In an interview, Dr Olara Otunnu, the president of UPC speaks a whole lot about electoral reforms and several other issues.
Dr. Olara Otunnu is the President of UPC and a member of the opposition coalition pushing for electoral reforms. Umaru Kashaka interviewed him on this and other issues
QN: Why didn’t you (the coalition) invite President Yoweri Museveni to attend the national conference on electoral reforms?
The national consultation was designed for all Ugandans to be truly a national coming together not of any particular political persuasion, not of any particular regions, social sectors, but the entire country.
That is why the invitation went out to all and sundry, including President Museveni and NRM. The choice was made by him (Museveni) not to attend; that was his responsibility and only he can answer to that. But, we proceeded with the consultation as a national citizens’ consultation.
Are you optimistic that your proposed reforms will be adopted at the end of the day?
I am satisfied that the people of Uganda in their preponderant numbers support the Citizens’ Compact on Free and Fair Elections that was adopted on Wednesday in Kampala. That is what matters.
But your critics say your reforms only target President Museveni because you are bent on removing him from power
Incidentally, I do not talk about reform agenda. No. We are talking about a completely new system of organising and managing elections.
It is not about a little piece here, a little leg there, you fix this, and you bridge this gap, no. The system as it is now; the status quo is completely without any legitimacy. It is a system which is integrated, married into State House machinery and controlled by Yoweri Museveni at State House. We want to dismantle that and put in its place a new system which can guarantee free and fair elections.
People, especially UPC members, had a lot of expectations in you when you returned to Uganda in 2010. Do you think you have lived up to their expectations?
I cannot address their expectations; that is subjective and you should address that (question) to those who had expectations.
UPC has a very important place in the politics of Uganda not only historically, but currently and there is no party that provides a clear-cut alternative to Museveni’s regime than UPC.
Are you ready to be the next President of Uganda?
That is not an important question and does not preoccupy me. I am not actually very anxious about any particular position in Uganda; I am not hungering for some kind of role at any level of Uganda.
I have had the good fortune to occupy very significant positions at international levels and to play significant roles at international levels. What is driving me is the need to free our people from unbelievable humiliations and agony; not personal ambitions.
Do you regret leaving New York to join active politics?
Well, it was not an easy choice for me; it was an agonsing decision. It was not something that I looked forward to, but of a conscience choice nonetheless that this (return) must be done.
Generally, I find politics distasteful and I think the political culture and situation in Uganda is particularly distasteful. But the reasons for coming back and getting involved was essentially seeing the unbelievable agony of our people and the need to join my compatriots to do whatever it takes to remove this regime from power so that our people are freed.
But you failed to vote for UPC and for yourself in the 2011 elections. How can you explain this?
It was a gesture of moral protest. It was to underscore for the people of Uganda and the world the fact that that particular exercise of 2011 was a sham and that the votes being cast on that day would not determine which party forms government.
Are you going to participate in the 2016 general elections?
Now let us not jump ahead of ourselves here. As UPC, we have made no decision concerning that.
As the campaign for free and fair elections — which is the consortium that brings together some five political parties and a number of civil society organisations — we too in that consortium, which I chair, we have not made a decision concerning that. So this remains an open issue.
Your party members accuse you of being a dictator and failing to hold the party’s delegates conference.
We have had party organs since I came into UPC leadership. On Thursday, we had our national executive committee meeting called cabinet, which we hold regularly on the last Thursday of every month.
That is the key organ that runs the party on the day-to-day basis. About the delegates’ conference, before I was elected UPC president, there had been years before a delegates conference was held and the reasons were largely practical. We need to mobilise resources for such huge meeting and it is not just UPC — all political parties have to organise and mobilise resources to make it happen.
But there are Museveni elements within UPC and have been using UPC colours; using UPC shelter to cause problems within the party and to push Museveni’s agenda within the party.
I have no problem with a party member having a different view from mine; denouncing me. So I welcome vigorous debate, divergence of views within the party and the door of the party remains wide open.
I nominated people who are serving in the Shadow Cabinet in Parliament who denounced me, but that did not prevent me from putting their names forward to serve.
You want to be the next president, but don’t you think a president of a country needs a wife because you do not have one?
Let me just tell you this young man. Uganda is in a grave terminal crisis. What Uganda needs is a serious leadership not what kind of spouse you have.
Historically, there are leaders around the globe who made very big contributions to their countries and the world; it had nothing to do with their spouses.
Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of India and her entire leadership she did not have a spouse. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, led India to independence and was one of the most historic leaders anywhere in the world; he was not married.
India’s Mahatma Gandhi when he began the life of political struggle essentially he set himself apart on his wife and led a solitary life even though he was married.
Milton Obote got married to Miria when he became the prime minister. There is no direct relationship at all between being married and being a good leader. Marriage is a wonderful thing in its own good right; let’s not confuse it with leadership.
I hope when people marry they marry because they are in love and not to impress people politically, not for purposes of gaining votes, what a horror! What a terrible idea!
‘Museveni has moles in UPC’ – Otunnu