The National Unity Platform (NUP) have announced that they are not joining the Inter-party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD).
In a letter dated September 2, 2021, David Lewis Rubongoya, the NUP Secretary General,wrote to IPOD secretariat informing them on why they had chosen to keep away from the organization.
“The Regime uses it for political gain far from its intended objective of strengthening Uganda’s multiparty democracy. You will agree that in the past 10 years of IPOD’s existence in Uganda, the democratic space has only shrunk going from bad to worse every successive year,” the letter said in part.
In the letter, Lubongoya stressed that on 26th April, a meeting between NUP top leadership, representatives of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy and the IPOD secretariat was held and the party was asked to join the organization.
However, citing failure by the IPOD to task the government to address a number of concerns relating to human rights, democracy, and rule of law, NUP snubbed the request.
“We have taken time to study the discussions that have taken place in IPOD overtime. In our assessment, the regime has turned it into a forum in which Party Principals meet for a cup of tea, followed by a photo opportunity. Serious discussions about the future of our country have been denied audience within the Platform. The National Unity Platform is not keen on taking part in an exercise which is used as façade to legitimize an otherwise illegitimate rule,” Mr Lubongoya wrote.
Mr Lubongoya also pointed out the fact that a number of their supporters are still locked up in prisons and others in unknown detention centres.
“Our nation has just come out of the most violent and irregular election in our history. Hundreds or our supporters have been abducted, tortured and even murdered. To date, there are hundreds of political prisoners scattered in different gazetted and nongazeted detention places being subjected to all manner of cruel ,inhuman and degrading treatment.”
“The attack on the civil society is at an all-time high. Political parties have been suffocated and denied an opportunity to do even the most basic mobilization activities,” he noted.
The party however said that they remain committed to joining any dialogue based on principles of fairness, mutual respect, and transparency which they say is not in IPOD.
“The National Unity Platform yet again expresses its utmost commitment to genuine dialogue based on the principles of fairness, mutual respect Impartiality and transparency. A dialogue In which the people of Uganda can feel sufficiently represented! We do not feel that IPOD in its present form offers that opportunity,” the letter concluded.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) another opposition party, has in the past had almost similar issues with IPOD.
In fact, despite being the then biggest opposition party in parliament, Fdc refused to attend both the 2018 and 2019 dialogue summits.
The party outlined some of the reasons as to why they had been absent on both occasions as follows;
• Violent and brutal crackdown on their political activities by the military, police and other security agencies allegedly on the order of the NRM Chairman [President Museveni].
•In a statement released in 2019, Fdc claimed Mr Museveni had admitted giving such orders in his April 28th media statement.
•They said their leaders mainly the Party President Eng. Patrick Oboi Amuriat and the peoples’ President Rt. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye were being repeatedly tear-gased and brutalilly arrested.
•Radio stations hosting FDC leaders had been switched off by or on the orders of Resident District Commissioners who are directly appointed and supervised by Mr. Museveni, said the party.
• Although the leaders are supposed to present views and feelings of party leaders and members at such important meetings, the Fdc said it was difficult to meet leaders and supporters whom they said are the real owners of the party. “If our colleagues have another mechanism of collecting views from their members other than meetings, for us we are not in position,” Fdc said.
• Lack of good will by Mr. Museveni and NRM leading to frustration of IPOD resolutions. As IPOD members, Fdc said they had generated proposals for electoral and political reforms in 2014. They added that, “we processed these proposals into Bills that were handed over to the Parliament.” Fdc however alleged that the chairman and secretary general of the ruling party frustrated them[Fdc] under the pretext that there was lack of enough time.
“Another election is approaching and the NRM has prevented adoption of any meaningful reforms. Instead they have dragged Parliament and the Judiciary into changing the Constitution to allow Mr. Museveni dies in office. Restoration of the term limit and now the age limit are some of the reforms we had proposed,” Fdc said then.
For such “important issues” were not on the agenda of the 2019 summit, the party leadership saw no reason to be in attendance. To demonstrate good will, Fdc reasoned that all IPOD proposals had to be presented and passed by Parliament before they could attend such summits.
FDC’s proposal included stopping Museveni from becoming a “president for life.”
“Summit should convene to ratify resolutions of the Council: In our view, the summit should only be summoned to ratify decisions of the IPOD Council. But as you all saw in December, there was nothing to ratify, nothing to sign,” Fdc said.
In response,Justine Kasule Lumumba who was NRM’s Secretary General then, re-affirmed the party’s continued support towards the good causes of the Inter Party Organisation for Dialogue and urged sister political parties to remain focussed on its Memorandum Of Understanding.
“IPOD has its work plans and MoU in place. NRM are the minority with only 5 members, the sister parties (opposition) have 20 in total. FDC should mobilise others to support their agenda other than running away from responsibility,” Lumumba said in a television interview.
The organization formed in 2010, is a dialogue platform for all political parties represented in parliament.