By Patrick Kagenda
Chris Okumu Opoka is a Uganda member of the East African Legislative Assembly from the opposition UPC party. Before going to EALA he was Secretary General of UPC during the Maama Miria Obote presidency. He spoke to The Independent’s Patrick Kagenda.
You have never attended a UPC press briefing ever since you left for the EALA, what brings you here now? What is your take on what is happening in UPC today?
You are right to say I have not been attending UPC press briefings. I am normally not around but today I am here because of what is taking place in my party. We have a newly elected party president yet to be confirmed and I had to attend his inaugural press briefing. What is happening in the party is something we all have been waiting for, that is having a unanimously endorsed party president by the district conferences and making him the sole candidate for the party.
The outgoing party president Olara Otunnu and some of the party presidency race contenders are contesting Akena`s win in the primaries, won`t this return the party to courts of law as the case has been during the last five years of Otunnu`s tenure?
Otunnu set up this program single handedly. He is the one who appointed the coordinators in the districts and appointed the party electoral commission. The coordinators in the districts sent results here at headquarters which were verified and sent to the electoral commission and the electoral commission declared them and now Otunnu is disputing that, how can that be? The people in the districts held a free and fair elections. The very same thing that Otunnu has been yearning for. His pet agenda in Uganda is only about free and fair elections no other program, only free and fair elections. Well, Otunnu has carried out a free and fair election, he might not be pleased with the outcome because the person he wanted is not the person that won.
Otunnu went to West Nile and Western Uganda campaigning with his vice president Joseph Bossa, and Bossa never even got near qualifying for his name to be referred to the delegate`s conference, so that is the problem with Otunnu.
This is the same thing he did when parliament elected me, the UPC caucus voted me as a person to be a candidate to go to EALA. When parliament elected me, Otunnu complained, he nullified the results, yet he even did not know the procedure. He wrote to the clerk to nullify the results saying I am not the person, yet I had complied with every single thing that he had outlined. The same thing is now happening to Akena including branding him an NRM, receiving money from Museveni, only to be shocked by the results from the district conferences.
What do Otunnu`s actions mean?
For me it is just a pity, I sympathise with him and sympathise with a person of that mentality who only thinks he is the only person who can run this party. He has not run this party, he has not done anything good for the party but has worked towards destroying UPC. This pronouncement he has made by saying the Akena election is illegitimate, Otunnu is the one who set the whole program from appointing the district coordinators to appointing the party electoral commission which pronounced that Akena had won in 67 districts, so how can the election be illegitimate. His problem is he has brought the old men of the 1960`s to run the party in 2015, no wonder the youth say this is a party of pensioners.
How best can the new party president elect turn around the party to make it appealing to all?
I know what Akena can do because I have worked with him not just in Uganda, I worked closely with him and his father when in Zambia and I know he is able to return the party to its hey days because he kept close to his father in Zambia and learnt what to do. His two stands in parliament have given him good exposure on the national politics and I have seen his own contribution to UPC and it cuts across the whole country. He takes interest in the youth nationally, takes interest in party activity nationally including using his personal resources to try to promote the party. I think he is going to be able to craft a UPC that is inviting, very national in character because by virtue of his parentage with a Muganda mother and a Lango father he is a middle of the road person spreading in all directions making him a true Ugandan. I respect him and I am sure he is going to achieve even in the short term, he is going to achieve what will shock Otunnu.
In the first place why did you elect Otunnu if you knew he wouldn’t deliver?
On electing Otunnu we thought that because of his high profile background he would move the party much higher which thing did not happen. Because of what has been happening in the party over the last five years of Otunnu being at the helm of the party, even when he leaves the party will not miss him because he has done nothing to show for the party. During his term of office there has been no setting up of party structures at the grassroots and no raising funds for the party. Even the Deepening Democracy Program (DDP) he has been talking of came from Deepening Democracy at the time when I was Secretary General and I worked on it and we handed over Shs 80 million to the Otunnu administration, which implemented the program but it was not his initiation. I was shocked to see him claiming the program during a TV interview and wondered why he was telling such kind of lies. I am sure that UPC will do a lot better with Akena than it has fared under Otunnu and I have a lot of faith in Akena. In 2010 I did not have the faith because Akena had just done one term in parliament but now as a two term parliamentarian and the experience he has had is enormous I am sure he will deliver.