Following the recent Inter-Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) summit, different social media platforms were awash with rage.
Several insults were hurled at those who attended the meeting. Understandably, a big chunk of the insults were directed to the president for breaking the world records for lateness as he turned up almost a day after the agreed time for the summit.
Interestingly, another portion of insults were directed at the rest of the party leaders who attended. Some were labeled political moles whose sole purpose of attending was to pick their ash envelopes; others were called political prostitutes and Mr. Norbert Mao, the Democratic Party President-general, was particularly singled out for smiling while welcoming President Museveni.
Apparently, there is an unhealthy and misleading aura that some politicians have conspicuously planted in the psyche of the public - the misconception that if you are a leader of any opposition party, you are not expected to interact with members of the ruling party.
For instance, during the IPOD summits, the opposition leaders, especially Norbert Mao, must be seen talking with clenched fists with an angry face, and must occasionally be seen attempting to kick or punch the president. That seems to be the true character of a genuine leader of an opposition party and an assured method for avoiding the label of a mole.
Yet, those who are quick to favour the hypothesis of a mole, are not wrong given the shocking and dramatic switch of political allegiance by some former prominent members of opposition, most notably Beti Kamya and Beatrice Atim Anywar.
If the dead are indeed not dead, the soul of former president and statesman, Apollo Milton Obote, stopped to rest peacefully on the day his son technically turned UPC into a sub-branch of the ruling NRM party. Our history is marred with a litany of political party mergers and splits, party alliances and constant scenarios of leaders switching from one party to the other.
When formerly influential and vocal members of opposition members suddenly join the ruling government and proclaim that they can’t fathom why they spent such a long time in opposition, we are simply reminded that the drug lord Pablo Escobar wasn’t wrong in concluding that everyone has a price but the challenge is to find out what that price is.
Thus, nobody should ever be deluded into thinking that politicians are as fiercely opposed to each other as they want us to believe since most of their differences are often not based on real principles or some form of concrete political ideology.
Similarly, one common – yet deceptively used - argument that most Africans give when faced with controversial questions such as the rights of homosexuals or certain styles of dressing is an appeal to “African culture”. In the same vein, it is not African for our politicians to be so bitter with each other that they cannot look each other in the eye.
Several African communities appreciate that the eye-for-an-eye approach only serves to leave the entire community blind. Justice is, therefore, viewed as a pathway for rehabilitating social relations.
In the recent past, this spirit of restorative justice has been witnessed in Northern Uganda where the “Mato Oput” (drinking the bitter herb) was used to restore the relations between victims and perpetrators of the LRA atrocities. Similarly, the “Gacaca” transitional system was used to promote communal healing and rebuilding in the wake of the Rwandan genocide.
Therefore, if those who have been maimed and lost entire families are willing to forgive the perpetrators, any politician who masquerades as irreconcilably too angered to amicably talk to another must fully justify their position.
Much as there are vivid reasons given by FDC leaders for snubbing the past two IPOD summits, there is a lot of potential in it as the 2021 elections continue to loom.
However, for that potential to happen, there is going to be need for robust compromises by all stakeholders, including loose associations such as the “People Power” movement which has strategically refrained from registering as a political party.
In IPOD, I envisage an opportunity for the aggrieved politicians to speak face-to-face with the head of the ruling party without the fear of being labeled a mole. Lots of positivity and harmonization can then emerge from the fairly casual and light moments shared during such summits.
Lastly, in IPOD, I visualize the possibility for a successful nonviolent resistance as articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. that nonviolent resistance seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites – acquiescence and violence– while avoiding the extremes and immoralities of both.
IPOD, therefore, presents a more civil opportunity for the oppressed leaders in opposition to rise to the noble height of opposing the unjust ruling system while “loving” the oppressors.
This height can be achieved partially by acknowledging Martin Luther’s dictum that “in the end, it is not a struggle between people at all but a tension between justice and injustice.” Otherwise, we might as well prepare for an all-blind community which is guaranteed to emanate from an eye-to-eye approach.
The writer is a social worker in Alberta -Canada.