“A united DP can lead,” he says, “We want to go back to the original principles of the idea of the struggle for democracy in Uganda. We want to stop thinking small.”
He eagerly recounts UYD’s early years, from when it was officially recognised as the party’s youth wing in 2015, and his own part in it.
“It has been a force to reckon with in Uganda’s political struggles,” he says, “UYD stood in the gap when political parties were out of the picture from 1995-2005.”
He describes how, in that ten year period, many in the current crop of leaders across the political spectrum trained under the UYD.
“I was one of those people,” Mao says, “I was the first UYD member to join parliament in 1996. I was also its first member to lead DP.”
He mentions politicians like Erias Lukwago, Paul Mwiru, and the NRM Treasurer Rose Namayanja as people who have sprouted from UYD among others. Mao is not rueful as he describes their departure from DP.
“Over the years we were dispersed because the mother party was institutionally weak,” he says, “The elders were fighting and UYD started taking sides.”
He adroitly jumps past his present squabbles with Lukwago, Lulume and others and delves into history.
“Some people were on the side of Francis Bwengye, others were on the side of Kawanga Semogerere which led to a loss of sense of direction,” he says.
Semogerere led the party from 1980 until 2005 when the late John Sebaana Kizito took over, and many of those in UYD today barely recall what those days were like. But Mao is unfazed as he labours the history. He says, as a result of the disarray, some UYD members were compromised, some started their own factions, and others decamped to other political parties.
“This trend continued when I took over the party leadership,” he says and dives back into history.
“When I was elected DP president in Mbale, Sam Lubega formed his own faction. At the same time, we faced another rival faction called the Suubi group which was meant to promote Buganda’s agenda and also allied with Besigye,” Mao recalls.
He describes a faction called Truth and Justice (TJ) which Lukwago formed and how it absorbed the Lubega and Suubi groups.
The history is interesting, but interviews with Mao opponents in the party show that the reconciliation efforts are not welcome all round. Nambooze says she is not attending.
She says she does not know the direction the meeting is going to take. “UYD has a different ideology,” she says, “We are not following the constitution; it stipulates that we hold an annual delegates conference.”
“All the party organs are not functioning; the National Council is supposed to meet every six months but it has not; the DP Parliamentary group is supposed to sit weekly but all that is not happening.”
She accuses Mao of undermining the party. “The president has become the party and he takes decisions arbitrarily,” she says.