The opposition is upbeat about its chances of defeating President Museveni at the next elections, following the signing of an alliance deal last month.
But one old man who has been in the opposition for a long time, and was in prison for five years for allegedly attempting to overthrow Museveni’s government, does not believe that the alliance can pull it off.
Evaristo Nyanzi, a former minister of Commerce in Museveni’s first government, supports his political party, DP’s refusal to be part of the alliance that brings together FDC, UPC, JEEMA and CP.
Nyanzi spoke to us in an exclusive interview, the first in more than 10 years, several weeks before the alliance was signed, but his views will not have been changed by last month’s events.
Last month, opposition parties of the Inter-Party Co-operation (IPC) signed a protocol that makes it possible for them to field single joint candidates for all positions, including the presidency, for the 2011 general elections, which are almost a year away. Opposition parties have always argued that fielding different candidates has cost them major electoral positions as votes are split, leaving the ruling party to win.
However, the Democratic Party has refused to be part of this endeavour, arguing officially that it needs time to strengthen itself first before joining a coalition. Unofficially, however, DP leaders are wary that participation might lead to the party losing its supporters to the FDC, currently Uganda’s biggest opposition party, which is championing the alliance.
Evaristo Nyanzi, a lifelong DP member, told The Observer that he supports his party’s position all the way.
“I think DP is right. They must strengthen the party first,” he said. “I would rather have a strong party than a strong union of parties.”
Asked whether a coalition isn’t the best strategy to defeat Museveni, as its promoters argue, Nyanzi said:
“But they can’t do it even with a coalition. I don’t think they can remove him.”
He added: “You would rather go out as a party and appeal to the people as such and win. Then some people can join you if you are the strong party. Personally I am sceptical about these things of a coalition.”
STILL IN DP
Nyanzi who has led a quiet life since leaving prison for the second time in 2001, says he has never left DP, “at least not officially”, but he is only quiet partly because of old age.
“I have been active in politics for a very long time and I have gone through these difficulties I have enumerated,” he said. “I found that it is high time for me, particularly in my last years in this life, to enjoy life, be quiet and happy. I don’t want to be disturbed again. So I just want to be quiet with my people but I wish everybody success in whatever they do.”
Commenting on the squabbles and infighting in DP, Nyanzi said the party has a “very big problem, which they must identify and find a solution for.”
He, however, disagreed with those who dismiss it as the “Dead Party”, preferring to call it “a party with problems.”
“Because you see, its record is clean,” Nyanzi argued. “It is not like UPC, but the problem is that you must make sure you run the party nationally.”
Asked to assess the chances of Norbert Mao, Sam Lubega and Nasser Ntege Sebaggala, who have expressed interest in the DP leadership, Nyanzi was non-committal.
“I haven’t interacted with them. You see I am a bit dormant, so I don’t want to assess somebody I have not studied. It is difficult for me to tell you who should be the next party president.”
He however admitted that the future of the party depends on its leadership.
“If they have a good leadership, they have a future, if they have a bad leadership, then that is the end of the party.” Asked about Uganda’s prospects, Nyanzi was positive.
“If we work for posterity, then Uganda will prosper, but if you institute policies and programmes to serve interests of individuals, then you are sowing bad seeds for the future.”
He was surprisingly magnanimous in his assessment of President Museveni, the man who appointed him minister in February 1986 and then ordered his arrest in October the same year.
“He has tried his best,” Nyanzi said of the President. “Of course he is a human being; he has his weaknesses, but he has his strong points also. I think he should listen to good advice.”