NRM risks walking the UPC road
Written by James Magode Ikuya
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 21:39
When A.M. Obote, the UPC leader, and by then a consummate rising star in Uganda’s opposition politics, returned from the London Lancaster House Conference over Uganda’s independence, he was already buoyed with a sure UPC victory in the pre-independence elections.
The conference had hammered out a constitutional arrangement granting a special status to the Buganda monarchy and for the nomination by Buganda’s Lukiiko of the region’s representatives to the national Parliament instead of direct elections. This endeared the Mengo zealots to UPC.
The DP was fiercely opposed to ceding political or electoral power to the Mengo establishment, daubing it undemocratic. UPC was careful to leave out ticklish demands such as from Buganda’s old rival, Bunyoro Kingdom, over its claim to territories previously donated to Buganda by the British authorities.
The matter was tactically couched for a future referendum to decide where the electorate would desire to belong. This kept the issue from spoiling the momentary UPC calculations.
So much fired was UPC of its having outmaneuvered the DP, that Obote used every forum to assure UPC supporters that the DP was destined to die a natural death. He cited a number of reasons for his prediction. He said that while in London for the independence talks, the DP leaders were all the time sleeping.
He poked fun that the only occasion the DP leaders woke up, was during the discussion of Buganda’s status from which they walked out, smarting in anger. This was the beginning of Obote’s sonorous song and mockery of the DP as a “Dead Party” that had no ability to lead Uganda to nationhood. Obote’s bragging was however, not the real reasons why the DP steeply declined.
The foundation of the DP itself had been superficial. It arose from the clamour of the Catholic clergy against the known discrimination of the Catholics during the colonial period. Colonialism practised oppression and discrimination of the blacks, Indians, peasants, workers and the colonised country as a whole.
With decolonisation as UPC assumed power, the prospect for DP’s Catholic texture faltered. The exigency of establishing a stable neo-colonial regime in the country brought a new configuration of forces. The bulk of DP leadership in Parliament led by the official leader of opposition, Basil Bataringaya, crossed en-masse to join greener pastures in the UPC.
They were promptly rewarded with ministerial powers and offices. Only sprinklings of devout DP armbands like Gasper Oda, Obonyo and the like got stuck in occupying forlorn DP benches. In 1980, the DP went back to embrace the hitherto unfamiliar constituency of the remnants of KY, which it had been spiritedly opposed to.
Although the UPC on its part had always claimed to be a party of ideas different from the DP, it too followed the DP sunset, more especially in drastically collapsing out of power. With the ascendancy of the NRM to power, UPC now finds itself cornered only in a few spots in Dr. Obote’s home district.
The excuse for the demise of these parties is often ascribed to the authoritarianism of Idi Amin and NRM’s stifling of opposition parties. Although the curtailment of rights by the state can handicap political expression, it cannot deter genuine aspirations from taking root in society. This is why despite the proscribing of political thought by the fascist reign of Idi Amin, public resentment continued to rise.
The NRM may boast that the more than 20 years of undisputed political dominance demonstrates its unique viability. Yet the same fiasco can be seen repeating itself. Our NRM hardly any longer relies on the strength of our convictions to garner political support from the masses.
Traditional and cultural institutions are also courted as the handiest vehicle for political support. Loyalty to them keeps on shifting as new allies are found to dislodge and dismember the old ones. The Buganda monarchy is grumbling of having been used to abandonment.
Our tested method of building the NRM is to maintain a cohesive and clear-cut image of principles around which the party mobilises the country. It is only out of tenacity and truthfulness towards our people that we can win admiration and guarantee continuous level of quality of political leadership to move this country to greater heights for generations to come. We in the NRM risk walking down UPC’s road if we continue to ignore securing and building our ranks in preference to engagement in political antics.
The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals