main problem is the failure to set up clear rules and abide by them. Rules of engagement are very important for birthing good governance. As a result, our politics has become dysfunctional with ends overriding the means. On the side of the electorate there is what I would call the low expectation syndrome. We expect so little from our leaders that we virtually settle for anything they throw at us. In the absence of high expectations and outrage when leaders fail us, democracy will never take root. There are fears that the NRM may become as dominant as Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi or South Africa’s African National Congress The NRM will never become like CCM or ANC because it is merely a house of guards. NRM has no pillars. NRM is simply a special purpose vehicle for Yoweri Museveni and his close associates. The CCM and ANC are built on a long time vision with a clear succession plan. It is in black and white that the monopoly of NRM cannot outlive Museveni.

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