Despite suffering defeat in several attempts to come back to the August House, Alice Alaso, the former Serere Woman MP says her zeal to bring about political change in the country remains unshaken.
Alaso who was unveiled as the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) flag bearer for the forthcoming Serere County by-election believes that Parliament can give her a broader spectrum to advance the interest of the ordinary people.
Speaking to the Nile Post in an interview, Alaso sought the support of all opposition political parties in her effort to come back to Parliament.
Congratulations upon being unveiled as the party flag bearer for Serere County. Why are you trying to come back?
Thank you very much. You know I am a political animal and I hold very strong views which we believe can form a worthwhile input on the direction our nation is taking. I would like to come back so that I can use the parliamentary platform to advance the interest of the citizens. As Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), we believe that the future of this country rests upon taking the people first.
So, I would like to advance the interest of the citizens. For me who has been out here, there is a very big disconnect between how the leaders in the country run the country and the needs of the locals. I want to push the agenda of ordinary people in this country.
The second issue is that the Parliamentary platform can help us to engage in national processes apart from my local issues which are about effective representation, uniting Serere district and advancing their needs. Parliamentary platform will give me a broader spectrum to advance the issue of transition.
What are some of the strategies that you have laid down to win this by-election?
Ahahahaha (she laughed) I have a lot of strategies which are going to be very effective but you are likely to share them on the Nile Post and then the NRM will know how to deal with my strategies, so I am not going to tell you my strategies but I can give you the hope. I am not going into these elections for the first time, so I do my basic ground work and preparation to mobilise people around the idea that I have. I have done preparation for vote protection, information dissemination (among others).
You lost twice, what gives you hope that this time round the people of Serere will trust you with their votes?
You have also not said that I won thrice ahahahaha (she laughed). Before I lost twice, I actually won thrice. So, what gives me hope is I don’t want to be a hopeless human being because life then is not worth living the moment you decide to lose hope. So, every other time I have lost and I have learned something new but also the people have learnt something new in that absence. Both of us, I and the people of Serere, we have been learning from the two times that I have lost and we believe that this is totally a different time.
Did you reach out to other political parties to support your candidature?
We have reached out to all political parties that are in the opposition. We have reached out to the National Unity Platform (NUP), we have reached out to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). We have reached to the leadership of democratic Party (DP) in the Teso region and those are already on board. We also reached out to the Uganda People Congress in the district. So, we are waiting for the (responses from some of the parties). We also reached out to JEEMA and they are also finalising the process and I think they will come up at some point to declare their position. But at least we have reached out to them.
There has been the issue of ballot stuffing, intimidation, voter bribery among others in our by-elections. Are you not afraid of the political environment which many people feel is not favourable?
I am extremely concerned about what has been happening not only in by-elections but also generally the elections in Uganda and that is why all well-meaning Ugandans in and outside the opposition including the NRM should be concerned about the political directions of this country.
That culture of militarising politics and creating violence in campaigns is a very dangerous culture, it is a recipe for national instability and it is something that could go out of hand in years to come. We have a nation to defend, we have people to protect and so we all need to unite and condemn it in the first place.
How far has ANT gone in terms of building its strength and presence at the grassroot level across the country?
As ANT we have done some work in some districts. We have coordinators in all districts and in all sub counties, an (interim) structures not the substantive ones. So, we can go anywhere in Uganda and say we have a coordinator at a district level. Then in some districts, we have structures that go up to the village.
As someone who was in Parliament, what is your assessment of the current Parliament because many people think that it is not doing well?
I have been out of Parliament for seven years and what I can imagine is that the Parliament is the quality of people or the capability of the people who are voted in.
Ugandans voted those particular legislators. When you send a legislator who cannot articulate your issues to represent you, that is the output that you get. Those are the people Ugandans sent and that is the output they are getting. My take on joining the Parliament is to add my voice to those that are strong, to those voices that focus on people, the voices that will call on the government when it is not doing the work in the right way. That is what I want to do.
Why is ANT not felt at the grass root level and it is not popular when you compare it to other political parties. What is wrong?
It is not about prominence; we have not moved all around the country because the resources have limited us. If we had resources, we would have been able to go everywhere to introduce ANT. In places where we have been able to reach, we have successfully introduced ANT. I will give examples of Bugweri where we even have LC III councilors in the villages. In Serere we have LC III chairpersons and district councilors. In Terego we have an LC V councilor and district councillors.
So, where some work has been done, ANT is known and it has leadership but due to lack of resources, there are places we have never gone to. ANT has a very powerful idea, the idea which will transform the political culture of Uganda. ANT is a value based political party. Ugandans are looking for leaders of integrity and that is what we are telling them.
Ugandans are looking for leaders who are honest, who want to bring financial discipline into government. That is what we are pushing for in ANT. We have the right message; we have the right ideas.
What is your view about Gen Muhoozi’s involvement in national politics?
While I think that Gen Muhoozi has the right to contest if he wants, the only problem I have with him is that he is misusing his position as a soldier in uniform. Soldiers in uniforms belong to all of us including me and you. My encouragement to Gen Muhoozi and probably the president is that if they think he is the best they have, let him get out of the army. It is dangerous to (involve the army in the national politics) for national stability.
Opposition has on several occasions tried to remove president Museveni from power but all attempts seem to have failed. How long will the struggle take?
It may take a very short time and we may wake up and find the transition is facing us in the morning and it may take another more years. Whatever it is while we are still alive, let’s contribute ideas that will take the country forward. Every Uganda has a duty to create the country they want. We in the opposition are simply amplifying their voices. So, every Ugandan not just in the opposition, Ugandans in the NRM should even be at the forefront because they have had the opportunity to lead the country for over 37 years. They should be at the forefront to ensure that we create a better Uganda than that which was handed to us in fore fathers.
In your view, what should be done to restore the deteriorating civic space in the country?
Basically, there are two things to focus on, one basically empowering the citizen with information that they should know their rights. The second thing is to guide the regime in power that freedom of expression doesn’t mean as they call it riot, does not mean undermining the regime. Apart from civic awareness, advocacy and educating those law enforcers, it is a question of overall leadership in the country.
What do you make of the current situation in the country as NRM marked 37 years in power?
There were a lot of things going right initially. For instance, professionalisation of the army, adopting laws and constitution that was gender friendly and a number of things were going right at the start but over years, I think NRM has helped to undo its own legacy.
There has been increasing intolerance to people who (hold) different views and that is not good. Corruption has overshadowed literally everything in service delivery. Lastly among the other things which is not giving the NRM a good legacy is when you asked who has president Museveni groomed to be among the possible leaders of this country. You cannot find that answer to it.
What is your last message to the people of Serere and Ugandans at large?
I would appreciate them for having given me an initial support that motivated me to contest. I appeal to them to go all the way with my candidature knowing that in me they have an effective leader both at the local and at the national level. I will represent them well and I will do my best to unite a very largely divided district like Serere. I appeal to them to give me the votes and protect the votes so that on 23 February 2023, I will be declared a member of Parliament for Serere County. To people of Uganda my candidature In Serere will give us a useful addition to the national Parliament. I would like to appeal to them to support me.