Recently, DP president general Norbert Mao presented a draft framework for forging unity among Opposition political parties so as to confront the kleptocracy haemorrhaging our country as a joint force and hopefully effect peaceful and democratic change in our well-endowed nation. This is not the first time Uganda’s political parties are trying to unite to face the NRM regime. Since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution and the subsequent general election of 1996, there have been efforts to that effect albeit without success.
But, in hindsight and from my knowledge of past endeavours, Mr Mao’s attempt too is poised to fail if Opposition leaders do not do serious soul-searching and deep reflections about the reasons why past attempts at unity have not yielded the desired outcomes. Truth be told, the NRM regime deliberately and expectedly creates obstacles to all Opposition efforts aimed at causing change, but Uganda’s political Opposition also has very many serious internal weaknesses that must be addressed.
Internal weaknesses in any organisation, let alone political parties, have more debilitating effect on the activities of the organisation than external challenges. It is, therefore, in the interest of the organisation, in this case Uganda’s Opposition political parties, to face those weaknesses squarely and address them. Doing so would naturally make the Opposition parties stronger, cohesive and focused on the job at hand. Failing to do so further weakens the Opposition parties and undermines the realisation of their common objectives.
Political parties across the world have their low and high moments. There is a time when a political party registers success after success in swinging public opinion, winning elections, passing legislation, etc. However, there is a time when a political party will register failure after failure in shaping public opinion, winning an election or passing a progressive legislation. This is usually the time when parties coalesce or ally with one another to achieve some common objectives. There may be many reasons for registering failures, but more often than not, they emanate from a leadership problem.
The leadership of the party may simply be incompetent and unable to live up to the challenges of the time or it is comfortable with the status quo. It may also be that the leadership has been compromised and as such is working for the interests of the opposite party rather than those of the party they lead. The problems could also be structural which result into many other attendant challenges, including but not limited to, dysfunctional systems, inertia, burn out, resource inadequacies, etc.
For a long time, the Labour Party of Great Britain suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the Conservative Party. There were many reasons for this. But, fundamentally, the genesis was embedded in the Labour Party leadership’s inability to read the times, appreciate the changing needs of the British electorate and respond to them. It took the analytical, resolute and focused leadership of Tony Blair and group to shake up the party and breathe into it a new lease of life.
So Uganda’s Opposition requires a new style of leadership. Certainly, we are not talking individuals here. We may still have the same crop of leaders but they need a different approach. We need leaderships that will dig deep into the issues failing the cause of the Opposition and without fear or favour, bring them to the fore for remedial actions. Undertaking such a process will definitely create fear and discomfort, especially among people who overtly or covertly support and benefit from the status quo. But that is to be expected and firmly dealt with.
In my considered opinion, therefore, Uganda’s Opposition parties and leaders need to openly, honestly and frankly confront the internal problems that have and continue to dog unity efforts and find solutions to them before engaging in yet another futile endeavour. This should be done at the individual political party level as well as jointly as the Opposition. It won’t be helpful at all, to sweep things under the carpet, however discomforting the exercise may be.
In the final analysis, however, most if not all, Opposition leaders need to pay particular attention to the ‘man in the mirror,’ he may after all be the one undermining the cause of Uganda’s Opposition and delaying the birth of a new democratic dispensation to our beloved nation.
Mr Mugabe is a member of the Alliance for National Transformation