Fresh disagreements have broken out in Uganda’s oldest political party, the Democratic Party over internal elections.
The row pits the party President Norbert Mao, his deputy Denis Mukasa Mbidde and Secretary General Gerald Blacks Siranda against mainly DP Members of Parliament led by their caucus chairperson Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu, the MP for Kalungu West.
The party was supposed to hold lower branch elections this week for preparation of the national delegates’ conference expected to take place from March 28-30 in Gulu. However on Thursday DP organizing Secretary Sulaiman Kidandala stopped the elections saying that they were not being conducted in line with the party constitution. He said any election that is not supervised by him as per the dictates of the party constitution, is null and void.
He added that there was need to first thrash out all the sticky issues that were stopping DP leaders in different parts of the country from embracing them. This position is backed up by MP Ssewungu who told this reporter that if the party insists on this trajectory, they might end up in court to challenge it.
“The party constitution gives the Organizing Secretary the powers to organize elections but what we are seeing is that the party chairman is directly supervising these elections. What they did was to deny Kidandala resources to do his job and instead chose to do it themselves,” Mr Ssewungu said.
He added that the reason they are doing this is because they fear an election that is free and fair as they want to have a say on who ends up as a delegate.
“We are saying let’s use the party structures and have genuine elections and if that doesn’t happen, we shall end up in court. Mao has been having a NEC that is not divided now it is, people who have been trusting him have all abandoned him,” Ssewungu added.
His criticism of his party’s position is not far away from that of his Mukono municipality counterpart, Betty Nambooze Bakireke. Writing on her Facebook page, Ms Nambooze, who’s not a stranger to DP conflicts said, by organizing these elections, Mao and company are trying to deny the party the partly 16 seats that it holds.
“Mr Siranda and his group are being used by forces we are trying to understand, to overrun the few constituencies DP was able to secure in the last elections. It can’t be that all of the 16 MPs in DP are bad. It can’t be that the few districts where DP has active branches are the one Siranda is targeting. Why don’t I hear you in Kayunga, Kabalore, Kapchorwa? The 16 constituencies where we won are the Party life line,” she said.
Speaking to URN, DP secretary Siranda hit back at his critics arguing that they are just fearing to lose their parliamentary seats. He said that the organizing secretary of the party has no powers of stopping elections because the decision to hold them was taken by NEC.
“The position of the party is communicated only by the secretary general and I’m saying the elections are on; nobody is going to stop them,” said Siranda.
He added that those people opposing the elections are the same people who have never agreed to any party position.
“The parliamentary group fear elections in their areas because last time we exempted them from competition but now we are saying that we shall have elections in every area. Whoever thinks Siranda is bad, Mao is bad, and Mbidde is bad should come to Gulu and contest any position they want,” he added.
On the accusation that they might be working for another force to kill DP, Mr Siranda, who has been DP acting secretary general since the passing of Mathias Nsubuga in 2016, said it is them who go and blast the party at press conferences that we are working for forces they don’t understand.
“If your party is going for an election, you can’t go and blast it; what they are doing is undermining it,” he explained.
His position is backed up by DP president Norbert Mao who in an interview with URN said he’s the overall supervisor of everybody in the party.
“We have already announced a delegates’ conference, who are those that are going to attend if we don’t elect them? Arguing against these elections is the most nonsensical argument I have ever heard. By the way, even the Political Parties and Organisations Act says that the mandate of elected leaders is five years so we must get new leaders,” said Mao.
He also regarded as lie by the greater Masaka DP Members of Parliament including Florence Namayanja, Ssewungu and Mathias Mpuuga among others who earlier this week accused him of lack of accountability for the money that the party receives from government and other sources.
“I think they were in comedy but all of that is a well-orchestrated smear campaign. If there is one thing that you can’t fault Mao on, is accountability and financial integrity. I never joined politics to make money and at least everybody knows that you can buy me with everything else except money because I have no desire for selfish enrichment. Their accusation was only for nuisance value,” said Mao.
He also hit back at MPs telling them that their talk about liberating Uganda is just empty rhetoric because they are most interested in keeping their parliamentary seats.
“They don’t want competition because last time we ring fenced their seats. Who are they not to have competition if even my office is competed for? How can they say they are democrats when they don’t want competition? I think they are just hyperventilating for nothing,” added the DP president.