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30.04.2009 Feature Article

Rebuilding institutions top priority for parties

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When Idi Amin overthrew the democratically elected UPC government in 1971, the country was only within months to the general elections. The then president, Milton Obote, immediately started various campaigns, one military, that eventually led to the overthrow of Amin.

The main reason for seeking to depose Ami n was first, the horrendous human rights abuses, systematically meted initially on key UPC leaders, then Langi and Acholi communities and later all Ugandans.

Secondly, Amin had banned political party activities. Indeed, the Moshi Unity conference organised in Tanzania prior to the fall of Kampala proclaimed itself to the return to democratic governance no less then 18 months of coming to power, hence the December 10, 1980 elections. However, some leaders were not keen on the return to party politics then.

The Okello coup of July 27, 1985 took place, only months away from the multi-party elections. One wonders whether these coup plotters were pathologically allergic to democratic elections. Sadly for the Okellos, their deal with NRA/NRM over the spoils failed to hold. They were overthrown within months and Museveni's NRA/NRM arrived on January 26, 1986.

True to his word, Museveni banned political parties until UPC and DP petitioned court and on November 17, 2004 scored a victory that led to the re-registration of UPC in March 2005.

Throughout this time, UPC was consistently clear; we believed in competitive politics where the power of ideas prevail over the power of the bullet; that through ideas, we are able to generate wealth, organise our communities, rebuild our country and once again become part of a new Pan-Africanist agenda within a new global era, thankfully one which is now with our own Barack Obama at the helm of the White House.

Throughout the earlier=2 0part of the NRM rule and especially most of the 1990s, UPC remained a sole voice, both in Uganda and across the world. We knocked on doors and many times a few were not opened, including some of the so-called human rights organisations.

During a debate only last week in London to review the failed peace talks between the Government and the LRA and the decision by three national armies to attack Garamba to 'flush out' Kony once and for all, I saw with pain how partisan and indifferent some in the international community can chose to be, and how selective in the application of rights.

However, as a mini-expert on global conflicts and migration issues, I understand how eurocentric African domestic politics can sometimes be when subjected to 'laboratory tests.'

More than ever before, I strongly believe in the Republic of Uganda defined in UPC's aims and objective as 'One country with one people, one parliament and one government; its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity'.

These are the values that motivated most of us even in those years when it was like a distant dream to simply hope that one day, Ugandans would ever be free to organise themselves according to political parties and organisations of their choice.

Now that UPC won these rights for other parties and Ugandans in general, we should all be working hard to ensure that Ugandans are 'sold' less of fear but more of information, kn owledge, skills, alternative ideals, courage and hope for the future.

These are exciting times. Neither Museveni nor anyone else can anymore sell to the predominantly young Uganda population the Amin, Obote, UNLA, Okello, Luwero boggy.

Youths today demand jobs, housing, health care, education, infrastructure, security and dignity.

It has been such a long time since Obote that current leaders can no longer blame failures on past leaders or regimes.

Unlike 10 years ago, the people now have a right and freedom to seek alternatives for the future and in so doing, end the politics of personal merit once and for all.

Talking about personal merit, we will not get rid of President Museveni by focusing on the votes he got or did not get in the last elections. We must focus on the votes he must not get. To do so, all political parties must get to the voters, sell themselves, explain their relevance and persuade the people that they offer better.

In UPC's case, we must go to the ground, the grassroots, rebuild our structures and systems, strengthen our bases and build on new foundations where they do not exist.

The new UPC constitution that we amended last year needs to be sold both to our members and Ugandans as a whole. With enhanced positions for youth and women and re-emphasis of our Centre Left polity, it is the most comprehensive constitution of all political parties in Uganda.

The writer is the UPC's special presidential envoy to the UK and Ireland

Joseph Ochieno
Joseph Ochieno, © 2009

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: JosephOchieno

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