TDA is not a one man show-Mao  


Democratic Party (DP) leaders Brenda Nabukenya (Woman MP, Luweero with back to camera), DP President Norbert Mao (in green tie) and DP Secretary General Mathias Nsubuga confer on a contentious issue during the TDA meet, Wednesday, September 17, 215. Photo by Olive Nakatudde

TDA was launched for a purpose. We shall not be distracted.

It is in the spirit of debunking lies and stating facts I know that I pen these lines with a heavy heart. I believe we should not play games with Uganda’s future.

I know most politicians are consistently inconsistent so we need a reality check every now and then. We face economic ruin as a country because of reckless policies and greed, a divided ruling party and army and a changing tide in the international community.

We have largely discredited the Museveni regime but international sympathy has been slow in coming.

That is changing. Shortly after Mbabazi got his baptism in Soroti and Jinja complete with Sukhoi jet fighters, the US Ambassador issued a statement denouncing police brutality.

The rest of us have been brutalized many times but the bio powers represented in Uganda remain tight lipped. Something is surely changing.

On the question of Mbabazi’s group they were part of the discussion which agreed on the TDA Protocol (our constitution). They have been attending our meetings alongside all the other members of the Summit. All members were comfortable with that. Infact at that time we called them NRM-Pro Change. No one complained. No one.

Many in TDA have been given time adjustments. Our policy is not rigidity about procedural matters. For instance Ambassador Otunnu did not sign the protocol until much later. FDC asked for a very long time leading to amendment of our roadmap because they needed to choose their Presidential Flag bearer.

On a few occasions Summit has had to adjourn to allow them consult either near the meeting room by caucusing or with their NEC at Najjanankumbi. It is this kind of flexibility that has reduced friction.

On the deadline date the Summit was addressed by Amama Mbabazi’s lawyer appealing for time extension for him to sign the protocol. The Summit said he should consult Amama and come up with a clear proposal. A lengthy discussion ensued.

The Summit agreed that he should come at 12 noon the next day. At noon the next day a group led by Kampala Lord Mayor stormed TDA offices causing fracas and mayhem.

They tore at my posters and wrote insults on them. Definitely Amama could not proceed. The Secretariat called him and told him to hold on and await further instructions. Eventually he was told to come at 4pm.

He states that he noted that his forms had a problem since the name of his pressure group was given as NRM Pro Change he felt that he could face legal challenges from NRM. He asked for time to sort that out. The deadline set by the Summit had elapsed for reasons beyond his or our control.

We wondered whether it was a mere coincidence that the Erias Lukwago group made their “courtesy call” at that very time scheduled for the formality of signing the protocol and presenting nomination papers.

Summit members present and the Secretariat consulted and decided that insisting on a strict time would lead to a perception that TDA had locked out a man seeking refuge from those who locked him out in NRM. They agreed that they would accept his papers that day meaning before midnight.

At the next meeting of the Summit an objection arose from the FDC Secretary General that Amama’s nomination should be rescinded.

After discussion including a break to allow FDC to consult, the FDC said their reservations should be recorded but they could live with the decision.

Summit therefore RATIFIED the nomination of Amama as a candidate for TDA Presidential Flagbearer candidate.

When the Candidates Selection Committee met to review the nominations they hit a deadlock because the same technical issue of Amama’s nomination out of time was raised by some members.

This matter had already been resolved and all that was required was information to members. Yet here was a committee of Summit attempting to second guess, veto and overrule the Summit. At that time the FDC members walked out.

Eventually a Minority report signed by Ms. Ingrid Turinawe, together with Ishaa Otto of UPC and Dr. Kibumba of UFA was presented by Ingrid to Summit in person.

At that point we got information that Dr. Kibumba’s signature did not resemble his normal signature. UFA President Beti Kamya called Dr. Kibumba and he totally disassociated himself from the minority report.

He wrote a letter which I saw saying so. His signature on the letter was manifestly distinct from the one on the minority report. Obviously his signature had been forged in the attempt to deceive the Summit.

Summit members including FDC said that was criminal and an abhorrence. Others wondered what such people would do if they were in high government offices.

The next day the retreat continued. At about lunch time a rowdy group came at the venue in a convoy of cars. They were led by MPs Odonga Otto, Col. Besigye’s campaign manager Ekanya, Jack Sabiiti and Amuriat. They were making noise, blowing whistles and making threats.

They held placards demanding that Besigye withdraws from TDA. “Our struggle is not for sale”, they declared. When they left accompanied by Besigye the Summit adjourned.

FDC President Muntu said while these were party members he could not condone their methods. He announced that FDC needed time to consult and that Besigye would be back later.

Besigye did not return that evening. The Summit adjourned to the next day after Muntu explained. Nandala also reiterated FDC’s commitment to stay in TDA “to the end”. The Summit sighed with relief.

The rowdy group had obviously been misinformed that an outcome other than a Besigye candidature was likely. They thought they would intimidate Summit. This incident tested the patience of Summit.

The next day Besigye came back and Summit asked the quartet of candidates to meet in private. Eight hours later we reported to Summit that we needed more time. Summit extended the deadline to Monday afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon we met but Prof. Bukenya did not come and was unreachable. The three of us met informally and had candid talks.

Among other things we discussed the two candidate approach. It is defended as a variation of the slogan “ONE STRUGGLE, MANY FRONTS”. In the quartet only Col. Besigye is insisting on that position.

I know that TDA is looking for a Flagbearer. TDA has only ONE flag. It is one and indivisible. Infact I stated that if it was about having unique bases each of us have different strengths. For me I am a genuine outsider.

I have never been appointed by Museveni for any office while my three colleagues all started their journey from the belly of the beast. I have serious reservations about Amama Mbabazi too.

Some people say you cannot get saved today and become Bishop the same day. With respect that is not the mindset of genuine strugglists. Nobody should claim a patent right to leading the opposition charge against Museveni.

Speaking as a DP I know that in 2000/2001 when Besigye joined the “opposition” we were still under the Movement system and like Mbabazi his message was to “reform” the Movement.

Incidentally even his posters happened to be yellow. Some of us who had been under the whip of the regime he served were incensed. I recall saying he and Museveni were two fingers of the same hand. Two sides of the same coin.

We also thought we had been in the trenches for long and would not have our struggle hijacked by a former Political Commissar of the system we wanted to get rid of. We said all sorts of things. So we understand but do not agree with the sentiments being expressed by those who keep storming TDA meetings in protest.

Our elders led by Dr. Ssemogerere counselled us and we toned down. I grudgingly accepted their exhortations. I hosted Col. Besigye at a rally in Gulu and endorsed his candidature. He also campaigned for me for my second term as MP.

The DP after years of sacrifice and with Ssemogerere making the first credible challenge against Museveni had every right to cling to the front seat and lead the convoy even if faster vehicles were behind thus slowing the journey.

But DP thought beyond itself. It exercised generosity and swung the remnants of the party apparatus behind Besigye.

These remnants were the ones who had survived the onslaught of the Movement machine and the constitutional ban on political party activities.

If we were in normal times there should even be no question about who should be the best candidate as we balance competence with electability.

In normal times someone like me who has never been part of the Museveni establishment would be the natural choice because that would actually be real change. I would be Uganda’s Obama. But these are not normal times.

It is like during the Second World War when a conservative like Churchill and a communist like Stalin became allies to accomplish the immediate and urgent goal of stopping Hitler’s madness. Our politics cannot be reduced to a duel among the Luweero Triangle veterans.

But again these are abnormal times. We can all TALK about CHANGE but we need a candidate who can CAUSE CHANGE.

We are consulting widely on next steps and I believe TDA will decide on a candidate and soldier on. I do not buy the argument that some bases will not support a particular candidate so we should have multiple candidates.

TDA can lead with a banner whose emblem is a question mark. We must be clear and take responsibility for our decisions. That would effectively mean all four of us go into the race.

This would of course demoralize voters and breed apathy but the people will simply say “there they go again. They are too egoistic and selfish”. Museveni will scoff at us saying “how could they successfully fight me when they are busy fighting each other”.

But if we all exercise leadership and as indeed we declared in our nomination papers that we would rally behind one of us, TDA will be a big winner. In the Amuru by elections Muntu, Otunnu and I met and agreed to support the FDC candidate. Our bases were up in arms.

Otunnu faced a full scale mutiny of UPC members. But because we acted in good faith and exercised the political will to stay on the chosen path we prevailed and delivered Amuru to the opposition.

Furthermore over 4000 parliamentary candidates were nominated by NRM. Only about 400 seats are available. About 3600 mostly substantive people with name recognition and some resources will be up for grabs.

We have challenged Amama to ensure that even as we motivate fence sitters to join our struggle we should get a substantial part of the 3600.

TDA has a real opportunity to win. With one candidate our chances are higher. With two candidates contradictions will be inevitable, fire fights will erupt and the stigma of “they can’t unite” will keep us on the defensive. Naturally the NRM and Museveni has nightmares about the single TDA candidate.

He will use all means to sow discord including manipulating some leaders who are amenable to pay as you go politics of the stomach. TDA has to make doubters eat their words by staying focused.

Let’s think of the suffering people of Uganda, the economic turmoil where even our Namamve “industrial area” is just a collection of warehouses for imported goods. Let’s think about the highhandedness in the security forces.

Let’s think about the collapse of the Luweero Consensus which has even divided the army. Let’s think about our politics being reduced to a one man show. We cannot resist Museveni’s hegemony and encourage it among our ranks.

It is normal for political trench warriors to exhibit a sense of entitlement. But politics is dynamic.

In Tanzania, when multipartyism came the strongest foe of the CCM was CUF – vocal, uncompromising and the largest opposition party in parliament. But when the intoxication induced by crowds wore out they realized that their train had very few rail tracks.

In short they were not organized. A smaller party called CHADEMA overtook it and is now the main opposition. The TZ opposition has formed an alliance.

CCM government’s former PM Lowasa was welcomed into CHADEMA and he is now the joint presidential Flagbearer after being denied a chance to compete in CCM. Yet he only left CCM the other day. We have to accompany defectors to travel the road to Damascus where Sauls become Pauls.

I think we are dealing with a complex situation and we should not be simplistic. We shouldn’t take an unwise shortcut. A shortcut is the shortest route to a place you were not going to in the first place.

Others argue tactics. I don’t dismiss tactics but I argue the pre-eminence of strategy. Our strategy is one team, one dream.

As Sun Tzu said in the Art of War that strategy without tactics is a long road to victory but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

If we field one candidate and lose I think Ugandans will blame us less than if we fielded more than one candidate and still lost. We shall certainly have egg on our face. We should not succumb to something akin to sports betting.

Keep hope alive.

Norbert Mao, is the Democratic Party [DP] presidential flag bearer


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