After holding a largely successful delegates’ conference at Namboole stadium, Alice Alaso, the opposition Forum for Democratic Change secretary general and Woman MP for Serere, spoke to Political Editor Edris Kiggundu about what she made of the December 5 meeting she helped organise and why she disagrees with former party President Kizza Besigye’s rallying calls for an opposition boycott of the 2016 elections. Below are the excerpts.
Would you say the party has achieved what it set out to do at the delegates’ conference?
This is difficult because I am the person behind the organisation of the conference. The objective of the conference was to communicate the process of building party structures and to seek the necessary resolutions to secure constitutional amendments that will help us improve and to communicate the state of the party, its membership, its finances and other issues. I am happy that this has been achieved at that conference.
The conference had initially been planned for two days. Why scale it back to one day?
In the initial programme, we wanted to do what we call an issues-launch. This would have taken the first day then the delegates’ conference would take place the second day. But we were not very ready with the party’s platform which would have informed the issues to launch.
This killed the first day. Secondly, we shifted the conference to one day because this [Namboole] is the only venue that is able to hold a function as big as this. We were told that it had been booked on December 6 so, we had to bring our conference forward to December 5.
At some stage did you have fears that the conference would degenerate into chaos following reports of wrangles between some leaders?
I think this was just a position that was being espoused by the media but internally the confidence I had was that we had had a very elaborate conflict resolution mechanism. I knew that there was no additional petition pending. Any petition needed to have originated from the district through the secretary general to the party’s disciplinary committee. And now that nothing was on the table, I did not have any fear.
From the report you presented about the status of the party, the impression one gets is that everything is moving smoothly in FDC.
I pointed out challenges as well. The achievements of the party in this particular operational context are significant given that we had lost one year to conflict resolution. And when there is a conflict in the party, it impairs literally everything. You go to donors and they tell you: ‘First sort out the conflict in the party.’ You go to a rally and people tell you, ‘you are quarrelling.’ So given where we are coming from, I consider the achievements we have reported to be very significant.
The key challenges include: continuing the process of party cohesion, dealing with party discipline and these are issues that confront any organisation. It is going to be an on going work as long as the party continues to exist. We also have challenges of funding.
On funding, the acting treasurer general pointed out that some MPs are not remitting their monthly contribution to the party. This issue seems to have attracted a lot of debate in the conference.
The reason it did [attract debate] is that when you want to contest on an FDC ticket, you sign a memorandum of understanding with the party that when you get to Parliament, you will make a monthly contribution to the party to help grow the party on whose ticket you contested. Unfortunately, a few members of Parliament have not adhered to the MoU and that is why the delegates were so upset.
Some of the delegates talked of tough sanctions, including expelling such MPs from the party. What is your view?
We believe in dialogue. As a party, we have tested that it works. The party president has engaged these people and we are hoping that they will realise the need to pay. Because there are no sanctions, we hope that the sentiments expressed at the conference will appeal to the honourable colleagues who have not contributed.
But also in the next meeting in February, we shall name and shame these people [who have not paid]. It is something that has been adopted by the conference and I have to implement it. I am a servant of the party and I have to provide that list [of MPs who have not paid] in the next delegates’ conference.
Dr Besigye implored the party not to rush and participate in the 2016 elections unless electoral reforms are instituted. Would you heed his aice?
The views that Dr Besigye espouses are like the egg and chicken debate, which one comes first? You can’t really know which one comes first. My mandate, as someone who executes business to grow the party, is that we should be prepared for 2016.
What if tomorrow morning, President Museveni and his government do the unimaginable and give in to reforms? The FDC will not have committees and we shall lose elections. My business is to ensure that the party is prepared, put the committees in place, brand ourselves, continue with the marketing and then you go to a point and hope that the campaign brings dividends. If the campaign brings dividends, we also have something to put on the table.
But also at a very personal level, I don’t think the history of boycotts in Uganda has helped to grow the political process. We boycotted the referendum of 2005 on political parties but the NRM created Nelson Ocheger and legitimised the process. There is a history of a [parliamentary] boycott [in 1996] where the only person who defied the boycott was Cecilia Ogwal and you know what happened? She is the only surviving politician of that category.
Therefore, you don’t support the suggestion that FDC should boycott elections?
When you boycott, these dictators are not short of options. This country has 33 or plus registered parties. Out of these, only six are genuine opposition parties. The rest are a creation of the NRM. In the last election, we did not even nominate 60 LC-V chairpersons. This is not a matter of free and fair elections.
This is an internal matter. We must build this party to a point where we offer candidates. I am not disputing the fact that Museveni rigs elections but where we had g structures like in Serere, all the MPs are FDC. Dr Besigye won in Serere by over 80 per cent. I don’t want to lump it all on the Electoral Commission. Let us do our part and build a g party and then we all join the campaign for free and fair elections and when the ground levels, we shall offer ourselves.
Has the party now identified g candidates?
Yes, in some constituencies but the process of party primaries begins around May. Some constituencies have many candidates and we have to do it a little bit early so that if there are any wrangles, they can be resolved early.
What lessons has FDC learned from its failures in 2011?
The primary thing is to first build structures. It is the structures that identify candidates and which protect the votes. Let me tell you that this country would be radically different if say we had 70 LC-V chairpersons from FDC. If we had 170 opposition MPs, even with President Museveni still in power, the political narrative would be fairly different.
Imagine we had won [the presidency in] the last election but with NRM having the majority in Parliament, they would [have impeached] the president. We are trying to construct a new positioning that makes us a viable political entity.
With the 2016 elections around the corner, do you think FDC has time to build vibrant structures?
Well, we are hoping that by March  we will have new structures. They will be there before the next delegates’ conference in February. We are doing a three-month marathon.
Nandala-Mafabi and other people have been critical of President Mugisha Muntu’s leadership style. There are people, including some that voted for him, who say Muntu has run the party down because he is not aggressive. What is your take on this?
First of all the bottom line is Gen Muntu is not Dr Besigye. People must accept that. It is ridiculous for any Ugandan or FDC member to want Gen Muntu to be Dr Besigye. It is just sheer madness.
Secondly, not all of us have to agree 100 per cent with Gen Muntu but do you agree with the values he is pushing for? If he is pushing for party structures, do you agree that structures should be built? What unites us is not Muntu or Besigye because they will be here today and gone tomorrow. What unites us are the ideals of this party. This is my aice to anybody.
What is your assessment of Muntu’s performance in the last two years?
He is doing very well. Mind you he spent the first year in conflict resolution. He is working. He has held meetings all over the country and met national leaders. We have held many meetings for party organs. I don’t know what more people should be asking for?
So, assuming elections are held tomorrow, how do you think FDC under Muntu would perform?
We don’t have a presidential candidate yet but I know that the general mood in Uganda now is for change and I am optimistic many people would vote for an FDC candidate. You saw it in Amuru you saw it in Kasese, where Winnie Kiiza won, in Jinja Municipality East where Paul Mwiru won and in Bushenyi where we got Odo Tayebwa.
Any final words?
There is hope in FDC and I would like to invite Ugandans to trust us with the leadership of the country. We have demonstrated that we can manage conflict. We have demonstrated that we can work and hold our meetings without stealing taxpayers’ money. I hope the people can trust us.
Source : The Observer