I was one of the several party representatives that agreed the establishment of The Democratic Alliance, TDA and drafting of the TDA protocol at Katoomi Kingdom Resort, between June 4-7, 2015. On 28th June 2015 as a member of the TDA summit, I wrote a short opinion addressed to my colleagues entitled: “Thinking out of the box: Uganda’s situation needs an opposition syndicate; not a single opposition presidential candidate”. I did not receive a single reply or acknowledgement.
In that opinion, we argued that the most unfortunate misunderstanding by Uganda’s opposition was to consider Yoweri Museveni a single candidate – who should then be “matched with a single “strong” opposition candidate”.
We noted that whoever stands against Museveni is standing against the state with all its agencies and a plethora of interests, both local and international. So, to simply say “let us get one opposition presidential candidate, to stand against one NRM candidate called Yoweri Museveni” sounds only emotionally gratifying, but technically deficient.
We further recommended that we needed an array of well organized opposition formations under the TDA as the Command Communications and Control Centre, rallying behind a strategically agreed set of opposition Presidential candidates, each formation/set with its own unique strengths, characteristics and approaches. Only then could the opposition be able to “stretch” the state machinery to its fullest both before, during and after the election. This in our view, would reduce the impact of any of the agencies we are up against disguised as the NRM sole candidate. We ended the opinion by inviting all opposition actors to this debate.
Before that, while at Katoomi, after listening to the Co-Chair’s keynote address that dwelt largely on the Kenyan experience, we noted that although the Kenya experience was instructive, it was also true that the Kenyan opposition alliance did not defeat Daniel arap Moi, but it defeated Uhuru Kenyatta, then the KANU candidate. Moi had stepped down prior to the elections. So, the context, though broadly similar, was different.
President Museveni, 29 years in power, with no term limits, is still his party’s sole candidate and has no qualms about abusing state institutions and resources. In an effort to bring the new proposed alliance in context, we tried to persuade the organizers to create some time to discuss the causes of failure of past alliances in Uganda so that we could keep them in mind in forging a new one (TDA). This did not receive favour.
As someone who was deeply involved in the G6 informal alliance of 2006 and the more formal Inter Party Cooperation, IPC, of 2011, this was very important. We helplessly watched the collapse of IPC before our own eyes due to factors that we could have avoided. Here we were, trying to establish another alliance and not wanting to be confronting hard truths of past experience.
It seems from observation that the TDA is not quite open to difficult proposals, hoping instead that things will just work out just “because Ugandans need change”. We refuse to accept this. It is also possible that the sufficient grip of civil society actors in an essentially political project that is TDA, could be compromising. Civil society in Uganda has not been allowed to practice political work in order to attain experience in the field. TDA is a political formation that must be driven by hard-nosed politics, and not other factors like funding, or otherwise.
The TDA Protocol in its present form is deficient and will need amendments. The idea of a single opposition presidential candidate is even more defective, for the reasons we have outlined before. The process of selecting the already undermined sole opposition presidential candidate should not start until a critical decision is made. That is, whether TDA is going to participate in the 2016 elections before reforms that have been proposed by the citizens are effected or not. We cannot go back to the FDC flag-bearer debate a second time – when a similar question was put to the two candidates, who gave different answers.
Also, when the search begins for TDA opposition presidential candidates, it cannot be done in a board room. After witnessing the rigour of choosing a flag bearer in FDC, most Ugandans are not likely to accept any process to arrive at joint presidential candidates to be conducted otherwise. TDA will need to amend the protocol to replace choice of presidential candidate “by consensus”, with “national primaries in which all TDA member parties and pressure groups will participate openly”. Somebody will now evoke time and money. Well, time and money must be found for a transparent process, if it is to be acceptable to most.
We strongly believe that the opposition must be united to cause change. It is the nature and architecture of cooperation that has not been agreed. However, an impression is being created that TDA, through its contentious protocol is the only way to cause this change. I know that TDA is under no obligation to listen to this argument, and indeed it has conveniently ignored other arguments before.
Mine is to record my official position as a founder actor of TDA, who is a Presidential aspirant and to provide opportunity for those who feel that TDA is an idea which is still under construction to continue with the debate.
Instead of trying to impose proposals on TDA it is my decision that I don’t present myself as a Presidential aspirant at this stage, to the TDA but to continue wishing TDA absolutely well.
The Writer is a Presidential Aspirant in the 2016 General Elections
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