Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Mugisha Muntu is the leader of the Alliance for National Transformation (also known as `The Alliance’), a new political party which was launched on May 22 in Kampala. He spoke to Ian Katusiime about the party’s agenda and what it wants to do differently.
What’s it been like; launching New Formation, then the hurdles of getting registered by the Electoral Commission and finally launching The Alliance?
When we started the plan for launching a party, we thought it would be through by December 25, 2018. We gathered all signatures from all districts and had them in by November 28. But we couldn’t launch in December because the Electoral Commission (EC) took much longer in verifying signatures from the different districts. It was a new experience. The exercise we went through was rigorous. It was not the same process when we were registering FDC; it was under a different law then because registration was done by the Registrar of Companies and yet this one is by EC. The EC ended the exercise in March and then went into gazetting and we patiently waited until we got a certificate of registration. Then we zeroed on May 22 for the launch.
What does `national transformation’ in the name of your party involve?
The character and identity of the party we want to build is based on values. We have not paid attention to values in the politics of this country. We focus a lot on physical things; building power lines, bridges, roads. They are important and necessary and need to be done but when you look at the time from 1962, until now, even the value system we had traditionally as communities has been eroded. Shortly after Independence you would just find a population completely overwhelmed if any official was involved in corruption.
That was the nature of the culture back then. People believed in honesty, transparency, unity, and equality before the law, fairness and justice. Due to the political challenges we have faced as a society, all those values have been eroded and the moral fabric has broken down. We have to go through a recovery process focusing on those values. When we have more leaders subscribing to such and practicing them, we will see good governance.
This country has never been short of good ideas or policies. If you do research from 1962 until now, you will find the nature of our policies have been good, if they had been implemented, this country would be in the skies. There have always been inconsistencies between what is said and what is practised. That is what we want to resolve as a party by attracting good people into The Alliance so that we shift the balance of forces in favour of those who want to do good and build a strong foundation for good governance. Our success or failure will be hinged on that. If those people become the dominant good force in the Alliance, then we will break through. That is what has always impeded the sustained forward movement of our society. That is where the solution lies.
What will be your approach towards mobilisation?
We will project the policy agenda that we want to attract people to what we stand for and build our identity around that. Then we will start mobilising right from the villages. In the villages there are opinion leaders whom we will appeal to; those who understand our reasoning, that there is no magic or other formula other than ensuring that the good people in any organisation being the dominant force. The moment you achieve that whether it is us in The Alliance or whichever other party it is, they will become the solution to the problems of the country. For as long as there is an imbalance and the balance of forces believe in self-aggrandisement, that kind of vehicle will promote corruption, nepotism, and repression and the population will resist you.
It is really as simple as that. If more people get that, the turnaround of this country will be easier. No form of magic will turn this around. The good people who want to do the right things must go into the parties and influence them. I cannot understand how something that simple can elude our understanding for so long. As the Bible says; whatever a man sows, so shall he reap.
You barely have time to recruit people to stand on the ANT ticket in the 2021 elections. How do you plan to pull this off?
The good thing is that we are operating in an environment where a significant number of people want change. So we will not be going to ripen a raw situation, we are simply going to pick fruits. We have to apply the techniques needed to tap into that favourable situation and recruit and organise them.
Organising is not as a hard as trying to change people’s minds. When you find they are not ready to change, it is an uphill task. But when they are ready, then you only present yourself. If they believe you as an organisation as the right solution, then the task becomes simpler. You just have to organise and attract resources. If we are to run alone as a single organisation, we must focus on fielding 100% in all positions. If we engage in coalition building and it is successful, we would have to sit and negotiate and decide who fills where and who doesn’t fill where.
It is surprising when you say you are not so much interested in being president or holding power. Then how will you make the changes you desire if you don’t have the power to do so?
Even if you become President and you don’t have a vehicle to change the things that are in a mess then what is the purpose? Our approach is different; we want to start with the vehicle, create one that is robust and efficient and that can take you the longest distance you want to go and then we look for the driver. How can we concentrate on looking for the driver when we are not working on the vehicle itself?
Once the vehicle is built, then you can come and say you want to be the driver. In the vehicle you must put in place mechanisms for who becomes the best driver. We concentrate so much on who the driver is even when there is no vehicle.
You also don’t want your personality to dominate The Alliance. But some people believe strong personalities are what builds institutions.
It is a balance, even if you are strong you must put your strength and capabilities in building a strong organisation so that at a particular point in time as it grows it must be stronger than all of you who are in it. But if you become dominant, the tendency is that the organisation becomes weak. And for people who want to build things that last – I subscribe to that philosophy, I have to do a balance to ensure that we build an organisation to ensure that even when we are leaving it, the next generation is already prepared to carry on, on the basis of the principles we established and on the long term objective of where we want to take that country.
You have hinted about a coalition with People Power. What gains do you envision from this?
Ever since we went across the country doing consultations, we have been consciously and deliberately reaching out to opposition groups to brief them as to where we were; telling them the situation as we interpreted it within FDC; telling them about the different scenarios and the different options that were there. When we reached the point of taking one of the three options open to us, we again briefed them. And then when we started the New Formation as a holding ground, we also briefed them. When we reached a point of starting The Alliance, we briefed them so that they know where we are and where we intend to go. It’s very important to us that when you are on one front, that the other friendly forces need to be aware of our intentions; the short term and medium term so that we establish an atmosphere of trust. We have been briefing leaders of DP; Norbert Mao, Hon Robert Kyagulanyi of People Power, Asuman Basalirwa of JEEMA. We would also tell them that much as we are starting our own organisation, we are open to working with other opposition forces that are pro-change.
The 2021 elections are looming and the incumbent; President Museveni, is pulling out all the stops to make sure he wins. How do you see the elections playing out?
We do not expect any free and fair election at all. At least for me as an individual, my background is in the military; in warfare you don’t expect that if you are moving your forces, your enemy will not ambush you or that if he has artillery that he is not going to pound you. When you are operating in a situation where there is a dictatorship, expect what is coming. Therefore, build your capabilities to a level where you will overwhelm the regime in spite of the impediments it puts in your way. That is my understanding. Don’t expect them to do fair things when they are not fair in their mentality and character. Don’t throw your hands up and start complaining, that is the nature of things. As the Pan Africanism motto says: Don’t agonise, Organise.