"We always love dialogue - because we have been engaged in political struggles in the last 53 years."
By Joseph Kizza
ENTEBBE - President Yoweri Museveni is looking forward to "a serious national dialogue" and is "very happy" to take part in it.
"We always love dialogue - because we have been engaged in political struggles in the last 53 years," he told a large meeting at State House Entebbe on Tuesday.
"I will listen to you and you will listen to me. (...) You will hear our views."
In his delivery before launching the national dialogue committee, Museveni said he has been "dying for this [dialogue]", so that he can meet with people of divergent views and tell them "what we think and why".
The dialogue will be about political parties and religious leaders, who the President said are sometimes "peripherally in the issues."
The launch came after the Inter-party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) Summit that took place in Kampala.
The inaugural IPOD summit bringing together leaders of political parties with representation in parliament was graced by Democratic Party's Norbert Mao, Justice Forum's Asuman Basalirwa and Uganda People's Congress's Jimmy Akena.
President Museveni has previously underlined that the significance of the national dialogue is to promote prosperity as well as stability.
His argument has also been that the involvement and inclusion of key stakeholders is equally crucial.
'Uganda not in ashes'
During Tuesday's meeting, Museveni said the issue of diversity will be raised, as will that of identity.
"It will be our pleasure to clarify on the issue of identity versus interests.
Over the last 53 years, the President said, the country has distilled four principles - patriotism, pan-Africanism, social economic transformation and democracy.
"NRM does not believe in sectarianism. Sectarian people are a danger to our future."
In the same spirit, Museveni advised some parties to "be careful with your words".
And some of the words he referred to included "Uganda is in ashes" and that the dialogue is "citizen-led".
"No way! Uganda is not in ashes. It has some problems, yes, but it is growing.
"When you say 'citizen-led', there is may arise a constitutional issue with that. Who, in this case, represents the citizens? Find a substitute for that wording," he told the filled room of government officials, religious leaders, Elders Forum members and other key stakeholders.
"And this is not the first time that Uganda is coming together. We had a similar interface during the CA [Constituent Assembly] in the 1990s.
"Perhaps the difference is that during the CA, we were talking at one another. This is the first time we are dialoguing and not talking at one another, not shooting at one another," said the President.
Land issue to be discussed
While discussing values during the dialogue, the groups will have to exercise moderation by establishing what Museveni called an "LCM" (Least Common Multiple).
"Don't be too prescriptive because you might become part of the problem".
The land issue will also be an ingredient in the discussions across both political and cultural lines.
"This issue is being mismanaged by every people. Even where there is no land grabbing, there is land disruption," Museveni said.
Drawing from the Bible, he underscored that "a nation without a vision perishes".
The chairman of the Elders Forum, (Rtd) Justice James Ogoola said the "nation needs to bind the scars of our history, the bruises of our geography and the wounds of our politics".
On his part, the Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje said the national dialogue process has been condensed into eight eight broad themes.
1. National values consensus
2. National diversity consensus
3. National political consensus
4. Constitutionalism and the rule of law
5. Land justice and access to national resources
6. Minimum standards of public service delivery
7. Structure of the economy that works for every citizen
8. Implementation modalities