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NUP diaspora activism threatens Dutch funding to IPOD

IPOD Council of Secretaries. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Protests staged by the National Unity Platform-NUP party supporters in the diaspora are threatening the support the Dutch government extends to the Interparty Organization for Dialogue-IPOD. The National Resistance Movement-NRM party Secretary General and Chairperson of the IPOD Council of Secretaries, Richard Todwong revealed this in a meeting with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao at the Ministry headquarters in Kampala.

Todwong was accompanied by IPOD council members including the Justice Forum-JEEMA’s Muhammad Kateregga, the Democratic Party-DP’s Gerald Blacks Siranda, David Alira from the People’s Progressive Party-PPP, a representative from the Uganda People’s Congress-UPC and the Executive Secretary of IPOD, who is also the country director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy-NIMD Frank Rusa.

Todwong reported to the minister numerous issues that needed to be addressed to strengthen IPOD, which was found to promote dialogue among political parties for good governance, economic development, and national dialogue.

He noted that while IPOD depends on foreign support from the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry through NIMD, the support is being threatened by the various protests staged by the NUP chapter in the diaspora.

He says NIMD might not be able to continue funding IPOD due to the pressure exerted on them by NUP. This, he says could affect the implementation of programs on capacity building that IPOD has been facilitating in political parties.

NIMD has been the facilitator of IPOD since 2010 when political parties with representation in Parliament entered their first Memorandum of Understanding-MoU to form IPOD. According to NIMD Executive Secretary Frank Rusa, the Institute has been supporting IPOD activities to a tune of over 1.5 billion Shillings per year and offered training and technical advice to political parties.

But in July this year, a group of NUP members including the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Muwada Nkunyingi, NUP chief mobilizer Fred Nyanzi, the party deputy spokesperson Alex Waiswa, and representatives from NUP diaspora chapters in Europe and America matched in a protest to the office of NIMD executive director, Thijs Berman in the Hague, Netherlands.

The group accused NIMD of failing to exert enough pressure on the NRM government for its excesses and for continuing support for the same through IPOD. They accused President Museveni of using IPOD to his advantage.

In his response, Berman said that NIMD is an impartial facilitator of dialogue that encourages all parties to participate and set their own objectives in the dialogue process.

He also said NUP had wrongly assumed the Organization’s responsibilities, adding that although they believe in social just, it’s not their mandate to pursue it with NUP on the streets. But Rusa says that such protests have risen debate in the Dutch government and people planting a feeling that the IPOD has excluded NUP, which is the largest opposition political party in parliament.

He is concerned that NIMD will most likely withdraw from supporting IPOD if it’s not seen as inclusive enough since NUP is still out.

Alex Waiswa Mufumbiro, the  NUP Deputy Spokesperson says that IPOD has been a hoax to Ugandans for its entire existence, starting out as a dialogue platform but turning into a platform of self-satisfaction.

Asked if the party could join IPOD and advocate for a better agenda, Waiswa said metaphorically that “it’s very difficult for “God” to convince “Satan” and “that’s why God decided that Satan lives in hell and then those who are able to live with God stay in heaven. So Museveni and IPOD are treated as hell and we will not associate ourselves with satan. He has influenced IPOD into not knowing why they came to Uganda,” said Waiswa.

He says no good has emerged from IPOD because it merely is a recruitment center for President Museveni and they want the organization to close.

In his presentation, Todwong also noted that the closure of business of the Democratic Governance Facility-DGF in December shall leave another funding gap in the IPOD. DGF has been funding IPOD through NIMD to a tune of over six billion Shillings in the last three years.

The government suspended operations of DGF in February 2021 over accountability concerns raised by president Museveni. In June this year, President Museveni lifted the suspension but at that time the pool of funds soon announced it would close its operations in Uganda. Todwong has asked the government to expedite the processes to secure funding from the Central government to facilitate the activities of the IPOD.

Previously, the IPOD summit of party presidents resolved to increase political parties’ funding provided for under the Political Parties and Organizations Act 2005 from 10 billion Shillings to 35 billion Shillings.

It was also resolved that 15 percent of this money be shared equally among eligible political parties, 15 percent be allocated to IPOD to facilitate activities of the Secretariat, and 70 percent would be shared based on the numerical strength of political parties with representation in Parliament.

The resolution was partially implemented when the money was increased to 35 billion Shillings. Todwong says with the closure of DGF activities and the pressure exerted on NIMD, it is high time the government implemented the resolution such that the activities of IPOD are not crippled.

In his response, Minister Mao noted that the activists staging protests in the diaspora are doing so because of a contested election, the behavior of security organs during elections, and human rights abuse among others.

He noted that IPOD is just collateral damage in the fight in the diaspora because the narrative being peddled in The Hague and European parliament and other areas is that the Ugandan government should be overthrown.

He however opines that it shouldn’t be a foreign government to change the government in Uganda but rather Ugandans themselves. Mao further noted that transition is a process, which has already started and called upon political players to stop “sleepwalking” through the process.

He condemned the move to block funding to organizations like IPOD and urged activists to embrace dialogue to achieve good governance.

Regarding the resolutions passed by IPOD Summit, Mao said that he would consider them in his Ministerial Statement he plans to present to the president. He reiterated the importance of funding political parties to limit the influence of external funders.

Section 14 (3) of the Act bars political parties or organizations from demanding or accepting contributions, donations, or loans exceeding 400 million shillings from a non-Ugandan citizen, foreign organization or diplomatic mission and a foreign Non-governmental organization-NGO registered in Uganda under the NGO Registration Act.

Mao says that with such restrictions, and now the challenges projected with external funding, the government needs to step in otherwise political parties shall simply go underground.

IPOD was formed in February 2010 by political parties with representation in parliament to enhance cooperation and collaboration across party lines. The parties signed an MOU which has been renewed several times.

The last MoU renewed in 2017 expired in 2020. A new MoU has been drafted and so far, four parties with representation in Parliament; the NRM, JEEMA, DP, and PPP have signed while the UPC has asked IPOD to update them on the implementation of previous IPOD resolutions before they renew their commitment.

The Forum for Democratic Change-FDC says it still consulting with party organs on whether to renew their commitment while NUP has declined to join.

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