The Friday meeting of the leaders of the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (Ipod) was called as a way to bridge the gap between the warring political groups but, going by what was said there and after the event, it led to even more division.
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) had in the past shunned Ipod events attended by President Museveni and attracted scorn for it. This time round, they were joined by the Justice Forum (Jeema) in shunning the Ipod summit. The National Unity Platform (NUP), which is destined to take over as the official Opposition effective May and is guaranteed a seat in Ipod courtesy of being represented in Parliament, has also poured scorn on the Kololo event.
The leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Mr Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and Justice Forum’s (Jeema) Asuman Basalirwa were a no-show at Kololo on Friday, indicating that they had no assurance of the outcomes of the meeting.
Mr Wasswa Biriggwa, the chairperson of FDC, told Sunday Monitor that much as his party appreciates dialogue as one of the ways to solve problems, they will only participate in what he called “principle dialogue”.
“The reasons why the Ipod was formed have been neglected because it was meant to bring about democracy and observance of the rule of law. That is not happening and we are not ready to be part of a group that will discuss things and not implement them,” Mr Biriggwa said.
FDC indicated from the start that it would not be party to the Ipod summit and even its Secretary General Nandala Mafabi skipped the press conference on Monday where it was announced that the Ipod summit would take place on Friday.
Mr Mafabi would, during a television talkshow on NBS TV, say his party president would not attend “casual talks” with President Museveni after he was roughed up during the recently concluded elections.
Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who is also a member of FDC, said during a talk show on Radio One that what happened at Kololo on Friday was a meeting of “political allies”.
But the story was slightly different for Jeema. Its secretary general, Mr Muhammad Kateregga, attended the press conference on Monday at which the summit was announced and he pledged that his party’s president would attend. But things changed during the week and his party president, Mr Basalirwa, did not show up. Mr Kateregga, however, attended the Kololo event, which points to disagreement within the party.
Mr Basalirwa, speaking to Sunday Monitor, said the position of his party was not to show up at the meet because of the issues he says had not been worked on.
Mr Basalirwa said: “This summit should not be turned into a talking club where people meet and take tea. The issues we discussed, for instance in the last summit, and resolutions made have not been implemented. But also the timeframe we were given to consult from all stakeholders on our position to attend was very limited.”
In 2010, the Ipod was formed with a view of bringing all political parties with representation in Parliament to one table to discuss political issues. With this, the inventors envisioned that there would be the restoration of democracy, which they said was shrinking and discussion on the rule of law.
However, since its inception, there have been three summits held and FDC has not been in attendance of any of them, citing pessimism in the implementation of the resolutions.
Initiative for dialogue
Two weeks ago, DP’s Norbert Mao called all presidents of parties suggesting a meeting to discuss the rampant abductions of different political party supporters among other issues.
UPC’s Akena thanked Mr Mao for the initiative, and all the three party leaders at the event took a swipe at those who did not attend.
President Museveni, also the leader of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and current Ipod chairman, spent the better part of his speech talking about the importance of dialogue, and so did Mr Mao and Mr Akena.
Mr Museveni indicated that the past regimes in the 1960s and the early 1980s did not appreciate and give dialogue a chance, which he says made the politics of the time even more difficult.
“We don’t have any problem engaging in dialogue as NRM, but some people have neglected dialogue, I don’t know why because they are doing a very big mistake.
We as NRM have always appreciated dialogue that is why I even talked to (Joseph) Kony (rebel Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army),” he said.
“Therefore, dialogue is very good because we can compare our missions. The mission of NRM very well states, what is the mission of the others and what are the meeting points where we can have common positions and where do we separate and why,” Mr Museveni added.
For Mr Mao, Ipod provides an opportunity to build bridges, which he says is constructed on stormy waters that everyone should embrace and take part in the process so as to solve problems, lest they face the consequences.
“I am here because I believe in dialogue and we shall build that bridge even if we give our lives in the process of building that bridge. But we must have a bridge across the political divide. To those who may want to burn down the bridge, I say all the bridges that you burn may come back to haunt you,” he said, adding:
“Uganda’s history is a testimony of that. All those who burnt political bridges in the 1960s have lived to regret their actions. Uganda is the only country that we have, we may have plan B and that is all well, but we don’t have a country B.”
Mr Biriggwa responded to the comments saying: “We all correctly or wrongly know that DP and UPC are in bed with the ruling NRM party. This could be one of those days they were targeting allowances for their own convenience. We are not ready to be part of that.”
Mr Akena welcomed the other new political parties which by virtue of the last elections become part of Ipod to embrace the summit so as to foster discussions on what he termed as fundamental issues.
“We would like to take this opportunity to extend a hand of friendship to the colleagues who by virtue of the recently concluded elections qualify to be members of the Ipod and this is specifically to the People’s Progressive Party and National Unity Platform (NUP),” he said.
Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson, said they are ready to be part of an organisation that implements resolutions and people-centered interests.
“I think the idea for which Ipod was made is important but what we are seeing is the exact opposite. People just meet, take tea and never implement what has been discussed. We cannot be sitting with a group of people who have killed, illegally detained and kidnapped Ugandans and everyone is taking things as normal,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
The leaders of the IPOD, by press time, had not provided a formal communique about the resolutions, saying it was not ready.
President Museveni promised to set free 51 people from different prisons, adding that he would ask the Director of Private Prosecutions (DPP) to review the case of those that were arraigned in military courts to get, “soft landing.”
“I am very happy to have attended this summit because we talked about very topical issues including the disappearances and the people who were arrested by the security forces as a consequence of state criminality, the insurrection which some people were trying to organise. 51 people will also be released unconditionally because these ones were helping us to know more about the schemes of the miscalculators,” he said.