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Uganda’s leap forward

By Edgar Tushabe Muhairwe

FDC launches policy agenda amid criticism and praise

On March 09, the Victoria Conference Hall at the Serena Kampala Hotel was a sea of sky blue as opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) faithful launched the party Policy Agenda. Titled “Uganda’s leap forward,” an FDC policy agenda was unprecedented.

In a day of surprises, former party leader Kizza Besigye was there with some unusual attendees. Former Special Envoy Beti Kamya, now president of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) party, and seasoned lawyer, scholar and politician, Prof. George Wilson Kanyeihamba were unexpected guests but not totally surprising. That honour went to the NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba and her team.

The FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso who is also Serere Woman MP explained the purpose of the launch. She went ahead to say that this launch was meant to reaffirm the stand of the party on the various policy failures that bedevil the country.“This policy paper we are launching today is not new to the FDC, the party has always cherished these values, these commitments and they are embedded in our party policy platform promulgated way back in 2005 where the 2006 and 2011 manifestos were derived,” she said, “However, those that are intellectually lazy have decided to ignore it or blatantly lie about it.” Anna Adeke, the 24-year old former Guild President of Makerere University was the guest speaker.

She painted a picture of a sinking country in education, health, and the economy allegedly is.  “Our country today runs counter to the creation of an environment that can facilitate the growth of private enterprise, innovations and gainful employment,” she said.She said President Yoweri Museveni’s government has the most prohibitive taxes in the region, the highest cost of doing business, and unrestricted Foreign Capital. “That is an unholy trinity that stifles entrepreneurship and innovation,” she said to ululation. When his turn came, FDC President Gen. Mugisha Muntu was less abrasive, more composed, more articulate, and more estimable. He too spoke of the economy, education, health, oil, national security and agriculture among others and presented what he called a “Four Point Action Plan” to trigger “Uganda’s Leap Forward” to a future of opportunity and shared prosperity.

The four are;

  • A plan to invest in our people and expand opportunity for every Ugandan;
  • A plan to reengineer new sources of growth and create well-paying and decent jobs for our people;
  • A plan to strengthen our national security, create a new leadership and strengthen our public service;
  • And a plan to build people-centered regional and global partnerships.

On the economic policy, Muntu said once in power, FDC government will not stop at whining about red tape but will step in to make sure that things are moving. This they will do by “strengthening the rule of law, creating a skilled work force, a strong monetary policy and a systematic and comprehensive monetary program in transport and energy infrastructure.”  He also promised policies and measures that give honor to the nation’s teachers, inspiring health workers to create a new generation of health workforce that takes pride in patient satisfaction, and pledged respect for the military service.

“Government under FDC will never tolerate a situation where our retired servicemen and women have to trek long distances to come to our parliament as the only means to secure their welfare and a dignified retirement,” Muntu said. Muntu’s approach was appreciated by some.  The presidential assistant for Research and Information, Morrison Rwakakamba, who attended said FDC had done a good job. He said its deliberate attempt to shift from “sloganeering and street protests to the ideas-oriented politics” was welcome.He even praised many items on FDC’s agenda; including the proposed Farmers’ Transformation Bank and the planning of cities.He was less impressed by proposals to allocating more money to local governments to handle issues like education.

“Allocating the local governments more money sounds good and is a vote winner. But why is FDC seeking to transform local governments into cost centers instead of production and revenue centers,” Rwakakamba asked. The NRM Deputy spokesperson and Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre, Ofwono Opondo, was less appreciative. He said FDC was regurgitating its rhetoric since it started its challenge on power.

“These things they are saying are not new. Go back to 2006, 2011 election campaigns, these are the same things they have been saying. They sound too good to be realistic, and that’s why they lose the vote. The voters don’t trust that they will deliver. Even this one is high-sounding,” he said.

He said FDC could not explain how it hopes or plans to actualise the agenda they have set.“How do you say that you want to cut taxes and also provide food for every child at school? Where is the FDC going to find that money?” he asks. “How are they for example going to fight corruption? These officials don’t steal because they are not paid. Drugs are not in health centers not because they are not provided. Are they going to amend laws and restructure government?”Prof. George Kanyeihamba was full of praise. He said Muntu as a leader “presented himself as presidential”.

On the policy agenda itself, Kanyeihamba thinks those asking FDC to break down every one of the policies they talked about and how they are going to implement them are unfair. “As an opposition party, FDC has reminded the ruling regime and critics that it has something to offer to the country. It is not all about protests and saying “no” to everything without alternatives.”  He adds that for a party to detail its source of resources and how they intend to spend them, it has to be in government and not opposition. “All an opposition party can do is to espouse and showcase the idea. About how much it will give this and that sector is only seeable when presented with resources.”  “When a party is not in government, its possibilities are very limited. So what they can do and what I think has been lacking to cut a standing that embeds faith, hope and the love for change. I think it is a job well done,” he said.

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