By Patrick Kagenda
Outgoing UPC president, Olara Otunnu, wants the different factions of the party to focus on ways of avoiding strangling the party instead of spreading misinformation.
Otunnu says he has offered an open door policy to the Akena group and others in a bid to discuss and have the party return to normalcy but they have instead chosen to spread false information.
“They have remained adamant thinking they are hurting Otunnu as an individual yet they are strangling the party,” he said.
Otunnu is facing criticism from his opponents over his recent meeting with UPC groups in Lango, Acholi, and the central region.
MP Jimmy Akena, who is among those a jostling to replace him at the helm of UPC, is reported to have accused Otunnu of holding illegal party meetings.
According to Akena and others, Otunnu is in breach of a court injunction that bars him as party president from conducting any party activity until it is lifted.
Otunnu denies holding illegal activities.
“They are just trading rumours because they know what I am doing but have decided to distort the information. What I am doing is explaining to the UPC members my position of not offering myself for another term of office. This is because when I announced I was not seeking another term of office the message was misrepresented with some sections saying I had resigned yet I hadn’t said I had resigned.”
Otunnu`s remarks come as the party infighting continues to make headlines with factions led by Akena, and another party boss hopeful David Pulkol keep up verbal attack at his administration.
Otunnu says the biggest problem UPC has is of people misrepresenting information.
“This is exactly the situation we are in regarding the court injunction,” Otunnu says.
He says his opponents who sought court redress are at the same time saying they cannot discuss with the party leadership and instead claim the party does not have a president or a cabinet.
“But you are willing to talk to the Otunnu group? How and who elected the Otunnu group and who is supposed to get it out of office,” asks Otunnu.
However, despite the rhetoric between Otunnu and his opponents, a visit to the party headquarters at the Uganda House depicts a totally different picture as Akena, Pulkol, and their supporters constantly visit and share jokes with their supposed to be foes.
Okello Lucima, the party spokesperson, explains the situation:
“Jimmy Akena and David Pulkol are members of UPC. Jimmy is even a UPC MP. However I may not agree with everything he says, but he is still a member of the UPC and Uganda House is the headquarters of UPC and any member of the party is free to walk in and out when they have business to do with the leadership or information to impart or receive.
“Despite the kind of grand standing and posturing that people see outside whether in front of the camera or in front of microphones, we have a very cordial relationship with those who otherwise seem to make news very adversarial,” says Lucima. He says Otunnu’s side wants to ensure that the UPC leadership succession hands over a party that is united, cohesive and clear of the historical issue of the party and what direction the party goes.
Lucima says the biggest problem is the gross misreading of the UPC constitution by some party members.
He says focus on Article 261, which is the procedural clause, clearly shows what the position of UPC is in terms of its leadership structures and when succession takes place.
He says statements like there is no UPC leadership at the moment come from the misinterpretation of the UPC constitution.
“At worst this is deliberate distortion to find some political traction in terms of those who may be engaged in detracting the party from doing what is right,” says Lucima.
He backs Otunnu’s explanation that as party president, he met party leaders in Lango, Acholi and the central region because when he made the statement on March 4 regarding his not offering himself for a second term in office, the message was not conveyed to the countryside as accurately as it should have been.
Lucima notes that despite the fact that the party president is not offering himself for a second term of office, he remains in office to preside over the UPC succession process.
“He wants to make it orderly and legitimate and he is very eager to have that issue resolved as soon as whatever is standing in the way for holding of the National Council and the Delegates Conference is resolved so that UPC can elect its leaders and the party gets on with the business of working for the people of Uganda,” he said.