Why UPC must put its house in order – and fast

Sunday November 29 2020

Joseph Ochieno

By Joseph Ochieno

When I set off on a countrywide tour two weeks ago, I was resolved that I needed to reach out to every sub-region of this country and share with as many of the local UPC leaders and members as possible, Covid-19 limitations and SOPs allowing. The journey was premised on listening but also sharing my thoughts on the state of the party and possible way forward.

Starting with West Nile (Arua), I was touched by the towering impact and contents of my elders Caleb and Aunt Susan who in their presence, the welcoming team were like me, a reassured family. All they yearn for is bold and coherent leadership in order to ‘save’ the party but, with high spirits, energy and desire to focus on the youth. I left better – rather too quickly though – but more enlightened.

In Gulu, I held back my emotions knowing that not so long ago, it was the capital of one of the most vicious wars this country has ever seen. Yet the resilience of the citizens and the apparent sophistication of those attending, I left a fine man; full of hope that the spirits of these proud people remain alive and with them, the Congress is the future. 

All they seek of this party is a fresh start, clarity of identity, concerns about the apparent leadership vacuum, especially the party’s inability to field presidential candidates for two seasons running and the lack of financial support for the many parliamentary and local council candidates.
In Lira, I listened, observed engaged and slept. Except for Covid-19 and time, it felt like a place for a whole day and another. But the fact remains, UPC members are like their blood; red.

In Soroti, amid their fantastic food, they lamented absence of leadership, understandable mixed messages from different interest groups but sought dialogue. Yet they lament absence of party cards and or T-shirts which after all, would not be free. Regardless, all they need is effective communication and the obvious support for candidates for the various elective positions, this one being a constant across the country.

As Soroti waited, the Moroto delegation had arrived even earlier, thanks to early Christmas presents of tear gas. From Abim, Moroto to Kotido, these citizens are committed to the party, anxious about issues, hungry for information, concerned about certain headlines but, extremely articulate and resolved. We matched.


The hills of Kapchorwa reminded me of a favourite hymn; The Wonders of Nature, the Works of your hands... is marvellous, yes you are God. The sight of Sebei College Tegeris reminded me of how possibilities a UPC government translates hope and aspirations of a people – from the low plains to the highest mountains – into reality. Like we did before, we will do it again.

In Mbale, I was hosted in their fully decorated UPC office while rain washed off all the obstacles that hinder the once-upon-a-time smartest town of East Africa. Holding that, I rushed home to Tororo under whose rock we commit to stand as firm as ever. Iganga’s touch was that former teacher who joined UPC in 1961 and rushed in at mere mention of a UPC meeting. 

Then Mbarara. And Kabale where a radio show with fantastic candidate for the Municipality Violah Ahabwe generated five new members for the party on air and on phone. Bushenyi as usual invoked emotions only to rush to Fort Portal where one of the best representation of women was apparent. Hoima settled it as we returned to square central zone, at Kampala.

In all, the message is clear: members and potential members are there. Goodwill in plenty. Threats of possible loss of direction.  I listened but, observed too. It sunk, deep. We either sort out the mess now or risk wasting an opportunity of a life time. The choice is yours.

The writer is former UPC spokesperson