Only cowards need experience
But Mathias Mpuuga, the Democratic Party (DP) stalwart who wears the red cap of People Power instead of the white and green of his party says talk of Bobi Wine as inexperienced is rubbish.
“There is no presidential school. Hon. Kyagulanyi is an MP which is the biggest national platform. The reason dictators have got fertile ground and ruled us forever is because cowards believe they need experience.”
But Mpuuga agrees that the likelihood of People Power breeding confusion in the opposition is real.
“We would have loved to avoid that but Ugandans out of their desperation will settle for where there is a higher possibility for change,” he says, “I would like to invite party leaders to understand our decision and tone down and concentrate on matters that will unite us as the opposition. What is best for this country right now is change and leaders must cede ground.”
For now, however, People Power appears determined to have its crowd captivated by the present. Its spokesperson, Joel Ssenyoyi, has a well-rehearsed answer to anyone asking about how they expected the MPs in the People Power ranks who have known political party connections to behave. Does that not cause confusion? Not at all, he says.
“People power is a movement, not a political party. It is a platform for all Ugandans interested in change to come together regardless of their political affiliation. We are not in conflict with the parties. Our conflict is with President Museveni and his system of governance that has ruined our country. Our coordinators are to rally and mobilise more Ugandans interested in change. Our coordinators still belong to their parties, for those that do have parties.”
And many leading politicians are happy to be listed in People Power ranks. They come from all parties. From NRM,Bobi Wine had Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasimire, who even fought in court to remain in NRM when it tried to expel him and his other colleagues, John Baptist Nambeshe, Mbwa Tekamwa Gafa, among others. From the DP, diehards Muwanga Kivumbi, Florence Namayanja and Mathias Mpuuga now don the red caps of People power.
Taking the position is more intriguing for some than others. Take former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) Winnie Kiiza who is the Kasese District Woman MP and former Opposition Chief Whip in parliament, Kassiano Wadri who was recently elected Arua municipality.
This duo was perhaps the most surprising People Power pick because, although they both fell out with their party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) after its November 2017 party presidential elections, they were expected to be in the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) of Mugisha Muntu. It was generally thought they had not switched because the law does not allow MPs to officially leave the platforms on which they were elected to parliament until the last year of the term.
The duo supported Muntu when he was battling to retain his seat as FDC party president. When Muntu lost to current FDC President Patrick Amuriat, he punished Kiiza by kicking her out of the LoP position and Wadri by denying him the FDC party flag in the Arua municipality by-election. Wadri ran as an Independent and won with support from Bobi Wine.
While some have argued that Bobi Wine paid a heavy price for Wadri’s election (Bobi Wine’s driver was killed in the campaign and he and Wadri were jailed and tortured together), Wadri and Muntu have come a long way.
In fact, during the same election, Muntu discarded the principles he is well known for and supported Wadri against the FDC official candidate Bruce Musema. It was the first time Muntu was openly supporting an independent candidate against the party candidate even when it was not the first time he was disagreeing with the party’s choice of candidate. In Bugiri Municipality for instance, while Muntu told colleagues in FDC that they needed to back JEEMA’s AsumanBasalirwa reasoning that it would benefit the bigger opposition bloc, he did not step there to campaign for Basalirwa.
So Wadri and Kiiza’s jumping into the People Power red-army led to a fit of questioning in Muntu’s Alliance camp.
“Is ANT sharing people with People Power or what? People like Hon. Winnie, Centenary, etc, did they leave?” one member asked.
It was until Muntu shared a message on the Alliance WhatsApp group that quiet was restored. Muntu called for calm and restraint.
“We welcome the initiative of the People Power in unveiling their national coordination team,” read the message from Muntu. “It is important that all pro-change forces continue building their capabilities to enable us to oust the regime.
As we have indicated before, as the Alliance, we will continue working closely with all the pro-change forces which are comfortable and willing to walk side by side with us to propel the effort for regime change.
We are comfortable sharing resources financial as well as human where necessary to bring about change. We will coordinate closely in regard to the details of how that will be conducted in the short as well as the medium and long term.
To all our party members, let there be no controversies over instances where there are colleagues who cut across The Alliance and People Power. I strongly propose that no one of the Alliance leaders or spokespersons makes any negative or controversial statements over the matter. Please exercise maximum restraint in regard to that issue. It is not a problem at all as will be realised over a period of time.”
These words of reassurance were also said at the conference where the announcement was made at Bobi Wine’s home. Many of the members present introduced themselves as members of their respective parties.
“Multiparty democracy has principles,” said Wadri at the conference. “People Power has come to empower all political parties and not to break them. We are coming up with something new because we can’t behave normally in an abnormal situation. Multipartism can’t be `killed’ by what you see here. We are all here for a common cause. This is a consortium; we are here to foster a common goal.”
But many are not that sure. Wadri has continued to be bombarded with questions to clarify his position on the ANT platform.
“I wish to inform you that People Power is not a political party,” Wadri said in response to one of the members.“It is a pressure group that has been cultivating avenues to work with existing and registered political parties to work towards forming an alliance or coalition in the coming general elections. This has been widely talked about in the DP reunion meetings in which my principal of ANT has been involved. I remember I equally attended a similar meeting with him in Jinja, Kakindu stadium. Therefore I am not out of my party ANT in associating with People Power as a pressure group.”
Some of the MPs listed in the People Power ranks who sense the discomfort it might create have denounced it. They claim they were listed without their consent. Nothing usual there; politicians often deny. It was all about political calculation and posturing.
For example, sources told The Independent that the announcement in the media took Winnie Kiiza by surprise. She reportedly called Bobi Wine and told him she was not comfortable being on a list that looked like a campaign team. But she was apparently advised that snubbing People Power could be risky as she aspires to retain her Kasese seat. She is already being bashed by the FDC and having People Power as enemy number two would be a mistake.