A few days ago Mao, the President General of DP was roundly condemned, when he signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling NRM party. He subsequently took oath as minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs anyway.
Political parties, including DP were unbanned when in a 2005 national referendum Ugandans dumped the non-party system of politics and government. This had been instituted in 1986 by President Museveni, the enemy or “devil incarnate” according to some adversaries, to curb “sectarian tendencies”.
Mao thus embarked on a mission to help, as summed up in the agreement, to build a more cohesive and less despotic country that can boast of trust and integrity in its national systems and programs.
And herein lies the gamble. If Mao succeeds where others have failed, he will be hailed as a visionary and astute politician. Should he fail, he will be equally rebuked and likely excommunicated.
True, even with 20 years of interlude the old parties have stayed the same if not worse. UPC and DP respectively, remain largely Nilotic, northern and Anglican and; Bantu (mainly Baganda), southern and Catholic providing the perfect excuse to ban them.
They ought, by now, to have gotten rid of sectarianism, reformed into well-functioning organizations, explored and proposed better ways of contributing to more effective governance of the country. Instead, mediocrity is seemingly getting more firmly entrenched. The reactions to Mao’s move are further proof of this decadence.
At 55, Mao (and Museveni) was probably running out of time and options to crown his service to his motherland as the opposition largely resorted to pre-electoral coalitions to dislodge the NRM amidst mixed messages by the coalitionists.
Perhaps intentionally, these alliances are poorly modeled and, therefore, inconsequential. Politicians fear to disappoint their sectarian faithful and are reluctant to surrender their glamour, grandiosity and principal source of livelihood.
Defiance campaigns such as walk-to-work, togikwatako have only caused harm, loss of life and property. Meantime, the inter-party organization is dejected and its future uncertain.
Characteristically, Mao’s critics chose to hit him below the belt instead of addressing issues. One critic called him “empitambi” or human faeces in Luganda. And these are the people who aspire to lead this country.
Additionally, the opposition still lacks significant alternative socio-economic, educational, taxation and other programs and policies that can answer to the all-important “one H” and the “five Ws”: how, why, when, what, where, for whom to implement them.
Besides, it would appear many critics formed opinions before reading the agreement itself. Mao didn’t defect to NRM unlike many of his past and present compatriots who crossed to UPC, NRM, FDC and NUP.
Mao didn’t cede DP to NRM like Kenya’s Arap Moi handed over KADU to KANU in the 1960s, nor Kibalama who sold his NURP outfit in 2020 to what became NUP. Instead, the agreement allows DP to “determine its own position to any policy or legislative matter”. Interestingly Arap Moi ended up heading KANU and becoming president of Kenya.
Moreover, Mao will be “the lead minister for coordinating the National Dialogue and the whole of government response on Constitutional Reforms ...”.
Surely, his gamble deserves support and patience!!
What is lacking in this agreement are deliverables and timelines, safeguards to ensure adherence by all parties, review mechanism and provisions for admitting new cooperators.
Sitting in cabinet, Mao must ponder other issues such as nurturing peaceful transition and, the lack of internal democracy, dynastic succession, institutionalized impunity and corruption, commercialization of politics (opposition too suffers from most of these maladies).
The other is electoral reforms, not least the appointing authority for an independent electoral body issues which continue to inhibit this country, “gifted by nature”, from reaching its full potential.
The author is a journalist