Kampala. President Museveni yesterday told political parties during the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) summit that he is not about to leave power and they should stop thinking of a transition.
The long-awaited summit of leaders of political parties represented in Parliament was held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
It was attended by Presidnt Museveni as chairman of the ruling NRM party and four Opposition parties; Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) represented by party president Jimmy Akena, Democratic Party (DP) represented by its president general Norbert Mao and the Justice Forum (Jeema) represented by its president, Mr Asuman Basalirwa.
The leaders were accompanied by delegates from their respective parties.
The biggest Opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) boycotted the summit and the seats for its party president, Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi and delegation remained vacant throughout the proceedings.
The FDC pulled out of the dialogue, citing infringement on its rights of association by the regime.
The four items on the IPOD summit agenda sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) were strengthening political parties to enhance their relevance and effectiveness, enacting constitutional and electoral law reforms to improve the functioning of Uganda’s multiparty system, promotion of inclusiveness in politics and, improving governance, human rights and observance of rule of law.
Mr Museveni, who said he enjoyed the dialogue with his political opponents, told them that he will not think of relinquishing power until he is satisfied that the prosperity and strategic security of Africa have been achieved. He said prosperity and security determine the survival and destiny of the continent.
“I hear people like Mao talking about transition; how they would like to sit in the audience and see Museveni handing over power. That is the most important thing for him. I do not think that is the most important and it is good he is saying that,” Mr Museveni said.
“So, the political class instead of talking about the destiny of Africa, you are talking about petty things-- elections, who becomes who. That is why I have said if I still have strength, I will continue. This is my point of view-- not to retire when the original issues of why Africa nearly perished have not been addressed. And you are just addressing small things-- elections. The ones you are electing, you elect them to do what exactly? That is what you should answer. I have no other interest in politics because I am a cattle keeper,” he added.
Mr Museveni, who will be in power for 33 years on 26th next month, was responding to Mr Mao and Mr Basalirwa’s statements.
Earlier in their speeches, the duo had said they fancy a day Mr Museveni would go to Kololo Independence Grounds to witness the swearing in of another person as president of Uganda and officially hand over power.
Mr Museveni told them if they are thinking of him leaving power soon, they should better start dreaming of other alternatives.
He said the reason he joined politics was to fight for prosperity and strategic security of Africa which suffered at the hands of colonialists who defeated traditional chiefs and kings who had no sufficient defensive mechanisms.
In his speech, Mr Mao had said the wish of the Opposition is to see peaceful transition of power from President Museveni to another democratically elected leader.
The party leaders first held cameral proceedings before coming out to address the public.
Mr Mao said the proceedings went peacefully because there was “listening to each other.”
He said the cameral discussions centred on people of Uganda and Uganda as a country. The resolutions or details of the cameral proceedings were not revealed to the public.
The IPOD chairman Jimmy Akena said the details will be revealed at a later date.
“We talked about the people of Uganda and Uganda and we never talked about ourselves because IPOD is about opening our mind. We did this (dialogue) without being defensive or aggressive and lots of confessions were made, you will hear about them,” Mr Mao said.
He laughed at some Opposition political players who doubted the summit would take place. Mr Mao said the IPOD meeting was a key step in the journey to realising democracy in Uganda.
“It is important that Ugandans tell each other what they want and we told each other in this summit what we want instead of talking excuses. I recall the Walk-to-Work [protests] with police bullets and teargas but today we are here to resolve that and show that we are a country beyond this,” he added.
Mr Basalirwa said he led his party delegation to the summit to get assurances on freedoms of association and expression, end to torture of political opponents and an end to arresting people before thorough investigations.
Mr Basalirwa cited the torture on Opposition politicians, including Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake, Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga, Jinja Municipality East MP Paul Mwiru and Arua Munuicipality MP Kassiano Wadri during the Arua parliamentary by-election violence in August.
“We came here to get assurance that there will be no more torture of Opposition politicians and that when we move out of this country, we must be proud. Getting an assurance that there will be no more arresting and remanding people and investigations keep ongoing. Jeema came here to get assurance that occurrences of this nature will not happen again,” Mr Basalirwa said.
Mr Museveni said he agreed with fellow political party leaders on the issues of torture, freedom of association as longs as they act within the law.
The President said he also agreed with the Opposition leaders that no arrest and detention of people should happen before thorough investigations.
However, Mr Museveni added that he disagreed with the Opposition leaders on civil disobedience and promoting insecurity in the name of freedom of assembly with their supporters.
He said there are political parties that have been supporting acts of terrorism to the extent that some of their supporters have been killed outside the country while engaging in subversive activities. He did not mention the parties.
“There is no problem in people assembling because during campaigns, rival candidates assemble. The only problem is people assembling in markets. Some of the people assemble as if they are on the verge of being terrorists. So, if you have got political actors who are one leg in constitutional politics and another leg in unconstitutional politics… we are not fools. I will deal with them beforehand so that I protect property of the people,” Mr Museveni warned.
He emphasised the need for dialogue among political actors despite their differences in ideology.
The President noted that dialoguing opens opportunities for one to be understood clearly and therefore a chance to influence actions.
Mr Akena told the summit that as party leaders, they discussed the four main issues on the agenda with resolutions being sent to the IPOD council to look into matters arising before they are adopted by the next summit on May 15, 2019.
He said there was candid discussion during the closed-door meeting of the party leaders, adding that tangible outcomes are expected.
The IPOD meeting was attended by secretary generals of the four participating political parties, representatives from the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, Elders Forum leaders, the Electoral Commission chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama and members of civil society.