By Patrick Kagenda
Delegates feted as National Council meeting confronts party financing organ
Self-declared Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) president, Jimmy Akena, won some and lost some on Aug. 15 in two events linked to his fight to control the party.
Starting Aug.13, Akena hosted his faction to a National Council seating at Jokas Hotel in Kampala.
But as the meeting was ending on Aug.15, officials of a major financing arm of the party; the Milton Obote Foundation (MoF), attempted to kick the Akena faction out of the party headquarters on Uganda House in Kampala.
A scuffle ensued and police was called in to calm the situation.
Soon after he declared himself president of UPC, Akena’s faction kicked the old guard led by out-going president Olara Otunnu out of Uganda House but MoF has refused to recognise him. MoF has a case before courts of law accusing the Akena group of trespassing on Uganda House.
Still, Akena’s clout is felt in his ability to kick Otunnu out, to defy MoF who are the Uganda House landlords, and to freely organise functions ostensibly as president of the UPC.
Even the national Electoral Commission, according to reports attributed to its spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa, now recognises Akena as the legitimate head of UPC.
“There are no two parties contesting. The information we have is that there is a new leadership and we have no information contrary to that,” Taremwa is quoted to have told the Uganda Radio Network (URN).
But Joseph Bossa, who is the UPC Vice President under Otunnu, disagrees.
“As you know,” he told The Independent, “We don’t recognise the Akena administration. So whatever they are doing is illegal.”
Bossa told The Independent that Akena was operating on money given to him from President Yoweri Museveni; a new view that presents the son of the party founding father, Milton Obote, as nothing but a spoiler.
But Akena bases his claim to the UPC presidency on he says he won by 67%. The UPC party Electoral Commission, according to Bossa, was intimidated into announcing those results and has since disowned them.
However, that has not stopped Akena from passing off as the UPC chief even when there is a High Court ruling that states that Otunnu will remain president until he organizes elections and hands over.
As Akena’s group feted at Jokas, the reminded everyone that in five years under Otunnu as party president, the party National Council, which is the party equivalent of parliament, had sat only once in early 2011. It is mandated to sit twice a year. It is composed of 560 party members elected from all the districts of Uganda who pass party resolutions and the party budget. Akena was able to gather up to 450 NC delegates at Jokas Hotel.
Although Otunnu has always lamented the lack of resources to convene the NC, AKena held the three-day event at an estimated cost of Shs500 million. This covered accommodation, feeding, transporting, and allowances of delegates. Each delegate was given Shs50,000 in cash.
The meeting that had an order paper with 17 items bypassed most of the other items and concentrated on three major ones; the Democratic Alliance (TDA), the Milton Obote Foundation (MoF) relationship with UPC, and the road map to the 2016 national general elections.
Akena’s faction, however, seemed to have walked on burning charcoal when it moved against the MoF.
According to party documents MoF is a UPC Trustee established in 1963 to manage UPC property. At that time political parties were not registered entities and when UPC applied to build Unity House whose name was later changed to Uganda House on Plot 10 Kampala Road it had to get a registered entity in the name of MoF to oversee the construction and operation of Uganda house. The group’s resolution to relieve MoF of the responsibility of managing the UPC properties which has led critics to say Akena “wants to grab Uganda House”.
This is what resulted in a standoff on Aug. 15 when MoF tried to block the Akena administration from accessing the UPC offices.
Even the vice president under Akena, Patrick Mwondha, advised them not to rush against MoF.
He instead moved a gradual process starting with recalling UPC representatives on the MoF board.
“The founding party fathers had put Uganda House into MoF trustee for UPC survival which MoF seems to be deviating from,” Mwondha said.
Basing on this, Akena’s NC delegates purported to recall the 10 party representatives who sit on the MoF board and include several officials in the Otunnu administration.
These include Peter Walubiri, the UPC national treasurer, Prof. Edward Kakonge, the National chairman. Others are Chris Opio, Billy Odongkara, Nelson Opira, Benson Obua Ogwal, John Kawuma, Haji Badru Wegulo, and one Mugizi.
Akena’s group said it was recalling the three people it has as trustees on MoF and these are Peter Walubiri, Prof. Edward Kakonge, and Michael Apiliga.
According to the new national treasurer under Akena, Akora Maxwell Patrick Ebong, MoF makes annual collections of close to Shs2 billion from UPC properties under its management.
But when MoF tried to mortgage Uganda House for 20 years without consent of the party, which is the owner of the property, a caveat was in 2014 placed on Uganda House by party leaning MPs and a case is before the courts of law over the mortgage.
Breaking from opposition unity
Another major development was when, Howard Anyok, a delegate from Alebtong district, moved a motion that that UPC will not participate in the 2016 general elections under The Democracy Alliance (TDA) which bring together all opposition parties.
With Haji Mahamoud Gahwera Kazimbiraine of Masindi and Mamboya Edris of Mbale seconding it, the motion sailed through with 329 in favour, 2 against, and 119 abstaining.
Mamboya argued that since 1996 TDA has existed under different names and is only aimed at propping up other political parties and not the UPC.
“In 1996 we supported DP`s Paul Kawanga Semogerere and in 2001 we supported FDC`s Kiza Besigye, in all that we gained nothing apart from our party members crossing to the other side of the alliance,” he said.
Mahamoud Kazimbiraine on his part argued that TDA has no democracy unlike the UPC which is deeply rooted in the grassroots and has a communication network with its members.
“TDA is shrouded in uncertainty and has no base, so how can we go into such a vessel?” Kazimbiraine said.
Akena’s national chairman, Lawrence Okai Elirot, called the TDA an urbanite movement that wants to ride on the UPC’s grassroots support. “When you look at the TDA formation they have a scaly structure composed of the summit, the national candidate and the secretariat, this is not something we can go in for,” he said.
Edward Ssegane, who is the secretary general under Akena, further explained that TDA has no membership and is riding on the structures of other parties. He said this is a big concern to the UPC because this could overshadow the party and result into losing its identity.
“The TDA is a kind of pressure group and a temporary arrangement only interested in capturing power in 2016. UPC`s experience with alliances apart from the Kabaka Yekka in the 1960s is that they are not helpful,” Ssegane said.
But Akena’s opting out of the TDA is being seen by some observers as a technical expediency.
His nemesis, Olara Otunnu, participated in the founding of TDA. It is, therefore, highly likely that Akena’s group would have been locked out TDA had they attempted to join.
Other issues discussed and passed include, passing and adopting with amendment of the new party election guidelines, the 2015-21 party manifesto, election and approval of the national party disciplinary committee, election and approval of a National Reconciliation Committee, and swearing in of party cabinet and committee members.
While closing the NC, Akena promised new innovations at the party headquarters that include re-establishing a department in charge of Ideology, Research and Information, a department of Mobilization, and creating a party media unit to rebut the negative publicity the party has suffered during the last 30 years.