By Dicta Asiimwe
TDA has to forge a united front since, for the alliance to be relevant; it needs all the big players on board
The Democratic Alliance (TDA) which brings together groups opposed to President YoweriMuseveni plans to snub newly re-elected Democratic Party (DP) President-General Norbert Moa and accept his archrival, Erias Lukwago as a member, The Independent has learnt. But Mao says he will walk away if TDA accepts Lukwago and his supporters who are mostly DP leaning politicians.
I expect the democratic alliance not to entertain splinter groups. And if they entertain any from DP, I will walk out of the alliance,” says Mao.
With the two DP factions still at loggerheads, TDA has to figure out a way to forge unity, since for the alliance to be relevant, it appears to need both.
Lukwago accuses Mao of ignoring reconciliation efforts led by party elders and says he has formed a pressure group, through which he is now working to file a formal application to join the TDA. The move follows Mao’s decision to organise a Delegate’s Conference which locked out many members of Uganda’s oldest party
Father Gaetano Batanyenda, an influential member of the TDA, says that Lukwago and his DP splinter group of parliamentarians and councilors will be accepted into the Alliance once they apply. He refused to address himself to Mao’s pronouncements, calling them hearsay.
Any TDA decision to accept Lukwago as a member could, however, run into to trouble because it has to be passed by its steering body, the TDA Summit, on which Mao sits. According to Asuman Basalirwa, the JEEMA president and member of TDA summit, all decisions made by this organ have to be by consensus. That could become a problem for Lukwago initially but eventually for all those in the TDA who might want to accept him, even when he is not a member of DP.
The TDA Summit is made up of party presidents and secretaries general from DP, the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Justice Forum, and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), People’s Progressive Party (PPP), former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and associates of former Prime Minister AmamaMbabazi.
Mao who won back the DP presidency on July 26, and his secretary general Mathias Nsubuga will seat at the table that will decide whether to accept Lukwago and his breakaway group, into the alliance. It is not likely that they will consent to Lukwago becoming a member of TDA unless it is through DP. It is also not clear how the TDA will respond at that point.
The requirement that everyone in the summit consents to all decisions made is a good card in Mao’s deck against the alliance, whose members appear ready to accept Lukwago.
Mao’s hand appeared to be strengthened when some top DP politicians who earlier were seen to be in Lukwago’s camp participated in his re-election. These include Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament Betty Nambooze and Luweero district Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya.
That left Lukwago with only former Vice President for Buganda Sub-region SebulibaMutumba, and Kawempe North MP LatifSsebaggala as the senior DP officials in his camp.
At the delegates’ conference that handed him back the DP presidency, Mao promised reconciliation with Lukwago’s group.
But Lukwago says he does not trust Mao and does not even think much of his leadership of DP.
“He is looking to the DP presidency as his retirement package and I cannot stake my career on the leadership of a man who no longer has ambitions,” Lukwago says.
Lukwago does not even think that many members of the TDA think highly of Mao, that they would keep him out of the alliance to please the DP leadership.
“Does he think that we are so insignificant for the Democratic Alliance to lock us out, so that they can accommodate his intransigence?” he asks.
His supporters point to the fact that in the 2011 general elections, Lukwago, at 229,325 garnered more votes in the race for Kampala mayor, than Mao’s 147,708 from the presidential elections. Lukwago and his group of politicians expect to be allowed into the TDA, without submitting to Mao’s demands. That makes reconciliation difficult and makes real the danger of splitting TDA.
If Mao walks away from the opposition alliance, it will not be for the first time. In 2011 he walked out of a similar alliance and his departure effective killed it as OlaraOtunnu of UPC followed the DP leader out.
Without the second and third biggest opposition political parties in Uganda, the Inter-Party Coalition was robbed of its legitimacy, leaving Dr Kizza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change to work with a coalition of politicians from Buganda called Suubi 2011.
Back then, Mao’s decision to walk away for the inter-party coalition was viewed as a selfish decision taken after he realised he would never wrestle the flag bearer position from Dr Kizza Besigye.
This time around he can claim high ground but still scuttle the alliance formed to make sure that the opposition fields joint presidential and parliamentary candidates against President YoweriMuseveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Once again, Otunnu who is a member of TDA Summit is fighting his own wars with Jimmy Akena, son of former President Milton Obote who is attempting to install himself as leader of UPC.
If TDA accepts Lukwago it will set the stage for Akena also to apply to join. If TDA accepts Akena’s splinter group, it could potentially set the stage for a walk out of UPC from TDA. As in 2011, the opposition alliance would again find its mission dead on arrival.
Third hand noted
Observers have noted that the UPC group aligned to Akena has in the past worked with Mao’s section of DP to cut deals with the NRM.
It happened when the Uganda parliament was voting East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) representatives. After Otunnu agreed with the main opposition party in parliament-FDC not to participate the elections until everyone got a fair number of seats in the regional assembly, then-UPC whip and wife to Akena, Betty Amongi Ongom got her members to go against this position.
Prof. John Jean Barya, a law don at Makerere University suggests that this kind of character is provoked by a ` third hand’ – the NRM, which is bent on ensuring that the opposition does not work together.
“How else do you explain the inconsistences exhibited by some of members of these parties and their refusal of reconciliation attempts,” he says.
Prof. Barya is referring to failed attempts made by DP elders to reconcile the factions that have existed since 2010, when Mao took over party leadership.
Mao was first elected in 2010 at a Delegate’s Conference that involved former Kampala mayors Ssebaana Kizito and Nasser Ntege Ssebaggala and left many party members out. Since then attempts to reconcile the party have failed. In a recent case, Zachary Olum; a former DP national chairman and respected elder, led attempts to reunite Lukwago and Mao but failed.
Prof. Barya predicts that if DP continues in its current shape, where at least half of its senior members are operating outside of the party structures, it will die or just remain a shell of its former self. Barya says, however, that TDA can thrive without DP.
A member of TDA who preferred anonymity for fear of hurting behind the scenes attempts to negotiate a truce between warring opposition party factions says that Mao can be ignored.
This member says the conflicts between leaders whose organisations have signed the pact are insignificant because the opposition Alliance is an idea pushed by ordinary Ugandans.
“We won’t stop such leaders from doing whatever they want, we shall simply campaign to make sure their candidates lose the elections,” he says.