Ambassador Mohammed Baswari Kezaala
As a diplomat (Foreign Service Officer), diplomatic etiquettes demand that I do not speak politics and I don’t intend to do so.
I also don’t intend to speak for any political organisation because am official spokesperson of none.
However, as a citizen of Uganda who had the opportunity to be at the core and centre of activism my entire prime age, I feel obliged to make a humble contribution on the IPOD debate now in the public domain following this week’s IPOD Summit at Munyonyo.
Having served in a privileged position in one of the political parties that took part in the recent IPOD Summit, I can vividly recall the chronology of events that led to this summit.
In all IPOD meetings and workshops since inception, opposition political parties have been expressing concern over the failure to convene the top most IPOD organ, the Summit.
There have been demands that the IPOD upped its act from the regular meetings of the Secretary Generals to the Summit which comprises political heads of each political party that are represented in parliament.
Previously, heads of other political parties except the National Resistance Movement (NRM) have attended meetings including workshops but not the one of the NRM party and this was always a major concern in such meetings.
On the 29th and 30th June 2016,a meeting attended by all Secretary Generals of the IPOD members convened at the Jinja Nile Resort Hotel to brain storm on issues to be presented to His Excellency the President who also happens to be the leader of the NRM.
The meeting with the President was scheduled for 1st July 2016 at State House Entebbe.
The Forum for Democratic Change party was the IPOD chair at that time and as such, its Secretary General moderated the Jinja Nile Resort meeting.
The following points were agreed upon for presentation to the President:
That the president who is also the National Chairman of the NRM should honour the noble objectives for which IPOD was found by personally attending the IPOD summit that was being proposed to convene to address itself to a number of issues. –
For clarity, a summit is a meeting of the political party heads of the IPOD members.
It was agreed that the president /chairman NRM should physically attend and not delegate.
That the NRM National Chairman should come to the summit in his capacity as chairman of his political party without the aura of his presidential title.
That the meeting should take place on neutral ground and not state house.
That the citizens compact on electoral reforms as presented to parliament be given due consideration by government and that it should be top on the summit agenda
That harassment of opposition activists be stopped and that it should be one of the items on the summit agenda
All delegates at the Nile Resort meeting agreed to converge at Protea Hotel Entebbe for lunch at 12.30 so as to be in time for the State House meeting with the president that was scheduled for 3.00pm.
At 2.00pm, the FDC Secretary General rang the Democratic Party Secretary General, the late Hon Matia Nsubuga to register apologies that FDC was unable to attend the meeting at State House as they had to stand surety for their colleagues who were appearing in the Kampala High Court that afternoon for bail.
He requested the late Hon Nsubuga to lead the delegation on his behalf which the late Nsubuga did and presented all issues as agreed. Therefore the Munyonyo IPOD summit was a result of the foregoing chronology of events
The African National Congress (ANC) struggle for political and social economic inclusion is a case study that can possibly be of use in the navigation of Uganda’s current political terrain.
The reader may be interested to recall that Nelson Mandela himself did publicly acknowledge that there were many activists in the South African anti apartheid struggle who were possibly even greater than him but God chose him to be the face of that struggle.
He singled out Walter Sisulu of ANC and many others.
There was also Robert Sokukweof the communist party.
What are the four things that made Nelson Mandela not only a national hero but also a person of international accolade?
When he was arraigned before the Judge in the 1960s on a treason charge, despite the fact that it was a capital offence, when asked if he needed legal representation, Mandela courageously told the Judge that the pure at heart needed no lawyers.
When asked to take plea, he told the presiding Judge that if fighting for the rights and freedoms of my people tantamount to treason, I plead guilty to the charge and it’s an offence I am ready to pay even with my own life.
The apartheid regime offered him amnesty many times on condition that he denounces violence but on all occasions he turned down the conditional offers
Most important though was his courageous and visionary decision to accept to talk to the apartheid masters after spending 27 years in prison.
While in prison, Mandela developed serious health problems that required his temporary transfer from his colleagues in the general cell to a secluded cell for medication.
For 2 months as he got medication, he was at the same time engaging the apartheid masters on the inevitable reality/demand to abolish apartheid and allow equal treatment of all citizens to prevail. The results are known to everybody.
However, it’s important to know that it was not easy for Mandela as stated here.
When he was taken back to the general cell and narrated to colleagues about his dialogue with the perpetrators of apartheid and the reality that change was destined to come like a flood, all his colleagues accused him of having betrayed the struggle after all the suffering, sacrifice and perseverance they and the populace at large, had endured.
His best friend and fellow inmate Mohammed Kathedra was no exception. Outside, anxiety was building and the general public getting charged.
All this happened at a time the ANC had already started a military wing (Umkhonto we Sizwe).
It was after Cyril Ramaphosa (then secretary general ANC) visited Mandela and other inmates that the vision and wisdom of Nelson was appreciated by all and the tide changed.
Mandela told Cyril and fellow inmates that, “we have waged the struggle in phases using different tactics at every stage with the primary objective of freedom and equality for all,” and asked his colleagues to explore other view points as how the struggle could be amicably advanced to its logic conclusion.
Of course Mandela was opening up the arena for dialogue to the wider catchment area.
As we could all be aware, dialogue brought political and social economic inclusion in South Africa and both blacks and whites now co-exist, somechallenges notwithstanding but there is a marked advancement on many fronts.
Back in Uganda, IPOD by definition stands forInter Party Organization for Dialogue.
The two important catchwords here areInter Party and Dialogue. Without inter party dialoguing, the purpose for which IPOD was started loses its meaning and the alternative would be to close shop which wouldn’t be in the interest of the future generations.
Of course the South African ANC experience was mainly about apartheid, but I believe it offers Ugandans something to ponder about as far as navigating the terrain of dialogue is concerned.
Fellow Ugandans, food for thought.
The author is former chairman of the Democratic Party.