The leader of National Unity Platform (NUP) Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine has on several occasions vowed never to hold talks with President Yoweri Museveni and the government on any matter.
Kyagulanyi explained that there is no way they can negotiate with the government about their fundamental rights, adding that while they are open to transparent dialogue, the first thing on the agenda should be when president Museveni is leaving power and that if any dialogue doesn’t answer that question, they are not ready for it.
The call for negotiations was amplified recently following the release on bail of the embattled MPs Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya, after a year and a half in prison. Rumours started circulating that the duo was released after negotiations by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga with the government.
The duo is accused of being behind the wave of machete killings of at least 26 people in greater Masaka in mid-2021.
Speaking to the Nile Post in an interview, the spokesperson of National Consultative Forum (NCF) Michael Osinde said that NUP should not shy away from engaging president Museveni for a peaceful transition.
Briefly, who are you?
I am Michael Osinde, the spokesperson of National Consultative Forum (NCF).
What is the National Consultative Forum (NCF)?
NCF is an institutionalised platform in Uganda that brings together all registered political parties and is embedded in the law under Article 71 subsection 2 of the constitution of the republic of Uganda. It is operationalised by section 20 of the Political Parties and Organizational Act. The vision is to have engagement in terms of dialogue and promote peaceful coexistence in our motherland Uganda through harmony. When you bring all political parties together you create that harmony with the vision of championing democracy in the country. The forum was launched on August 17 2010 by the Electoral Commission.
How often do you always meet with these political parties?
We have a structure of committees in NCF. There is a plenary which brings together all the committees, there is also the legal committee and the finance committee. So, the plenary is now the Parliament of all these political parties to now come with an agenda. In a year we meet over 10 times because in each quarter of the year, we have meetings running. The agenda is generated with the political parties to bring in the issues we should discuss.
In your view, why have most of the political parties failed to work together for toward a common goal?
In my view, there was something called inter party cooperation for dialogue which was organised by the entire opposition and there were some donors willing to fund it but the biggest problem is that when they came to now selecting the party to be the chair or the principal signatory to control funds, there was greed. There is greed in these political parties and that is what caused that forum to collapse.
You recall Olara Otunu and Dr Kizza Besigye could not agree on who should lead. The second thing was where Amama Mbabazi (the former Prime Minister) and Dr Kizza Besigye could not agree. They met in Entebbe and again the donor was identified who called upon them to move together but when he came to now selecting the person who is to lead, the thing collapsed. The real issue which we have is greed in political parties. People look at money, they don’t look at the people who are suffering.
What are you doing as NCF to ensure that these political parties work together?
Our mandate is to promote peaceful existence. We appreciate you are JEEMA, you have you own ideology, we appreciate you UPC, you have you own ideology, we appreciate you are FDC with different ideology but when it comes to bringing up programmes for Uganda, we believe that you can bury a few of your ideology points and come up with something which is bigger for the country and that is where we are driving. For example, by consensus all political parties have agreed that NCF should lead the national dialogue in Uganda. All political parties have the view that we need to have a national dialogue because of aspects of economics, socially there are issues that need to be discussed among others. As we speak now, NCF is on track to make sure that the agenda changes because of the environment. The political environment has changed.
NRM is accused of snubbing some of your meetings. Is it true?
The former chairman Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the former Prime Minister used to attend meetings however when he was replaced as a Prime Minister, he got another assignment in Gulu as a chancellor and his communication to us was that the secretary general of NRM should identify another person. I think the protocol there is that they are in the process of identifying somebody to come and represent NRM. We have written letters drawing the attention of the secretary general of NRM. After every five years we write to different political parties to either bring in new persons or recommend the same person to continue. NRM has not done that and in the table of the secretary general our letter is already there. It is not true that NRM is snubbing our meetings.
Some political parties like NUP and FDC have on several occasions declined to dialogue with president Museveni. How will dialogue happen in such a situation?
Initially, the inter-religious council was leading a national dialogue where NCF was part of it and Elders Forum among others. The structure was that if we are engaging in the national dialogue, political parties should be on board, inter-religious, the civil society and other opinion leaders. The reason was that there are some other unresolved issues in this country. We think due to some unresolved issues in different regions in this country we needed a dialogue. There are some political parties that think we need a peaceful transition in this country where we experience the president handling power peacefully and another one taking over like that. Most Ugandans think we need to sit down and this is where we disagree with NUP when you have that aspect of peaceful transition you cannot shy away from engaging president Museveni. He is the president of Uganda. We need to draw his attention to some of these aspects. So, you can’t have a dialogue and exclude president Museveni or NRM here. You must engage them. Apparently, Museveni is the president of Uganda, that may pain you but those are undeniable facts and he is the chairman of NRM. You need him on the table just to be fair.
What advice can you give to NUP and other political parties that don’t want to engage with president Museveni?
I want to plead to NUP, even if you have personal issues, when it comes to Uganda, (we need to come together) and we want to engage this country for the (sake of the) people. Come and bring your issues to the table and you hear the response. All parties should bring their issues on table so that the entire nation addresses them but staying away without bringing those issues on table is what NCF don’t agree with. Each political party will be given an opportunity to table their issues. To me that platform is very good for any political party so that we hear the response and (come up with solutions together).
How different is NCF from other platforms such as IPOD?
This platform is institutionalised and operationalised by the law. The law gives us a mandate to execute among other things duties like reducing conflicts in political parties by way of promoting peaceful coexistence. That is how we are different because we are not a pressure group. We are embedded in the law and that is why NUP joined NCF and refused to join IPOD because of the component of the law. This is a legal institution. And as we speak now, it is NUP chairing the meeting because NRM has not yet sent a representative and all the agenda of the dialogue is coming at the time when the chair is NUP.
How is the forum addressing the reforms geared towards addressing government repressive approach towards political parties?
We recently met the leader of the Opposition among other things to follow on reforms we had done the other time which were not taken up by Parliament so that he can retable them again. He promised us that he will do it. We have done a lot in terms of reforms but whether or not they are taken is the other question that we are lobbying the leader of opposition to make sure that this time round is brought on board.
What are some of the challenges that are hindering your performance?
Recently the president assented to the Bill that gives the mandate to NCF to roll out the code of conduct. That activity if you look at the region in Uganda needs about Shs 3 billion. We cannot afford (that amount) as NCF and we have been engaging the leader of opposition and the government to make sure that the budget of NCF is increased. That is a huge challenge we have. We have the mandate to execute the code of conduct but we can’t proceed because of the aspect of money. So, our hands are tied. So, we are having a huge challenge in terms of finance.
Ugandans seem to be losing trust in the opposition. In your view what could be the problem?
Of late, as the opposition, it is true, we are not coordinated but when you look at the aspect to do with by-elections you will find that the environment in the by-election speaks laud to so many aspects including voter bribery and the security being high handed. So even if we don’t agree as opposition, we are so disorganised that when it comes to opposition bringing up a candidate against NRM, political parties who nominated the candidate want to reduce it to the level of that political party as opposed to empire opposition. And in terms of having now people combing as opposition to support their opposition you will find that internal intrigue kills everything giving NRM an opportunity. There is a need for us to clean our house as opposition.
Even in an area where you don’t have a candidate, it would be important to support that candidate as opposition not as a political party.