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‘We want power’

DP President Norbert Mao addressses a press conference

DP leaders explain frustration with Mao as leader

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Norbert Mao, the current leader of Uganda’s oldest political organisation; the Democratic Party (DP) is at his best when gabbing – and some of his fellow leaders do not like that. They wish he could lead with action not words only.

Mathias Mpuuga, the MP for Masaka Municipality says the demands of the party and the quest to move the party forward require more than niceties.

“Norbert Mao is a gentleman, he is a nice guy. When you meet him, he will say nice things and he will exchange pleasantries and speak all the funny English but leading a party is more than that,” he says.

Mpuuga is referring to the bickering within DP; the most recent of which led to public exchange of vitriol and abuse by senior DP leaders; including Mao on various media and political talk shows.

At the heart of the bickering is an accusation that Mao has reneged on his promise of not running beyond two five-year terms. His opponents say Mao initially promised to lead the party for five years only, eventually got another five-year term, and appears set to prolong his tenure. Some of those tackling him publicly want to lead DP. Some have failed to oust him in previous elections and sense an opportunity if new elections are held. However, others want Mao not to run at all. They accuse Mao of thriving on denial.

Mpuuga says what has been happening in DP is like what happens in any organisation, company or even a family setting.

“If the leadership is frail and the centre cannot hold, this is what you see,” Mpuuga says, “When you’re a weak leader, you live in denial, when there are challenges; you believe that those raising the red flags are the problem.”

Another DP leader, Dr. Lulume Bayiga, said democratic spaces and processes must be seen in the party.

Lulume stood against Mao in a previous leadership contest and Mao beat him. Lulume says he conceded defeat and has been supporting Mao since then. But since Mao won, the wrangles in DP have taken on an ethnic-regional divide. Lulume’s supporters were from Buganda and several splinter groups along ethnic lines have emerged in the party.

But Mao counters by accusing his detractors of “rotten character, being corrupt and compromised.” He says they will be kicked out in order to ensure its stability.

“DP is a political party not a social club, so it is not that you work with people whom you only like, you work with people who have got a commitment with the party,” he says.

He says he is not all talk because bold decisions and actions he has taken as leader, have ensured that DP can no longer be ignored in the national debate about the future of Uganda.

“Where there was self-doubt, there is now a new confidence, courage and conviction; where there was incoherence, there is now a clear direction and unity of purpose,” he recently said.

“The party has a functional civil service comprised of professional staff, decision making is based on the principles of subsidiary, the accounts are audited, finances are managed transparently and leaders in national organs have been invited to exercise their right to inspect the party’s financial records including bank statements.”

“The party now owns a building of its own in addition to other undeveloped properties in prime areas of Kampala. The party owns a printing press which in the previous election was used to print posters for all DP candidates.”

“In short, the party is combat-ready for 2021 and the struggles ahead as part of a united opposition front, if possible, but on its own, if necessary.”

Mpuuga is unimpressed.

“DP is not a real estate company that when it buys assets we should go home and pop champagne. We are a party out to get power,” he says.

“Are you telling me that the party has not held the national council for lack of headquarters?”

“Are you telling me that failure to fill vacant positions is because of lack of headquarters?”

Mpuuga says no one should pontificate to him about a building when the DP has had the quest of 60 years for power.

“The money that was used to buy property is from the MPs’ numbers that DP boasts in Parliament,” he says. “If you are a smart party with smart leaders, you would devote more time to get more MPs in Parliament to get more resources to undertake more programmes and projects to expand the party.”

What occasioned the MPs to call for accountability recently, Mpuuga says, was when the DP leaders said there would be no funds to buy paper to print village registers.

For a party that collects over Shs 600 million annually and the leaders were aware of this exercise four years ago but did not set aside a few millions is difficult to understand, Mpuuga recently  said while appearing on  “On The Spot,” a current affairs show  on local broadcaster, NTV.

“This is a party that allegedly says it bought a printer and therefore all they had to do was buy paper to print.”

Mpuuga says printing village registers and return forms could not have cost more than Shs50 million. He says the MPs on whose heads the money that sustains the party depends were offended.

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