President Yoweri Museveni has said that democracy begins with dialogue and that anyone who calls himself or herself a democrat, should support dialogue or miss out on the opportunity to be clearly understood and influence opponents to his or her side.
President Museveni made the remarks during the Inter Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) Summit 2018 held under the theme “Strengthening Multi-Party Governance in Uganda”, at Munyonyo Speke Resort Hotel in Kampala.
“I have always welcomed the opportunity for dialogue. To me, dialogue is a command from God. When I come out and say I want to lead people and then say I do not want to talk to so and so, I am failing in my mandate. I am not part of those that do not want to talk; I have never been,” he said.
The President said that even when he was fighting against Tito Okello and Milton Obote, he still had talks with them.
“I held talks with Tito in Nairobi even when we were shooting at each other,” he said. He added that he also attended the Democratic Party relaunch at Grand Imperial hotel.
“You cannot say you are a leader but you don't want to talk. When you talk it does not mean that you agree but you get an opportunity to put your views,” he said.
President Museveni said that he was forced to go into politics because of his concern for the prosperity and strategic security of Africa.
“I didn't have to join politics; even today I don't have to be in politics. I am a cattle keeper, my job is cattle keeping. I am not a ruler. My father died at 97 and had never been an LC1 Chairman. I am the first in my family to be in government,” he said.
The President said that he joined politics because of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who wanted to unite East Africa. “To the political leaders if we do not deal with the prosperity of our people, even if we have as many transitions as the year can accommodate, our people will not benefit,” he said.
President Museveni said that his other reason for joining politics was the strategic security of the African continent. He explained that there is need to understand why Africa was colonized and to protect the continent from neo-colonialism.
“We were colonized because of the incompetence and bankruptcy of our leaders. By 1900s the whole of Africa was under colonialism apart from Ethiopia and some people who were colonized like the original Americans perished,” he said.
The President said that he does not agree with people that say Africa was colonized because of lack of technology because China, which was backward, was able to fight against colonialists.
On public assemblies, the President said that government has no problem with people addressing rallies as long as they do not hold them in markets where people are trying to earn a living. He called upon political actors to avoid unconstitutional politics because government would not allow it.
“If you want to organize the ‘Arab Spring’, we are not going to allow what happened in the Gulf to happen here. I am very happy that I have fulfilled my pledge to defend the women in markets from looting. Looting of shops has never happened during the NRM government,” he said.
On the issue of torture, President Museveni said that the NRM Government is against it. He revealed that he had talked to the security people in the social media video and reminded them of the rules of engagement when arresting. He, however, added that security would always come in if the political actors are indisciplined.
On his comments about wiping out opposition, the President said that the opposition parties were in danger of being wiped out because they miscalculate and do not want to work with NRM to deal with the issues facing the country.
“During the war with Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army, the opposition opposed us even when we told them the only solution was to defeat Kony. The opposition spent time attacking us as if we were the problem and when we defeated Kony, we took all the credit and that is why we won the 2011 elections in the whole country,” he said.
President Museveni called upon the opposition to work with the government so that they can share success and avoid being wiped out.
“The opposition are worried about Uganda because it is coming up. As you drive along Jinja road and you will see so many factories but now see people have started attacking the investors but we are going to defeat them. Instead of working with me or government to address these issues, I am working alone and when I defeat them I will say that I worked alone,” he said.
The Uganda People’s Congress Party (UPC) Chairperson, Jimmy Akena, commended the summit and said that all participants had listened to each other’s views and at the end of the day the summit was worthwhile.
“We cannot chart a way into a future without dialogue. Many issues develop out of misunderstandings and lack of communication,” he said.
Justice Forum Party (JEEMA) Chairman, Asuman Basalirwa, said that the outcomes of the summit should be respected and hoped that they would create mutual respect among the political parties.
“What is fundamental is to assure the country and the world that this process is beyond the picture opportunity and the cups of tea,” he said.
The Democratic Party (DP) Chairperson, Nobert Mao, said that democracy starts with dialogue but should not end in dialogue but rather in actions.
“We have had some difficulties that necessitated that we talk to each other and now have no excuse not to talk to each other,” he said.
Katja Kerschbaumer, a representative from the Democratic Governance Facility commended the summit and said that dialogue was key step in generating consensus on the way forward.
“We believe that strong political parties are key pillars of democracy. Consensus on important issues on this agenda will go a long way in improving lives of Ugandans,” she said. Eiment Van Middelkoop, the Chairperson of Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD) said the summit was the beginning of a new leg of dialogue and legislative progress in Uganda.
The IPOD Summit was hosted and funded by NIMD. the IPOD which was formed in 2009, is a forum for interparty dialogue for political parties represented in parliament. The principle objective of IPODIS to contribute towards the development of a well-functioning democratic multiparty political system through fostering inclusive interparty dialogue: as well as enhancing capacities of political parties to become better institutions that are accountable, responsive to the aspirations of society and with distinctive programmatic identity.
The summit was attended by the IPOD Executive Secretary and NIMD Country Representative Frank Rusa, IPOD Council Chairman Fred Ebil, the NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba, DP Secretary General Gerald Siranda, JEEMA Secretary General Kateregga Muhamad, Chief Whip of government Ruth Nankabirwa, NRM Deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong, and NRM Deputy Treasurer Kenneth Omona and members of the, Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) and Elders Forum, diplomatic corps among others.