By Patrick Kagenda
Following UPC party president Olara Otunnu’s announcement that he would not offer himself for election to a second term of office, the party has started reorganising itself for his departure.
Since Otunnu, in announcing his impending departure, had said he is willing to talk to the rival faction led by former party national chairman Edward Rurangaranga backed by Jimmy Akena and David Pukol to have the party up and running again, party leaders are working on that. The Rurangaranga faction went to court accusing Otunnu of running the party without functioning organs that include the National Council and the delegates’ conference.
Under the UPC constitution, the national council is the apex body that approves programmes for grassroots elections and the delegate’s conference. The court slapped an injunction on the party that has frozen all its activities.
The infighting between Otunnu and the Rurangaranga /Akena/Pulkol group broke out in 2012 following Otunnu’s blocking of some senior party members from accessing the UPC offices at Uganda House.
Otunnu had appointed a new administration which looked at the Rurangaranga`s group as unwanted since they had been at the helm of the party during the Miria Obote tenure of office. When Otunnu announced that he would not seek reelection, the rival Rurangaranga faction rejoiced and called it a big victory on their side.
In the week preceding Otunnu’s announcement, the party held an emergency cabinet and senior party elders meeting at its headquarters on March 10.
During the meeting, Otunnu lived to his promise of reaching out to the rival faction to settle issues out of court and see the party return to normal activity.
As a result of the UPC cabinet and senior party elders meeting, a group of 10 party members has been selected as the dialogue team to meet the Rurangaranga/Akena/Pulkol faction.
The 10 are Olara Otunnu, Col. Andrew Nyote from Mbale, Susan Ezafia a UPC women leader, Silvesta Esagi(Teso), Zaverio Byabagambi (Western), Joseph Bossa (Buganda), David Bariraine(South), Caleb Kamure(West Nile), Prof. Edward Kakonge party national chairman, and Okello Lucima, party spokesperson. Addressing the media at the weekly briefing at the party headquarters Okello Lucima said they now are waiting for the other side to name their dialogue team for negotiations to commence.
As and when the party resolves its squabbles, it could skip some of the lower level elections and go straight for the delegate’s conference to elect a new party president under the 2012 UPC constitution to replace Olara Otunnu.
Olara Otuunu was elected under the 1970 UPC constitution which mandated a party president to serve seven years, but since the coming into force of the 2012 UPC constitution a party president will serve terms of five years.
Otunnu, who has subjected himself to the 2012 party constitution, was supposed to have handed over office on March 10 , if the party was functioning normally but because of the court injunction the party cannot hold a Delegate`s Conference.
Lucima said the party has a clear succession process that is not tagged to time expiry. He said this means Otunnu can remain at the helm of the party until dialogue is complete.
Ever since its formation 55 years ago UPC has been embroiled in tribal wrangles especially between the Langi and Acholi, which is partly the reason it was overthrown twice by tribal elements of the army. This time, the leaders are promising to be different, at least according to Caleb Kamure; the West Nile UPC chairman who attended the media briefing. “When an amicable solution is reached at, UPC is going to elect a national leader and not a tribal one,” he said.