Since Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu lost the FDC presidency last week to former Kumi MP Patrick Amuriat Oboi, fierce public debate has focused much about his next political move.
On Wednesday, he addressed a press conference and committed himself to the party. Our reporter Baker Batte Lule taped the proceedings and brings you a slightly edited version of the events.
We expected you to make a big announcement; are you still in FDC?
There is a lot of debate all over the country about what is happening in FDC which in itself is healthy. Like I already indicated, there are a number of issues that we need to discuss within the party and outside. We don’t intend to rush any decision.
The consultations that we want to make, we want to ensure that by the time we are going to make any decision, it is not a decision that we are going to make out of emotions because we are dealing with matters of life and death.
Some people take politics easy others choose to say whatever they want to say without bothering about the implications of what they say or what they do. We are in a country where, for 54 years, we have been involved in bloodletting; killings because of the carelessness of the leaders. When decisions are being made, you must be careful in the manner in which you make these decisions.
We don’t intend to do anything in secret because there is nothing to hide. At the end of the consultative processes, which I believe may go through all of December, we would have reached out to our colleagues, many Ugandans; we would have listened to different voices and then make whatever decisions.
There is nothing personal in all this. I hear you naming names. I don’t think that this is about myself or Dr [Kizza] Besigye. There are certain dynamics unfolding in this country and we need to critically examine them. For us, we are simply just participants in those unfolding dynamics whether within the party or outside the party.
All our colleagues all over the country must keep calm because decisions of this nature don’t need to be made in panic or in a state of anger or frustration because it affects people’s lives. Unfortunately, people are focused on the most immediate thing, the removal of a dictatorship. Yes, it is important but there are issues beyond a dictatorship.
In what capacity will you carry out the mobilisation you have talked about? Won’t we see a parallel FDC structure like the one we have been having at Katonga road?
I will be carrying out these consultations as one of the senior leaders of the party and also in my capacity as a free citizen. Whatever we do will be in the open. It will be a transparent process because that is how we operate. We will be briefing Hon Oboi about every step that we will be taking.
I will be discussing with him because politics is not a private affair. I don’t know how other people operate but that is the way we operate. At the end of the day, parties are a critical factor. They are the vehicles through which governance is conducted. If there are many parties that subscribe to certain values, not by word of mouth but in practice, it will certainly be good for the country.
We have heard that Hon Amuriat is going to call you for a discussion…
I have already talked to him; it is not him who has talked to me. I have no problem with Hon Oboi. I will be available to him all the time. Whenever he needs any advice, I will give it him; I’m a very transparent person; I’m a democrat, I’m an honest person.
Everything I do is above board; so, in whatever I do I will be looking at how FDC can be improved. I’m somebody who never gives up even if I operated anywhere else. Even if I’m to completely retire from politics, I will still be ready to give advice to those who will still be in politics to ensure that the party becomes better.
This country is going to be run by political parties unless the constitution is changed, and then you can get Kacita running government.
Amuriat thinks you can play an advisory role in the new party elder’s council.
Let me correct you. It’s not Hon Oboi who is going to establish that council. It was a decision made by NEC, made about three years ago. Unfortunately, when the delegates’ conference was making amendments to the constitution, they made that council elective.
We discussed that issue in NEC and said there is no way you can try to have the services of elders and then tell them to go compete for those positions. There is no way you can tell Hon Amanya Mushega or Wandera Ogalo to compete to become elders. We proposed an amendment that that council should be appointive. It is not as though it is anything new.
Secondly, in the course of consultations there are many things that we are going to be looking at. We can’t anticipate the outcome of such consultations. We need to be patient until we get to that point.
Will your views be accepted now that some of the people on the other side say you have killed the party?
I don’t know how Hon Oboi is going to handle it. At least for me I have the experience of how to handle it. I must say we handled it well. On Friday, (today), I’m going to hand over a party which is intact and yet all these tendencies were there.
Their campaign platform was that there was going to be only one strategy; I don’t know how that is going to be in practice. During my time, I recognised that there are different tendencies; I didn’t believe that there was any way you can suppress one tendency.
Are your consultative meetings about forming another party or remaining in FDC?
We haven’t reached there yet. It is healthy to have debates internally, even externally in a country like Uganda in which political dynamics are unfolding. We have got to listen and understand how to handle this one as a party or political parties involved in the change process.
The only disappointing thing is that as political actors, we seem not to realise that you can have disagreements and manage them in a civil way.
That is where I get a bit of a problem that every time there is a problem, people tend to go to the trenches and start fighting. We are focused on the end state which is having good governance in this country. That is the bottom line; there is no compromise on that.
If in the course of your interaction with NRM people they tell you ‘please comeback home’, would you give it a thought?
No, no, that is absolutely out!
You know the issue of having new parties is not new; we have lived with it. In 2004, when we formed FDC, there were many people who told some of us who were in Pafo to form a new party and we said no. There was resistance in a number of quarters but we cut into that resistance and ended up forming FDC.
I know for sure that even if there was a separation and you find two or three parties starting; the dynamics within them will not be different from those we currently see in the existing parties.
All actors within those parties are a product of our culture since 1962. The only difference is the party that can manage these contradictions and create stability for a sustained period of time and eventually create a critical mass. Once a party like that achieves that, then it will lead the way for others to follow.
Your approach of building party structures alongside defiance was rejected. What is there to negotiate?
We are not going to be negotiating anything with anybody; we are going to be discussing. We are living in the same country and we don’t seem to realise that we are heading to a possible crisis.
Nobody can say with certainty that we are going to have a smooth change yet change will happen. But how will it happen? How will it be managed?
We don’t want to face a crisis that we cannot handle as a people. So, we must keep discussing these issues and my hope is that people will act in good faith. The problem is that many of us act from the negative. If there is a controversy, engage it with a view of looking for a solution. If there is a national crisis, it will suck in all of us; it doesn’t matter whether you are FDC, DP, NRM or UPC.
You said there are irreconcilable differences within FDC, how are you going to handle that now that you are in talks with the party?
I wish I could give you an easy answer. It is tough and that is why we have to make wide consultations. If it was only myself, I never find it difficult to make hard decisions in my life. I make them whether people understand me or not; I keep moving.
You said that FDC doesn’t trust you; now, where have you found the new trust that you can work with them?
As an individual, I can operate in any environment. There are those of us who will keep on pushing the boundaries of our body politic until they open up and everybody feels comfortable with people whether they agree or not.
Maybe there will be sacrifices along the way and that is okay. Fortunately in politics you will be sacrificed politically but in war, you die; they bury you, life continues.