Having been the biggest opposition party since multiparty politics resumed in 2005, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) lost that position to the National Unity Platform (NUP) led by singer-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine.
However, there remains debate about whether NUP will be a formidable party in five years to come.
Speaking to The Nile Post in an interview, Wasswa Birigwa, the FDC national chairperson, said NUP and Alliance for National Transformation still have a long way to mature in politics adding that such parties should never be compared to FDC that has stood a test of time.
Opposition members have criticised the government for the poor handling of the second wave of Covid-19 in the country. If FDC was in power how would it have handled the pandemic?
Initially in the first lockdown, there was good will from the majority of the citizens of this country in such a way that, they behaved well, listened and followed the Covid-19 guidelines and many of our citizens contributed towards the mitigation of Covid-19, so there was that good will .The second lockdown got many people unaware and mind you, many of these people had been severely affected by the very first lockdown and they were still in the process of recovery.
Most of them were already in debt and most of them could not meet their daily bread. So when this second lockdown came in, the question was where is the money that was contributed not only by the citizens but also the international community including the money that was borrowed. So far the government is unable to account for the money that was sent to us through loans or donations.
My proposal would be whether we like it or not Covid-19 is here to stay for three or four years, actually there is another wave that is coming and the question is that are we going to continue being locked down? We need to look for a permanent solution. The permanent solution that I can see is one of mass vaccination.
FDC has on several times claimed that shs100, 000 that the government is giving out to the vulnerable is its idea but some opposition members are complaining that the money is too little for the 42 days. What is your view?
It so happened that I am the one who brought up that idea in the first incident when I was running for the party flag .My suggestion was that we give Shs 100, 000 per household not individuals for a month and for me I suggested that it should be continuous for six months because even after the lockdown it will take time before someone picks up and is able to work normally. Since it was a good idea, FDC as a party adopted it, the person you are talking to, I am the one who started it.
Obviously if you give somebody Shs100, 000… that cannot pay rent but it is the beginning. This is not Museveni’s issue, but it’s for the whole country and the country is represented by the Parliament.
Do you think this Parliament has the strength and vigour to check the executive?
Has it even been tried even once? First of all, there is a law that in the case of the situation we are in, Museveni should have called for a state of emergency .This situation is not for Museveni, please involve people. For me I see people are not involved in the fight to curb Covid-19 in the country. The debate should continue on how the money received was used, the money we have borrowed, how it disappeared and how it has been spent. This is the debate that we must have.
FDC intends to replace all the independents who stood in the last election. Do you think this is a step in the right direction?
If you are in FDC and you decide to contest for the party flag maybe for some reasons and you decide to become an independent, then that means you are no longer in FDC and by the way as a chairman of the party, it’s my office that deals with discipline. Our constitution says if you leave the party and become an independent or join another party, you are no longer a member as simple as that and I don’t see any problem with it.
So if you decided to go, then go, nobody forced you to become FDC in the first place, why should it be difficult to leave FDC? You can reapply to become a member of FDC again because the constitution allows those who have left to reapply. Simply humble yourself and say I want to come back to the party, and for me I don’t see any problem with that unless you have really done horrible things.
What is the fate of FDC MPs who were appointed in the shadow cabinet?
That is something which is being discussed and I can’t tell their fate because no decision has been taken yet. So far, I can’t comment about it as far as I am concerned. The issue is acceptance before consulting the party that is all.
The departure of Joyce Ssebugwawo from the party, is it not going to affect you in one way or another?
Initially, she left the gap but we have so many competent people within the party that can fill her position and as FDC we are not crashing, we are not disappearing because some of our people left. This a democratic party.
Don’t you think that her departure illustrates the extent to which the opposition has been infiltrated by the NRM?
No government will allow a party like FDC to thrive, and Museveni is going to do his job of trying to infiltrate the opposition. We just need to be very careful and be able to isolate those we believe are working for him otherwise all governments will infiltrate because they want to know what is happening and we can’t do anything about it.
People claim that the NUP emergence is a big threat to FDC.What do you think?
NUP is a wave, the wind that comes, the wind that blows because in my opinion, for a party to be strong, it has to extend its structures, and it has to be structured nationally. There was a big wave in Buganda because of several reasons and that was not because NUP was everywhere.
Nevertheless, they are there but I think they still need time to mature into politics like FDC or to mature to become a national party. FDC is a national party and you know that we are all over the country.
It is going to take some time for NUP to be able to achieve that or to become organised because it also took a long time for FDC.
What must be done to remove Museveni from power because there have been several attempts by the opposition but all the strategies seem not to be working?
Definitely Museveni can’t be removed by simply massaging him, he is a military man, he believes in militarism. It can come from within his own government or the military will overthrow him. Two, the masses will wake up after they have been squeezed for a long time and they cause a revolution.
What are some of the achievements you have registered as FDC national chairperson?
Holding the party together. I think that is a very big achievement because there was a time when we had an aspect over Mugisha Muntu going away and he went away with so many parliamentarians.
That was trouble for the party but we were able to hold the party together at that time .
But I don’t want to take the credit alone.
What other ambitions do you have beyond being the national chairman of the party? Should we expect you to offer yourself for the party presidency?
If I offer myself as the party president, I would be stepping down. After being the chairman of the party which is the highest honour, I cannot now become the president of the party. I will serve so long as I feel I am contributing towards the party and you can never tell the future. We shall see how we move on.