What you need to know:
What Ugandans urgently need is not the kind of cooperation agreement that would involve the ruling party and one Opposition party or president
Dear Ndugu Norbert,
Greetings from the sweltering summer of North Carolina. This is my second letter to you in as many months. As you recall, not too long ago, I wrote to you from the cold conditions of the Western Cape. It is part of the wonders of this world that the southern tip of the globe is in winter conditions while the north is facing extreme heat!
You promised to respond to my previous letter, but you haven’t, or at least I haven’t seen the response. My last letter was a reaction to a Twitter assault on the National Unity Platform (NUP) party and its leader, brother Bobi Wine.
I wrote to urge you to be the moderate voice that I know you to be and refrain from pouring gasoline on an already explosive political environment. I believe that your able intellect and fine mind can help fuel the future than burn down a tortured present Uganda.
Now I am writing to you again on the backdrop of your meeting with President Museveni on Wednesday and the reported signing of a memorandum of understanding ostensibly to work or cooperate with Mr Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
I cannot overstate this fact: Uganda is at a dangerous political crossroads. Ndugu, you know this very well. Therefore, the principle of dialogue and deliberation among people and parties of different political persuasions is the right thinking. I support it. And every well-meaning Ugandan should.
Given the problems we face and the broken political system we have, Uganda urgently needs concerted conversations and principled compromise to heal the nation, to repair our beaten down political system and remake a different country away from the past and current baggage.
But principle is one thing, practice is another. Mr Museveni has a track-record. He is a master of deception. While we desperately need to find common ground and forge a new political system, there is cause to be sceptical and suspicious of a cooperation pact with Mr Museveni and his NRM.
The issues we face are not the preserve of Museveni and Mao or NRM and DP; they are issues for all Ugandans, parties and political leaders. If Mr Museveni is serious about compromise and cooperation, he cannot single you out and the party you lead for a deal. There has to be an open and inclusive process.
What Ugandans urgently need is not the kind of cooperation agreement that would involve the ruling party and one Opposition party or president. Rather, we must have a truly multiparty and multi-stakeholder national dialogue.
We need a candid and critical reflection on where we are as a country and where we want to be. I have no doubt that you are very well-suited to play a leadership role in this regard, but I am not convinced that going it alone and striking a deal with Mr Museveni will move the country in the direction that is desirable.
President Museveni remains firmly committed to ruling for life, and if he must leave it appears that he is keen on perpetuating family rule. Is he not enlisting you, Ndugu Norbert, to be a reluctant accessory to this grand strategy of life presidency?
Mr Museveni’s track-record is not one of principled engagement. It is not about working with other political leaders to advance the national interest and promote the public good. Rather, Museveni has always sought to use others for his power pursuits, to co-opt not cooperate, coerce and not convince.
If I had the chance to meet the man, as you did to sign the documents you did on Wednesday, I would ask him to boldly raise to the occasion and formally invite leaders of the main opposition parties, religious and civic actors to a truly national dialogue about the present and future of the country with the primary agenda of how to navigate the rough waters of transitioning away from his rule.
I suspect that Mr Museveni finds this proposition treasonous! And that is where the problem lies. The President sees Uganda as his real-estate, and any suggestion that challenges his stay at the helm is treated as a crime against the state of Uganda – high treason.
He easily gets irritated when asked about succession plans and when he plans to step down, yet this is the most important and consequential political question for Uganda ever since independence sixty years ago!
Was this the focus of your conversation with Mr Museveni and the document you signed? If so, then perhaps we can count on the hope that this is the beginning of a long process and not just the end of sealing a deal for you and your party.
In any event, I hope to hear from you soon and will appreciate the opportunity to chat in person the next I am in Kampala. Be blessed.