The Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), one of the country’s oldest parties, is dogged by a number of problems including internal conflicts that have led to creation of factions.
Speaking to The Nile Post in an interview, Fred Ebil, the party secretary general, said UPC is still alive and well and will soon take over the leadership of this country.
What is your take on the current security situation in the country?
It is unfortunate that we are seeing various terrorist actions against the citizens of Uganda and innocent civilians who are being hurt .This is very unfortunate because during independence, we had planned not to have such a nation. When we went to the Uganda constitutional conference in 1961, we had intended to cure this kind of mess. It was later on spoilt by the incident that involved the army mutiny of 1964 and indiscipline of the political class. Museveni captured power in 1986 by gun and all this gun culture is now back to people using this kind of violent extremism. You remember when the NRM was in the bush, there was a group led by Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza encouraging the use of bombs as a means of capturing power. So we need to end this.
In your view, where did we go wrong as a country and what should be done to ensure that there is peace and stability?
It is because they [regime] got into government by guns and that is why Ugandans are thinking that the only way you can remove NRM from power is by using violence. Internally we had already introduced this violence by refusing to stick by the order that we had set in 1961.We had already started a good path of going through democracy.
We need truth and reconciliation to bring back unity and sanity. We need to go back and do soul searching. When did we get it wrong? Why have we reached this point? Therefore we have to go back.
What are the reasons that barred UPC from joining People’s Front for Transition (PFT) led by Dr. Kizza Besigye because some people see it as one of the platforms that can unite the opposition?
It goes back to the ideals of UPC. We need to go back to when we reached this point of accepting violence as means of taking over the government because Dr. Besigye said we can no longer takeover the government through elections.
Never again should we accept violence as a means of getting over government. Besigye has started on a wrong footing by having a front. By having the front, they are thinking that the election will not make us achieve what we want to achieve .It will go back to the same problem we are in. For us we believe in a long term strategy. Let’s sit down and agree that this country is for all of us and the nation is big enough for all of us. Besigye’s approach is wrong.
UPC has on several times been accused by some opposition seeking forces of being in bed with the ruling government. How true are the allegations?
That is a lie, we have an office, we have our headquarters which was built by members. We have our offices throughout the country,we have district chairpersons, we have LCs .We have structures and during elections NRM fronts candidates against us and in many places we lose the elections because of NRM putting candidates against us. If we had cooperation would they put candidates against us? We fight it on our own but we are saying we have a country to build.
We need to go back to the 1961 agreement where all of us agreed that we came from different regions, we came from different communities, we came from different parties, we came from different regions and backgrounds but our future is shared and there is the basic principle that we had to go back to.
We talk to NRM because we know some of our relatives are in NRM, some of our relatives are in FDC, some of our relatives are in NUP and other political parties but we need to know that we have a nation to rebuild.
But it appears the party president Jimmy Akena feels more comfortable working with NRM than the opposition and some people say this could be the reason why he distances himself from the opposition activities.
When National Unity Platform (NUP) called a meeting for the legislative agenda, the 14 big issues, we attended the meeting. I attended it by myself as the secretary general of UPC. So, we are never shy of our roles as the opposition but we have to be constructive and we have to know our history having been in government twice. We know it, so we have to help other parties to also know that you can be in government today and tomorrow you can be out of the government.
UPC used to perform well in the Northern region, specifically the Lango sub region but the narrative seems to be changing as other parties take over the area. Does this mean the party is becoming weak and weaker?
No, in Lango UPC is the majority party because you will find out that the district chairpersons, we are the majority, you will find out that LC3s we are the majority .The issue on the parliamentary elections was that the independent candidates who lost in primaries contested against our flag bearers hence reducing the chance for us retaining the majority .UPC is still strong in Lango sub region and it will always remain strong and that is why we have started reconciliation programme.
There have been a lot of fights and misunderstandings within the party that led to formation of a faction led by Peter Walubiri. Many people believe that these divisions have greatly affected the party’s growth.
The truth is that there are people who do not agree with our vision of building the structures, building from the base. That is from the bottom to the top, right from the local government to ensure that at every funeral, the LC I is the one who speaks first. Sometimes MPs are not there but the LC I will speak at the funeral or in any function. We should ensure that we win those seats and once we take the majority, that is when you can sustain a government.
We are rebuilding, so there are those who don’t see this vision. There are those who think that you can come from America or Canada or Kampala to dream about UPC which will be in government tomorrow without building the structures and without making UPC popular throughout the country like it was in the 1960s and 1980s.
How is the party preparing for the 2026 general elections?
We are preparing by doing truth and reconciliation within the party. We are reconciling with those who didn’t accept our vision and building the structures and the grassroots support and getting more seats in Parliament as we have done this term.
Last term we had 6 MPs, this term we have 9 MPs. We are trying to reconcile with members such that next time we put a candidate in, everyone supports that candidate and we win more seats.
Where do you see UPC in the next few years to come?
I think in the next 10 to 15 years, we should be in government, our focus is to be in government and that is the ultimate goal for any political party but we must do the right things first. We must have reconciliation, all members of UPC should be accommodated within the party. We should reconcile with everybody and recruit new members and ensure that they are also trained or well informed about the history of Uganda and the current situation and the future of Uganda.
Do you have any plan to challenge the leadership of the party at one point?
That is the problem of Uganda, and that is what cost the UPC government because of ambitions to control the party by individuals. So that kind of wanting positions but not knowing what to use with the position is what has killed the political parties. For me, I am somebody who is well informed about the crisis in Uganda and I feel that people should not just want a position for the sake of positions.