For Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), 2015 should under normal circumstances have been a year of preparations for next year’s general elections, but the party is sadly stuck in internal squabbles over some mundane issues which has sapped the energy and wasted the precious time of members.
I have expressed deep concern and dismay many times, through this column and at party circles about the quagmire in UPC and especially the mess at UPC headquarters located at Uganda House. I had hoped that I would not come back to this matter again until next year, but with a heavy heart, I am at pains to revisit what has now become a burning question due to recent developments at Uganda House.
According to a story published in Daily Monitor of April 10, titled, “UPC in deadlock over election of leaders” the former president of UPC, Ambassador Olara Otunnu, issued a timetable on April 9 for preparatory activities which are to culminate in holding of a National Council on June 10 and Delegates Conference on June 12, at which a new UPC president would be elected.
The timetable announced by Mr Otunnu was promptly rejected by Maj Edward Rurangaranga, former chairman of UPC, in a statement released on the same day on behalf of a faction of UPC, which is opposed to Mr Otunnu’s leadership.
The faction secured a court injunction which has for months effectively paralysed UPC by blocking all party activities until the party’s leadership crisis is resolved.
Mr Otunnu was elected UPC president for a five-year term by an overwhelming majority in March 2010 his term of office expired on March 13, 2015, which means that as of now, there is no bona fide president of UPC.
During his five-year tenure as party president, Mr Otunnu convened a meeting of the UPC National Council only once in April 2011. Despite persistent appeals and demands by members of UPC from all regions of Uganda, Mr Otunnu adamantly refused, for unknown reasons, to convene the Delegates Conference, which under the UPC constitution, is the highest organ of the party and should meet at least once every two years.
It is amazing and mind-boggling that five years later and after his term of office has expired, Mr Otunnu has the audacity to issue a road map of activities, including a proposal to hold the first Delegates Conference since 2010. I wonder in what capacity he issued the timetable? Whose interest does he serve? Give us a break!
With all due respect to my colleague Ambassador Otunnu, I think it is preposterous and unacceptable for him to treat UPC members with contempt by insisting that only he should convene the UPC National Council and Delegates Conference at this material time when he failed to do so for five long years!
On behalf of UPC West Nile region, which supported Mr Otunnu’s candidature at the 2010 Delegates Conference, let me state for the record that Mr Otunnu has no moral authority whatsoever to issue a timetable as he reportedly did on April 9, let alone insist on playing a leading role in efforts to finally convene the UPC Delegates Conference in 2015. We are disappointed, but not discouraged.
My frank, but friendly aice for him is to pack his personal belongings and vacate UPC headquarters without any further delay, for the sake of the party, which we both cherish and value.
Mr Otunnu has regrettably been a divisive figure in UPC since 2010 as such, he should disqualify himself from efforts to convene the UPC National Council and Delegates Conference in 2015. I believe that is the only decent and sensible course of action for him to take.
While I acknowledge that Mr Otunnu did his best for the party, most UPC members do not agree and feel that his best was not good enough for the party, but we agree that time has come for him to depart in accordance with an announcement he made at a press conference on March 4 that he would not seek another term. He should retire gracefully instead of dragging his feet and giving the impression that he may be having second thoughts.
The way forward
The challenges and problems which face UPC are not insurmountable. If party members could join hands and put the interests of UPC above personal interests, the once mighty party can rise and shine again. All party members must, therefore, rise to the challenge and rescue UPC, a party which struggled relentlessly and successfully for the independence of Uganda. Nobody can deny and take away that historic achievement from UPC. We must consolidate and defend Uganda’s hard-won national independence at all times.
In 2012, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Kenya offered to mediate between the feuding factions of UPC ODM leader and then prime minister of Kenya, Mr Raila Odinga, sent an emissary to Kampala to make the necessary arrangements.
Mr Otunnu was informed in aance and when the emissary, Prof Peter Anyang Nyong’o, arrived in Kampala, I duly notified the UPC president who agreed to meet him at the Serena Hotel where he was booked.
Prof Nyong’o was in Kampala for three days, but the UPC president did not even pay a courtesy call on our distinguished guest. A dinner appointment on the last day of the visit proved abortive.
As a friend and classmate at Makerere University during the 1960s, I kept company with Prof Nyong’o, then ODM secretary general he left Uganda very disappointed and for me I was thoroughly embarrassed. The ODM offer was a missed and golden opportunity to nip the internal dispute in UPC in the bud.
UPC is not a one-man band like some political parties. Let us keep it that way so that the party is not paralysed or incapacitated by the obstinacy of one member and, in addition, UPC must practise internal democracy at all levels so that no single person can hold the party at ransom again.
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor