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NIMD, politicians question the future of IPOD

DP’s Mao hands Museveni a DP cap at the IPOD summit. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The future of the Inter Party Organization for Dialogue-IPOD is uncertain as its facilitators and member political parties accuse government of failing to implement resolutions.

IPOD was formed through a three year Memorandum of Understating in 2017, with fourteen objectives including, fostering and facilitating peaceful mitigation and resolution of conflict without resorting to undemocratic means including violence.

The organisation which brings together all political parties with representation in parliament, has taken decisions through its summits, the top most organ bringing together presidents of all member political parties.

Past resolutions include increasing funding to political parties as provided for under the Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005 from 10 billion to 35 billion shillings and allocating 15 percent of 35 billion (5 billion shillings) to run IPOD operations to enable political parties determine what activities to fund rather than heed to donors demands.

The resolutions taken during the 2019 summit also included that 15 percent of the funds be shared equally to facilitate routine political parties activities while the remaining 70 percent be shared based on numerical strength. The summit further agreed that during election year, all funds (the 70 percent) be shared equally. However, apart from increasing funds, none of the other resolutions has been implemented.

Now, Frank Rusa, the executive Secretary of IPOD who also doubles as the country representative of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy-NIMD, an institute that facilitates IPOD says the organisation is about to collapse due to failure of government to implement resolutions of the IPOD summit.

“There will be need for a conversation again to revitalize the spirit of IPOD, because IPOD is on blink of collapse because they do not move from resolutions to actions. Whenever there is a journey to action, selfish interests come along and this demoralizes the committed people and gives currency to those who say it’s just a talk show of no consequence” said Rusa in an interview with the Uganda Radio Network.

In 2020, the Electoral Commission distributed funds based on numerical strength as provided for in the Act, despite the summit resolution. The EC argued that parliament needed to amend the law for the summit resolution to be effected.

During the March 2021 summit chaired by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, it was resolved that when EC receives more funds, it pays political parties arrears based on the resolution for equal distribution during election year. But this too hasn’t been done and to Rusa, government needs to fix the law, otherwise EC’s hands are tied.

“So in absence of amending the law, the resolutions of the summit in regards to improving the distribution mechanisms become ineffective. So, there has to be a discussion about amending the law to have a better equitable law to all political parties to free them from donor dependency,“ says Rusa

Rusa says there is a lot of frustration from political parties saying that the resolutions of IPOD are not respected yet even the promise of the president (to pay political parties arrears) has not been respected.

“What is happening is a test, a question mark on the good will on the members of IPOD. It is testing the foundation of IPOD that is IPOD viable if you cannot fulfill your resolution? And that’s a question which can be answered by facilitators of IPOD, and especially the ruling party which is not only the chair of IPOD now, but advantages position (as a ruling party) to translate the resolutions into actions” adds Rusa.

Another key resolution regarded the formulation of regulations to govern the implementation of the Public Order Management Act (POMA), 2013. The guidelines were drafted by the IPOD council, the second level organ of IPOD which consists of Secretary Generals of IPOD member political parties. The regulations among others clarified that police is to be informed not asked for permission to hold a public meeting.

In March 2020, court nullified section 8 of POMA which gave absolute powers to police to prohibit and disperse political gatherings under suspicions that the intended gathering would cause a breach or disruption of peace. But government appealed the annulation, a move Rusa says conflicts with regulations passed by IPOD.

Following the 2021 election, two parties, the People’s Progressive Party-PPP and the National Unity Platform-NUP secured Parliamentary seats hence qualifying to join IPOD. While PPP accepted an invite to join IPOD, NUP has declined describing IPOD as a social club where political parties meet and take tea.

The NUP Secretary General, David Lewis Rubongoya says the party has not and shall not change their stand on joining IPOD unless the manner in which Uganda is governed changes and illegal detentions of Ugandans stops.

The Secretary General of the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC, Nathan Nandala Mafabi says IPOD has become an avenue to share some money with no tangible recommendations implemented to improve the political space in the country.

“This IPOD would have been relevant if it was there to serve the purpose. But basically IPOD now is for a man called Rusa. It is for him for earning salary, for making money. And some startups who want some money, small money by the way” said Nandala before adding that during the previous elections, all parties received money except for FDC, which he said was cheated.

Nandala says that IPOD was purposed to be a negotiating tool for space but has turned into an Inter party Organisation for Tea not dialogue.

On his part, the Secretary General of the Justice Forum Party-JEEMA, Muhammad Kateregga says that although government has not implemented several of the IPOD resolutions, a fallback position for dialogue is still relevant.

“This is the only platform we have to tell these people that what you are doing is bad and hope that they shall listen. Ugandans are not going to the bush. These people went to the bush and skipped dead bodies to get to power. So for me, when they torture people, I am willing to kneel asking them to stop because that’s what we can do to for now to protect our people, to save lives,” says Kateregga.

The Secretary General of the Uganda People’s Congress-UPC, Ebil Ebil says they are in the process of drafting another Memorandum of Understanding and members are suggesting provisions to make resolutions of IPOD more binding.

Although the NRM Secretary General didn’t respond to our calls to comment on the matter, the party’s stand has been that they are open to dialogue and are committed to pursuing democratic solutions. They also continue to pursue the NUP to join IPOD.

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