DAVID LEWIS RUBONGOYA, the secretary general of the National Unity Platform (NUP), stated that his party has no intention of halting tours led by their party president, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
In an interview with Baker Batte Lule, Rubongoya asserted that the police have no authority to permit or prohibit political assemblies. Despite last week’s ban on their tours, he confirmed that the party will proceed with visits to the locations they have scheduled.
Were you surprised by last week’s decision by the Uganda Police to ban your party’s political tours?
Actually, we were surprised that they allowed us to continue our activities for as long as they did during the entire first phase. It seems they weighed the cost-benefit and realized that hundreds of thousands of people were turning up to hear our message, which I believe led them to impose the ban.
Initially, they cited concerns about terrorism targeting our president Robert Kyagulanyi, but when that excuse didn’t hold up, they resorted to this ban. It’s clear they’ve been looking for any possible reason to halt our activities.
Last week, Kyagulanyi said you are planning to defy the ban. Isn’t this setting the stage for confrontations, as we’ve seen in the past?
We have no intention of halting our tours. While we are law-abiding citizens and will notify the authorities of our next phase as required by law, we’re not asking for permission. The police seem to be acting in a political capacity, as evidenced by the letter from Deputy IGP Tumusiime Katsigazi, which looked like it could have come straight from the NRM Secretariat, as our president pointed out.
We are not seeking violence or confrontation. However, if the authorities choose to respond in such a manner, what can we do? Our focus is on exercising our constitutional rights; we are not willing to let those rights be undermined.
What do you hope to accomplish with these tours?
Our goal is to galvanize the public, drawing on Article 3 of the Constitution, which empowers Ugandans to use all available means to restore a constitution that has been violated. Although we are committed to non-violence, we aim to build a critical mass of Ugandans who will rise up in their millions to bring an end to a regime that refuses to adhere to the Constitution.
Is there a specific timeline for achieving this?
I don’t believe there is a fixed timeline for this effort. Our primary focus is to raise awareness among the people that this issue concerns the country, not just any individual. The change could happen immediately, or it might take some time, but our responsibility is to continue spreading this message.
How should observers interpret the large crowds attending your tours?
Politics is often measured by crowd size, and the crowds at our events serve as a barometer for the level of support a leader has in a given area. Historically, large crowds have been a powerful way to send a message across a country. We’re aware that some politicians, even here in Uganda, go as far as hiring crowds or busing people in to boost their numbers.
For us, that’s not an option—partly due to budget constraints, but mainly because we don’t need to. People willingly come to hear our message. Our events attract a diverse audience, from young to old, many of whom walk several kilometers to hear our leader speak. This speaks volumes about their commitment and determination to our cause.
How do you respond to claims that people attend your events just to see a popular artist?
It’s rather disingenuous for those in the NRM to make such claims, especially when they’ve gone to great lengths to abduct, imprison, and even kill supporters of someone they merely label as a ‘singer.’ If Robert Kyagulanyi was just an artist, why did they feel the need to resort to election rigging and violence?
The votes he received, even amidst widespread cheating, speak for themselves. This narrative that people come to our events just to see
a performer is simply dishonest, and they know it. It’s consistent with how they’ve tried to delegitimize their opponents in the past, downplaying the significance of crowd sizes. But the reality is, these crowds matter, and they know it. We were surprised that these tours were allowed to continue for as long as they did.
What strategy did you employ to make this happen?
We were somewhat surprised, but it also made sense given our ongoing efforts. Firstly, the crimes committed against our supporters in November 2020 and early 2021 have been referred to the International Criminal court (ICC). There’s individual accountability involved, with names of district police commanders, regional police commanders, and other officers now before the ICC.
So, they might be reconsidering their actions due to the potential legal repercussions at an international level. Unfortunately, over 20 of our supporters are still missing, and I feel that the media isn’t giving this issue the attention it deserves.
Secondly, President Museveni’s son has been politically active in an unlawful manner. They were probably trying to find a way to justify that but couldn’t. Even though they usually lack a moral compass, allowing him to engage in politics while preventing Hon Kyagulanyi, who leads a legally registered political party, from doing the same may have presented a moral dilemma for them.
Police claim you deviated from the agreed-upon plan by holding processions in the roads. How do you respond to that?
The police are being dishonest. Their own representative, Muhoozi, has been holding processions and engaging in various activities. The only difference is that he’s been waving at buildings and possibly transporting people to his events.
They’re making efforts to stop us because they’re genuinely concerned. General Museveni has been listening to a lot of propagandists and was under the impression that our movement was just a passing phase. However, they’re now realizing the gravity of the situation as the people of Uganda are determined to bring about change.
Concerns have been raised about Kyagulanyi’s messaging, with some critics labeling it as sectarian. How do you respond to these claims?
Those making such claims are both dishonest and disingenuous. If you examine the messages our president has been delivering, you’ll find that they are tailored to each specific region he visits. In Ankole and Kigezi, he addressed the issue of marginalization.
In Busia, he talked about the gold industry and how locals are being pushed out. In Bugisu, he discussed the Bugisu Cooperative Union and how Museveni is exploiting it.
Therefore, when he speaks to the Baganda, it’s misleading to label his messaging as tribalistic and divisive. Critics seem to bring up tribalism selectively, focusing only on his interactions in Buganda, because they’re aware of the injustices there and are afraid of his message. But it’s important to note that our party and our president believe in national unity. Kyagulanyi doesn’t just talk about it; he embodies it through his relationships and actions. He is a true advocate for national unity, not just in words but in deeds.”