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The East African : Mar 30th 2015
The EastAfrican NEWS MARCH 28 - APRIL 3, 2015 13 enigma may cost FDC the presidency a third time but they are things that must be done by a leader who wants to win, however laborious they may seem. How do you assess your strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? We are on the right side of history. The things we are doing are right and we are operating in an environment where people are increasingly questioning the status quo. It might not be evident but we hear that a lot in our engagements and it creates an environment within which we can influence people to come to our side. As the dynamics of members, you create weakness because you create doubt in the public’s mind. The FDC has vied for the presidency twice without success. Its candidate in both races has actually competed thrice. A lot of people are frustrated and apathetic about your politics. What is your game plan to turn this around? There are people that I know who are frustrated because of the environment in which we have been operating. It is understandable, the levels of frustration; people have been expecting change but it simply does not come. However, as leaders, there are things that you must do even if the population does not understand them at times because you cannot afford to be frustrated. If you do, then you lose focus, yet you must remain focused to do things to be able to achieve success in life wherever you are, whether in business or politics. So, I understand why some of our people are frustrated. Things like going down and building a party infrastructure and trying to organise people around the policy, they think they are laborious. They do not attract a lot of support because they are not visible, planning for them sometimes they are even boring, change in society show, always you will find two kinds of forces: One that is ascending and the other that is descending. In historical terms, the Movement is a descending force even if it may not immediately appear as such. We are an ascending force. So as long as we keep doing the right things we will keep building strengths and we will take power. A lot of people believe the army, which you headed for nine years, holds the key to power in Uganda. Anyone who seeks to rule cannot do so without its support. What inroads have you made there? The officers and men in the army are not stupid as most people think. Many of them are educated and highly trained. They are capable of analysis. They can read the trends of the times. They can see when a population shifts. That is why for me the concentration is not on the army, the police or intelligence services but on the population. If there is a visible, significant shift there, it will be read by those in the security services and they will follow. Those people have a fu- ture. They are intelligent. I served with many of them. They have served in many countries that are failed states. Don’t think those lessons are lost on them, that they cannot see when a country fails to function and the consequences of that. I do not think that they want to see Uganda get to that. So, the moment they see a shift in the popula- tion and have trust in those who will be able to replace the current regime, they are sure they are capable of holding the country together and actually running it better. They are not stupid; they will want to invest in a future that is stable and that will benefit them and their children. So, I don’t want to go into the contestation over the influence of the army now. The contestation is in shifting the dynamics of politics in the population and that becomes a significant factor in our influencing the army. The moment you achieve your objective in shifting the population, then you can start working on the security services because these trends will not be lost on them. How do you assess your progress on this objective? The biggest challenge we face is the mindset of the population. People are disempowered. They actually do not think they have the capacity to remove a government. They do not understand power relations. People do not actually realise that they have got power over their leaders. They think it is the leaders that have power over them. It is a struggle. It is an intense one that we must keep working at until we change those power relations at least at the level of understanding. The other unfortunate thing is that the elite who could be doing that on a nonpartisan basis are unplugged from the process. The majority are simply focused on their own survival. They, too, do not understand that politics is at the core of the stability of any society. They do not understand that whatever else happens there must be a firm foundation on the basis of which everyone is able to function in whatever they do. The moment that foundation gives way, you all sink. We have seen many coun- tries that are in turmoil. Now, that seems not to sink into the minds of a big chunk of the elite. Somehow, they stand on the sidelines and leave the politics to someone else. term view of itself. “The party lost its cohe- sion because of a breakdown in trust,” said Mr Sabiiti, who was until recently the party’s treasurer. “We allowed people to come and take positions and we thought some of the people were as serious and saw the party’s future the same way we did.” As it were, in July 2011, when Dr Besigye announced his decision to step down as the FDC president three years before his term ended, the party’s top leadership was split down the middle. One section proposed to handpick a “successor” to maintain momentum and see out his term. As they saw it, the party was still too young and fragile to alter its course. Their choice candidate was Mr Mafabi, then the party’s deputy treasurer, because he presented a similar disposition to Mr Besigye. The other section, which mostly backed Mr Muntu, insisted on having elections because they reflected the ideals of FDC as an open, transparent and equal opportunity political party. Revitalise the party “Some of us felt we need- ed someone to revitalise the party and carry forward what Besigye had started,” Mr Sabiiti explained. “We felt also that eastern Uganda was a virgin, high-growth area and we felt Nandala was well suited for the role as party president because he had the capacity to rally members but to also mobilise finances. “We felt Muntu was better suited as a presidential candidate and Nandala as a party president because of their different characters and the situation we were in. We felt that the combination of East and West at that level would have been great for FDC.” There have been countless formal and informal reconciliation meetings convened to heal the rifts that formed out of the Muntu-Nandala battle that was marked by mudslinging and attacks along ethnic lines as well as those that were regarded as below the belt. Yet all that this effort has The party lost its cohesion because of a breakdown in trust.” Jack Sabiiti, founding FDC member, MP for Rukiga County and former party treasurer succeeded in doing is push the bitterness that attended their contest beneath the surface. Away from public view, this animosity has continued to fan disengagement and discord, thus disabling the party from pulling in one direction — a factor that observers claim continues to hurt its public image. Evidence of the party’s dissonance was displayed on March 14 when the first open- A delegate waves the FDC flag at one of the party delegates conference in Kampala. Picture: Morgan Mbabazi air launch of its revised policy agenda at the Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium drew no more than 200 people. Located right in the mid- dle of downtown Kampala, Nakivubo has a holding capacity of 15,000 people. It is in the heart of an area that the party counts among its strongholds. That Mr Muntu could not fill the stadium or even draw out half its capacity despite a six-hour delay spoke volumes about his scant mobilisation skills. “The event was poorly or- ganised,” Ssemujju Nganda, an FDC MP, observed. “First of all, Nakivubo is not a good venue for public meetings because of accessibility. “Secondly, in every univer- sity there is a structure. Had they simply mobilised these, there would have been a huge turnout. The secretariat simply took people for granted.” Conspicuously absent at Nakivubo were many of FDC’s bigwigs — including its MPs in the city and surrounding constituencies, a few of whom were in attendance when Mr Muntu unveiled the same four-point agenda to a full house at the Kampala International Conference Centre five days earlier, a success attributed to the ease of organising indoor meetings.
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