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2011 elections won’t be free and fair

The Independent Team

Bidandi Ssali is the presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP). The Independent’s Isaac Mufumba talked to the former Local Government minister,founder member of the Uganda Patriotic Movement and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) who quit to form the PPP.

Why has the PPP not joined the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC)?

Bidandi: We decided to cooperate with IPC in matters concerning the build up to the elections especially the amendments to the electoral laws, flaws in the voter registration exercise but did not join the IPC because it was not in the interest of the party or the country in terms of the budding multiparty political system.

We think that many parties in IPC are not yet institutions. They are registered, but do not have roots. We were therefore a bit apprehensive that this could be a repeat of what happened in Moshi (in 1979) when various parties and prominent people got together to remove the (Idi Amin regime) regime, but fell apart a few months later. They started killing one another. Less than a year after they removed the Obote (II) regime, the Kayiiras were shot in their own homes by uniformed people. Others never came back from exile.

In the 1960s, Kabaka Yekka (KY) and Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) got together and removed the late Ben Kiwanuka’s government. Two to three years down the road the country was back to square one ‘killings and divisions. The risk of taking the country back to square one or giving the army the opportunity to once again come into our politics is unacceptable.

Let every party participate in its own right. If the law is not amended and a candidate fails to get the required 51 perecent majority, then those who will be relevant to such a discussion can come together and find a solution. The most important aspect at the moment is to build our parties as institutions.

It is believed that you also have personal reasons for not allowing the PPP to join IPC. Is that so?

Bidandi: PPP is fundamentally different from the other parties. We believe in building the party and building a new foundation for the politics of this country. One of our most important pillar policies is that our approach is non-confrontational. But looking at some of my colleagues and the levels of their emotional temperament, there is no way some of us can rhyme with that level of emotional handling of situations. I don’t agree with President Museveni and much of what he is doing, but I still recognise him as my President.

Some of the parties have been around for some time. They have roots, and networks. Why don’t you build on each other’s strengths?

Bidandi: They have been around but are they institutions with internal democratic processes? That is what we want to take to the national level. We want to change the leadership of this country from individualism to institutional governance in accordance with our constitution. If at party or individual level, we have not been able to do that or have shown no signs of doing that, we can’t go into a coalition government and expect to bring about such a leadership.

What then is the strategy of PPP going into the elections?

Bidandi: Our target is to first of all bring about a leadership that will bring harmony and create an environment in which reconciliation will be possible. There is need to reconcile the country before we talk about things like fighting poverty because the extent to which the government has divided the people and created enmity among the various communities is unprecedented. We need to rebuild the foundation of this country along the message contained in the national anthem. That is a long journey to travel and as I always say, 2011 is just a milestone along a journey that we have set out to travel and to rebuild Uganda. We are going to participate. The party has already nominated me as its flag bearer. We are just waiting for the national council and the delegates conference to confirm that.

How wide is the party’s coverage of the country?

Bidandi: It is very difficult now to talk in terms of how many districts because every other week there are so many districts being created, but on the basis of the about 90 which we had, we have been and are in about 76 now. We don’t cover every district from corner to corner, but where we know we can either sponsor a candidate at parish, sub-county, and district or parliamentary levels.

What is going to be the source of your funding in the absence of donor funding especially that you are not catered for under the political parties and organisations’ funding bill?

Bidandi: Our funding is from sympathisers and members of the party, but we are not worried about the meager resources. Politics has evolved. It is not so much about the money, but the message to the voter. The message and how it we deliver it will have a very large bearing on the outcome of the elections. The winner will not necessarily be the one with the biggest chunk of money.

Do you think that the populace has matured so much that it appreciates issues more than money?

Bidandi: Yes. In quite a number of areas people are appreciating that a piece of soap in exchange for a vote has been the cause of the misery they are in. That is why you find that in some few of these bye-elections, NRM candidates who usually have a lot of money lose to opposition candidates who have less money.

What do you see as the opposition’s biggest challenge as we go into 2011?

Bidandi: The opposition’s biggest challenges are the maneuvers and schemes of the NRM government. There is no desire by those in government to ensure that there is a free and fair election. Look at the ongoing voter registration exercise! The exercise is flawed. People are ringing us from various parts of the country to say that the registrars do not show up. Where they do see them, registration of a person takes up to an hour. The biggest challenge is those who have put up schemes to make sure that the election is not free and fair.

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