My presidency will not be used to settle old scores

In the next few weeks I am going to talk to the former [FDC presidential] candidates to forge a way forward. I know that Gen Mugisha Muntu may not have taken this loss happily and that is natural

The newly elected FDC party president Patrick Amuriat gestures to his supporters after swearing in on December 1, 2017. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

BY Damali Mukhaye and David Mafabi

IN SUMMARY

New leadership. On Friday, Mr Patrick Oboi Amuriat was sworn in as FDC president. Damali Mukhaye & David Mafabi caught up with him immediately after he was announced winner a week earlier and asked him about the direction he intends to steer the party.

What do you plan to do to ensure the Opposition party you lead captures state power?
The first few weeks of my tenure as president are going to try to bring the party together. There has been a lot of contradictions, pulling and pushing and bad blood between officials which was also evident in the tenure of my predecessor.
In the next few weeks I am going to talk to the former [FDC presidential] candidates to forge a way forward. I know that Gen Mugisha Muntu may not have taken this loss happily and that is natural, but I think he has been good at trying to calm down his supporters and we are going to need him in the party to comfort his supporters and settle them that FDC is their home which was formed to accommodate everybody.
After all, in just three years we are going to have another presidential campaign because I intend to cut down my term to three years just to harmonise our electoral cycle so that elections take place at the same time for all office bearers

Your predecessor was accused by some in the party of being a mole of the ruling party. You have taken over and are being accused of being a Dr Besigye puppet. How do you respond to these labels?
He [Gen Muntu] has been in the leadership of FDC for 12 years now, first as a mobiliser and in the latter years as the president and I am sure that in the course of his execution, he has been a good person and many people have been following him so personally. I do not know if he is a mole or not.
On the issue of Besigye and if I am his proxy or moving in his shadow, I think I am a man of my own. I am not new in politics. I have been in politics for more than 25 years now.
As far as I can remember, I have been contesting in every national election ever since I joined politics. So I am not alien to the politics of the day in our country.
Along the way, I have built capacity for myself and this is now where the interface between me and Dr Besigye comes.
Dr Besigye has been a leader for a while. In his current leadership role or as a party president, he mentored a number of us. I happen to be one of those who has been mentored by him and I have continued to follow his politics because I admire his ways and the way he conducts his politics.

NRM has been the main bull in FDC’s political fight. How will you deal with a new rival on the scene if internal schism within FDC births a new party?
We are not going to take long before these internal quarrels are settled. In fact, I have given myself not beyond six months to get the internal contradictions resolved. Some of these contradictions were caused by my predecessor.
You cannot be a solution to a conflict you are part of and so the new blood is coming into the leadership of this party and I am a person who gets along nearly with everybody in the party and I do not think I will have issues working with everyone. I assure you that immediately I step in Najjanakumbi, there is going to be a change.

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You now have the mandate to reorganise the party and its leadership. To ask a straight question, will you drop the current office bearers in the Shadow Cabinet, considering that most campaigned for Gen Muntu?

I have no grudge against anybody who holds a position in Parliament. I guess that is what you are referring to. Nobody committed a crime supporting whoever candidate they did, that was their choice and it has to be respected.
The party has been reviewing offices and we shall see when we get there. But in the meantime, I do not have plans of making any changes. But if somebody fails to carry out their duties, we shall not just watch them enjoy doing nothing.
My presidency will not be used to settle old scores and I come open minded to the presidency of FDC given that I can work with anybody.

Do you plan to contest as the president come 2021?
We will cross the bridge when we get there. I want to do one thing at a time. I am going to run this party to the satisfaction of my people in the party and in 2021 I will come out with a good account of my presidency and possibly ask for another term of five years then.

Gen Muntu in his concession speech said he will be announcing his new direction soon. Some MPs who supported him hinted that they could form a new party. How big do you think the fallout from this election will be and how are you prepared to handle it?

For me, I believe that all these people are assets to the party. They have made a huge contributed to this party. We formed the party with Gen Mugisha Muntu; we respect him as a leader within the FDC.
My appeal to my colleagues is that let not emotions overcome them and let there be no making such a rush decision. They should be able to reflect on their next step. This is just an election; you expect a loss or a win.

What do you consider as the biggest challenge for FDC party that requires to be tackled head-on?
I have put across nine issues that I think have led to the slowing down of our party. 1.) We lack cohesion, 2.) Unclaimed victory of 2016, 3.) We have lost a lot of our supporters and many of them have gone to NRM so we have to stop it so that we maintain our support, recruit more and put them in FDC, we have lost our political territories, 4.) The issue of funding, 5.) Our presences in the grassroots is thinning every day. Lastly, unfulfilled promises by my predecessor.

Oboi Amuriat’s take on Key issues

On inadequate resources
We are first of all going to make FDC attractive and give hope to onlookers. We are also going to write out clear programmes of what we intend to do and have a plan of financing them. We shall go out to our well-wishers and tell them that there is a new leadership in FDC with outlined programmes.
I also have a plan of going in commercial activities where we shall get into business so that we can sell goods and services to the people, raise money to run the party and this is going to transcend all our structures at different levels.
One project I passionately want to start is the modernisation of our headquarters into a modern facility and this might take about eight years but nothing stops us from starting now and so we will commence the construction soon.

On talks between President Museveni and Dr Besigye
I know about the efforts that have been behind the scenes. But this has not yet attained maturity. We have always been open to any forms of dialogue that can be brought on the table by any mediator and once we known that it is there, we shall put our terms. But if there is any dialogue at a moment, the talks should be about our 2016 victory.

On jailed FDC activist Sam Mugumya
I know about the efforts that have been undertaken by various interested people in FDC to try and push for the release of Mugumya. It is not true that nothing is being done, a lot is being done. Just last week, MP Francis Mwijukye tried to go and see him and chart a way forward but he failed to enter DR Congo.
So my presidency is going to engage the government of Congo and Uganda to try and secure his release and his other four colleagues. We also have many of our comrades jailed in Uganda unfairly and so we are going to take an audit of everyone who has been in the struggle and is in jail so that we can offer support to them.

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