Saturday, September 18, 2010


As Uganda prepares for what many now believe will be a fierce battle for the presidency of the country, opposition political parties believe the best way to beat Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent, and stop him for staying in power for another five years (he has been in power for 24 years now), is to join forces and fight as one group. This led to the formation of the Inter Party Coalition (IPC) in order to maximise their voting power. But one of the country’s oldest parties, the Democratic Party (DP) chose not to join up. At a convention of the Ugandans in the Diaspora International (UDII) held at the Westin Hotel in Washington DC, we caught up with the DP leader, Nobert Mao and asked him what led to his party’s decision not to join the IPC. We now publish most of his lengthy reply to this question.
Below is his reply.
Everywhere I go, people don’t ask me what I’ll do as President. They ask me: Why are you not in the IPC? And so, I don’t understand Ugandans. I just wish to stop speculation by saying that we assessed the strength and weaknesses of the IPC as it is, because I think the IPC as it stands in the minds of some Ugandans is not the one that we have there. I will be very candid. If you want to have a smooth ride, you must have a vehicle with tyres that have balanced pressure. Now, the IPC in Uganda the tyres are not balanced. Others have bad rims; others have… (incomprehensible) so they are very wobbly. Secondly, diplomatically we believe that to move together you also have to grow together. The group that we are talking about, where is the group to grow?
Finally, conditions are about forces. At least I can be sure of some force behind me, based on what I have done in my political life, the values I stand for, my track record. If you are going to come together, even if you are saying you are coming as a team, you must bring your capacities. Now, if we say we are forming a football team here now, can you imagine the kind of game we are going to play in the stadium? It would be the most comic show ever because we have not been practising together (laughs). I do not know whether you are right or left footed. This is a bit of a problem. People talk about Kenya. In Kenya, everybody comes and you know, declares their assets, meaning, a political force behind them. Raila [Odinga] comes and says: ‘I declare Nyanza’. Njiru and Kalonzo say ‘we declare Ukambani’. The Kibaki group come and say ‘we hereby claim Mt Kenya’ and so on and so forth. Of course Mr Kenya was a bit split because there was Uhuru Kenyatta also. He also wanted to declare Mt Kenya but I think Kibaki had the upper hand. And then Mr Ruto declares [for] Rift Valley.
I am a very new party leader. I have only been the leader of the DP since February [2010] and I am fighting on many fronts. I have internal problems in the Democratic Party; there are sectarian forces [that] can’t imagine a person coming from Gulu leading the Democratic Party. There are problems of (sic)…the party we inherited is very weak. I can imagine if I had become President of the Democratic Party in 2005, I think we would now [be having] a very different kind of Democratic Party.
So in many ways, each of the partners in the IPC is also a burden to the UPC. So the FDC leader is now like ‘you take the IPC as oxen pulling an ox-plough. I think the other oxen are so weak that I think now Dr Besigye has got to pull both the plough and the other weak oxen. So it is already a very, very difficult task (laughs). It is dragging the other oxen which they don’t have the ability to pull. It is a question with no direct answer. So the proper question should have been: ‘What is your plan?’ I think our plan is to use this campaign first and foremost, to open the eyes of Ugandans because if you are obsessed with the result, you know, I think you do your best to see that the outcome is the total best of what you have done.
Sometimes I do farming [and] when I go farming, I worry about a lot of things. I make sure I plant in time, I make sure I weed, I make sure…and sometime you get a good yield. I think it is important that you use this presidential platform. And we in the Democratic Party, we came up with the idea of saying that President Museveni must wake up with five headaches a day. He must have an Otunnu headache, a Mao headache, A Besigye headache, a Lukyamuzi headache and (sic)…we must shape the country together wherever we go to deny him that 50 per cent plus and in the second round Ugandans would’ve sorted us out. Instead, we hear lots of attacks, so those of us who have really been consistently this Museveni regime for many years, now we are described as Museveni’s agents, Museveni’s moles and in many ways we need to ask the right questions.
The IPC also did not become a very good subject because of suspicion. I think when you are suspicious that perhaps it is an FDC thing, you know, and it was pre-arranged. Maybe we were wrong in (sic)…maybe we were just mixed up. But I think fears are normal, you know. If you think your neighbor is a witch he may not be actually a witch but that concept of yours will be in your memory for a long time (laughs). So it should have been the duty of all of us to keep on that kind of talking. I don’t know what is going to happen in 2011 but this is not the first attempt at coalition building. But if you want to build a coalition, the individual breaks must be strong in themselves. Otherwise you are just having a heap of sand, you know. You must have a party that is intact, which is fair and stable, and may be our party leaders don’t know what party building is. So, really, I don’t know but right now, in a few years time, no matter what happens next year, I want to be held to account, what sort of party I will be handing over to my successor. I have a track record of achievement, I have a track record of delivering, and I have a track record of getting things done. And coming around, even Gulu, which used to be a byword for all the bad things, we are trying to rebrand it. We will also try to work on the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party took a decision. It was not a Mao decision as such. Actually, of most of the members of the leadership of the Democratic Party, I am the one who was most pro-IPC. I have an excellent personal relationship with Dr Besigye. I knew Dr Besigye as early as 1989 before many people even knew him. We formed together with Dr Besigye the Uganda anti-apartheid movement because we thought we were going to go to South Africa to sort out the apartheid [system]…. we were being one of the most radical students. I was Dr Besigye’s deputy. The position Salaam Musumba is occupying probably would have been mine if we had been moving together consistently, I would have been his Number Two.
And when President Nelson Mandela came to Uganda, Dr Besigye was in Bombo for training. I am the one who went to welcome President Mandela on behalf of our organisation in the then Nile Hotel. But we have disagreed on how to build this. I think the thing has collapsed at the designing stage and maybe because everybody was giving too many opinions. They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. As you design a horse, somebody says ‘it needs a hump’ so they put a hump. The legs are too short, so the legs are lengthened, so you end up with a very clumsy creature and you say ‘Yea. This is a horse’. But this is my roundabout way out but just remembers what I told you earlier that we do not have a lot of horsepower to declare. If we had a lot of horsepower to declare, maybe we would (sic) it looks like after 2006 people took a break, you know. People disappeared; there was not a single rally. All these people you hear making noise that ‘Mao has done this, Mao has done that’, for once I am able to say we have a candidate in Rukiga County. I am capable of saying we have a medical doctor who returned recently from America and he is standing in Koboko. And that is what my mandate is all about because I know that the party was founded on solid principles, the party of Ben Kiwanuka was not founded on trivialities. It is we the leaders over the years who have trivialised the party bastardised it and prostituted it. And to me that is the biggest assignment right now.
The IPC thing unfortunately it did not work. It is the question that sometimes you ask people like Dr Otunnu: “Why are you not married, you know? (laughs).” Some questions are difficult to ask in the same way that they are difficult to answer. So we all have our reasons. Probably if you ask five DP members, they will each give different reasons. So I think it is just that they have not been moving together long enough so there is that kind of fear.
Plus, I think I have some messages that I want to give to Ugandans in 2011 which I think Ugandans must hear. And also, best on where I come from and our history of the struggle of evicting the NRM, and also, I can tell you that if President Museveni steals the elections, he is probably going to rule half of the country. That I can tell you categorically because most of our people have decided that this matter will be decided once and for all come 2011. One way or the other, it is going to be settled. We are better off each of us having a front. Only that we have not agreed on the supreme commander. We can be accused of being selfish, we can be accused of all sorts of things but you know, none of us campaigns to lead our parties in order not to run. We campaign in order to go and put a product before Ugandan. I wanted to be president in 2001 but I was too young. I was 34. I was disqualified. Then I wanted to be president in the 2006 but my party didn’t elect me. Now that my party has elected me, I want to go there and tell Ugandans what I have to offer.
The most important thing is the call of Ugandans. It is not for us, like I always say, if a lady asks three suitors, the lady would be doing herself a big injustice to say: ‘Now you three gentlemen, go and sort yourselves out. Who am I going to marry? I am tired, I have a lot of other things to do, I don’t want to read your CVs and so on. You go up and make up your mind’. That is what the IPC turned into and it became very complicated. The best is to go to Ugandans and ask them: ‘Who do you think is the best? Who do you trust the future of your children with? Who do you think can take the decisions that will influence your life positively? The ballot paper will be there. At least I am sure President Museveni will be there, [so will] Ambassador Otunnu, Dr Besigye, Nobert Mao, probably Bwanika and others. Ugandans are not silly. They will look up and down and take the one that they want.
The argument for cooperation is that by coming together, we would have helped Ugandans to come to a conclusion by implementing the sense of fragmentation because the sense of fragmentation empowers. That is the strongest argument. But in the absence of that, I think Ugandans should be told ‘make up your minds and chose’. And it is possible to get up and tell Ugandan to look and choose. And it is possible for Ugandans to choose because any vote that is not for Museveni is a good vote at this point. That is the only way we can console ourselves.

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