President Yoweri Museveni has warned those tired of his leadership that he's not about retire until the problems of development and security on the African continent have been fully solved.
The president said not even ”petty issues” like elections will force him out of power without seeing a better situation on continent. Museveni, who has been Uganda president for the last 32 years and counting, was speaking at the Interparty Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) summit at Speke Resort, Munyonyo.
Museveni alluded to the fact that, the lack of strong leaders like himself, nearly led to the wiping out of Africa some years back by the colonialists and to the current problems that the continent is facing. Museveni said there is almost no alternative leadership because even the existing opposition on the continent and particularly Uganda, only engages in "petty" and "small" issues like elections.
”The political class, instead of talking about the destiny of Africa, you’re talking about petty things - elections - who comes in. That is why I have said, if I still have strength, I will put my point of view - not to retire when Africa, when the original issues of why Africa nearly perished are not addressed. And you’re just addressing small things - elections.” he said.
Museveni who briefly sat in the empty chair reserved for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party president, Patrick Oboi Amuriat at the summit slammed the opposition for being ”petty”. FDC, Uganda's largest opposition party snubbed the first historic IPOD summit backtracking on an earlier commitment to attend the summit.
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) secretary general, Justine Kasule Lumumba also slammed FDC for sidestepping an important opportunity to dialogue with "the commander in chief" of the country. Lumumba joked that since Museveni is the head of state, he can also represent FDC in spirit at the summit. It's at this moment that Museveni moved briefly from his chair to Amuriat's empty seat, triggering ululations and applause.
Lumumba said the FDC secretary general, Nandala Mafabi was the first person to call for the summit during the IPOD council meetings, but his party chickened out at the last moment. By sitting on FDC's chair, Lumumba argued that Museveni had duly occupied a vacuum that FDC created. She argued that whenever a vacuum is created, someone will always occupy it.
"Whenever you create a vacuum, your excellency thank you for demonstrating that…whenever you create a vacuum,a gap, it has to be filled. You can as well represent the FDC since you’re the head of state, you can even represent them since they created the vacuum." she said.
Lumumba argued that this was the only opportunity that FDC had to directly raise their issues to Museveni in front of hundreds of Ugandans.
"I call on my colleagues whatever may not going on well in the field, do not leave the field. This was the opportunity for you to come and raise it to the commander in chief….But leaving the field and leaving it to Jeema, NRM, DP to be the ones to talk for you yet you who have felt it more would have explained it better than us."
Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) president Jimmy Akena, who is chairing the summit, said it is an opportunity to start the process of serious dialogue. He said even if he had been invited for tea or photo op without serious agenda, he would come.
Akena said although FDC snubbed the summit, the party is still in IPOD and will be briefed on the outcomes of the meeting.
"I must also report that we have conversations with the Forum for Democratic Change president and essentially their concern centres around the right of association, they have made it clear that they feel their fundamental right to associate is being hindered and on that basis they have opted not to be part of this meeting. But they have made it clear they are not opting out of IPOD. They have stated that they are going to remain engaged in the process of IPOD and we’ll have to brief them on the outcome of this summit here today." Akena said.
However Museveni said the issue of assembly as raised by FDC is a nonstarter because they always choose the wrong venue, wrong message and harbour wrong intentions.
”The problem of assembly is not a problem at all, it is because of three issues. First venue; where do you want to meet to have a public rally, in the market? No. The market is a place for tomatoes, minzani (weighing scale) and butungulu (onions) of small. No, we’re not going to allow you to have a rally there. Secondly, what is your intention? If your intention is to cause trouble like what happened in France recently, no, were not going to allow you the troublemakers. Then thirdly; the message. What is the message, what message are you giving because you hear other people say they want to organize what they call the Arab spring. What is Arab spring?” Museveni said.
The summit discussion is focused on four thematic areas including strengthening political parties to enhance their relevance and effectiveness, consolidation of constitutional and electoral reforms, promotion of inclusiveness in national politics especially in relation to the role of youth and women in politics and strengthening democratic governance, human rights and observance of rule of law.
On his part, DP president Norbert Mao said the actions by political actors after the summit is what will give it meaning rather than merely meeting. He said there is a need of setting a goal of achieving peaceful transition in Uganda for the first time.
The summit, Mao said the summit is about promoting political hygiene and cooling tensions between political actors.
”There are many cynics and skeptics out there but we should by our words and actions send out a clear message that what were are engaged in is not just about leaders, politics and politicians. It is about Uganda. It is about our country and putting it first. Our goals should be that Uganda should see for once what we have never seen before - peaceful transition. That for once we should have an army that lasts more than one regime. That we break the circle of violence and unconstitutional changes of government. Mr president, it would be wonderful if you attended the swearing of a president that is not you.
WIPING OUT OPPOSITION
On threats to wipe out opposition, Museveni reiterated his earlier threat of wiping out but also said that it will not even be due his own efforts but rather the opposition’s own self-destruction. Museveni said the opposition always chooses the wrong option when it comes to national issues.
”Wipe out opposition, yes, I said that point and you’re in danger of being wiped out, why? Because you miscalculate, you allow the NRM to be the ones to solve the problems alone because you take the wrong position. We had a war in northern Uganda, [LRA rebel leader Joseph]Kony was killing people, the NRM said the answer to Kony is to fight and defeat him. Some of the opposition were saying, no, no, you beg Kony. We said; no we can’t beg Kony." Museveni said.