By O’ONGOM Adero
Lira—17 September 2020: Many UPC members and supporters understand that the UPC is not dead. In the short term, the only way this shall be proven is by the party fielding a Presidential Candidate in the 2021 polls.
This is a test task that the party’s new legitimate leadership must carry diligently. The process will off set a nationwide mobilization campaign that the UPC urgently needs in order to revive her national appeal and visibility. What we had under Honorable Jimmy Akena was a UPC largely isolated to Lango sub region.
Consequently, the party had turned into a laughingstock; and a sinking boat of selfish interests and political capital for the exploitation of a few individuals. It was a discouraging and disheartening situation for most members and supporters of the party.
With hindsight and for purposes of inspiration, it took the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 26 years to reclaim political power. The MCP like the UPC is a traditional vanguard party that ushered Malawi to independence. She is also a sister ideological party to the UPC.
The MCP lost power in 1994 during the wave of multipartism that took Africa by storm in the 1990s. However, the party participated in every national election in Malawi since then. In this year’s May 2020 reelection, the MCP became the first African opposition political party to secure victory against an incumbent political party.
Unfortunately for the UPC, save for the recent Court of Appeal ruling that nullified Hon. Jimmy Akena’s leadership was illegal and against the grain of democracy in the country, this electoral year would have been the second time in a row that the party would not field a presidential candidate ever since the return of multipartism in Uganda in 2005.
The Court of Appeal ruling has therefore given the UPC an opportunity to reflect and take cognizance of what the party truly stands for and what her members and supporters expect from a presidential candidate in the 2021 polls.
Unlike the NRM, the UPC is a social democratic party that favors the welfare of the people over private foreign enterprise or investment or profit. In essence, the UPC is an ‘anti neo – liberal’ policy oriented political party. This fact accounts for the two coups d’Etat that the UPC has so far suffered.
Ultimately, it is the continuous advocacy for social welfare policies that is; sustainable and affordable (even free) health care, education; cooperative agriculture, better social security, government parastatals and businesses that most members and supporters always expect from the UPC during any presidential campaign. There is no better way for the party to market these policies and also renew her members and supporters loyalty towards pushing for these programs.
Unlike the 1967 Constitution, which established the government of Uganda (UPC) under a parliamentary system, the 1995 Constitution is a hybrid Constitution providing for both the parliamentary and presidential systems of governance. Inadvertently, in Uganda’s current political discourse, one system cannot be favored over the other.
This in a strong way shows that Hon. Jimmy Akena was wrong and out of touch with the country’s current political reality. Going by the 1995 constitution, the argument that the UPC needed more members elected to parliament before fielding a presidential candidate would not be politically advantageous regardless of the need for opposition parties having many of their members elected to parliament.
Moreover, UPC’s grassroots strength is second to the NRM, as evidenced in the last local council elections. This is a national traditional strength that the party can put to good use.
Significant to all members and supporters of the UPC is the ideal of ‘The Third Liberation Struggle’ that was coined and initiated by the late Party President, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, after the fall of the second UPC government in 1985.
The first liberation struggle of Uganda against colonialism under the British was won by the UPC and, equally, was the second liberation struggle against fascism and imperialism under Iddi Amin Dada.
The ‘Third Liberation Struggle’ is against neocolonialism and ‘nyambalism.’ It is this constitutional obligation of the party members and the ever-present threats of poverty, ignorance and disease that render the UPC relevant and far from dead. The court of appeal justices have ensured that this necessary addition to the country’s Democratic growth is not laid to waste!
The writer is a fellow of The Mulungushi Club, and a contestant for Lira City East Member of Parliament.