TDA is one of the most powerful ideas for political change that have emerged in a long time. It has brought together all change seeking Ugandans from active political parties, civil society, retired political and cultural leaders, and religious icons. It has also been gradual – from the endless meetings we had at Uganda House, courtesy Olara Otunnu, then, later, in several small hotels that would risk shelter us. Then the long campaign for free and fair elections, sub climaxing into the citizens compact sealed at Hotel Africana, then the retreat at Katoomi which agreed the formation of the TDA and its draft protocol, followed by an official launch.
At no stage, have discussions been easy. Now, more than ever, after the ‘close’ of nominations for TDA flag bearer which happened at the odd hour of 10.10pm of a Friday night after another uncomfortable decision to extend the time for nominations in the aid of one man – Amama Mbabazi, the discussions are likely to get even harder.
TDA founder Olara Otunu has penned down a considered opinion to the TDA leadership stating his discomfort with the idea of TDA participating in the 2016 elections without a complete overhaul of the whole system of elections in Uganda. He therefore goes further than suggesting just some electoral reforms, as condition for participation in the 2016 elections.
Kizza Besigye won the FDC flag bearer race on his promise to challenge the status quo and force electoral reforms before the next elections can be held, emphasizing the power of the people over some timetable drafted by a discredited Electoral Commission. On Friday 11th September 2015, at a press conference at FDC headquarters, he set September 18 as deadline to government to embark on reforms on else.
Gilbert Bukenya, another TDA flag bearer has told the Daily Monitor that he would pull out of TDA if the alliance insisted on reforms before elections, arguing that it would only help Museveni retain power, unchallenged. He noted that the alliance’s major objective was to win power, not to reform electoral laws. He argued that it is the TDA government of national unity, after taking power in 2016 that would implement the desired reforms.
Norbert Mao, another nominated TDA flag bearer has stated categorically that if Erias Lukwago’s pressure group, the Platform for Truth and Justice was admitted to the TDA, he would march with DP out of TDA. Lukwago was at the TDA offices Friday last week demanding response to his group’s request to join TDA. Once admitted, Lukwago is likely to seek to be nominated as TDA flag bearer. He is not likely to accept the excuse of an expired deadline- as it has been extended before in the matter of Amama Mbabazi. As promised by Mao, this will happen after Mao is out of TDA.
Last week, Uganda Peoples Congress, signatory to the TDA protocol issued an ultimatum to TDA to stop having Olara Otunu at TDA posing as UPC president whereas not, because Akena was the legitimate UPC President. This begs another difficult question – is UPC a member of TDA?
Nominated well before Amama Mbabazi, Conservative Party’s Semusu Mugobansonga is the TDA flag bearer that is, curiously, not mentioned. He had some issues with the TDA leadership though, which were hopefully resolved. So, the actual number of TDA presidential hopefuls is now five, each with different view on the way forward.
Mbabazi has also severally noted that he has concerns with the TDA protocol and that he would continue engaging with the TDA leadership over them, but reaffirmed his full commitment to TDA ideals but also that he was still a member of the NRM. This poses a serious dilemma for TDA. In the likely event that Mbabazi becomes the TDA flag bearer, the ruling party is likely to take some hopefully futile but widely publicized and embarrassing legal steps against not just Mbabazi, but also the TDA, in some form.
When we were conceiving TDA, we did not anticipate most of these contradictions. Now we ought to confront them head on and find a way that would allow every shade of opinion in the TDA to be winner. It is for this reason that I personally
, in good faith, opted not to subject myself to the TDA as flag bearer, to reduce on the amount of confusion in the alliance. Maybe this is the time to go back to the drawing board, even if it takes a few more days of uncertainly, with no one else “allowed in the room” but us, the primary stakeholders. If we don’t, TDA could become that wonderful creature that died of ‘multiple organ failure’.
Kalinge-Nnyago is Presidential Aspirant, 2016 and TDA founder member
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