The National Unity Platform (NUP) and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) joining the Interparty Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) has raised concerns about the future of the platform.
In 2010, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the Democratic Party (DP), the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), the Conservative Party (CP), and the Justice Forum (JEEMA) were the first six political parties to create the platform by signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Through the platform, leaders from the parties have held joint activities, including a summit, where party presidents met and held discussions on different issues and took decisions. Until the recent MoU expired last year, all these parties maintained their membership.
A new MoU has since been drafted and signed by the NRM, DP, JEEMA, and the People’s Progressive Party-PPP. UPC has asked IPOD to give an update on the implementation of previous resolutions before they can sign the new MoU.
But NUP, the largest opposition political party in Parliament, has declined to join, saying the platform is merely a hunting ground for NRM from the opposition but without results for Ugandans. Last month, FDC announced that they would not sign the new MoU.
The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy-NIMD, which hosted the IPOD secretariat and funded several of its activities, has also withdrawn its support, demanding that NUP and FDC join the platform. The Democratic Governance Facility-DGF, another funder, is ending its work in Uganda in December 2022, but the Central Government has not set aside any money for IPOD activities.
A political scientist from Makerere University named Ndebesa Mwambutya says that IPOD hasn’t done anything useful because the parties haven’t been able to talk to each other in a respectful way.
From the beginning, looking at the term following the 2021 elections, Museveni proclaimed that he would eliminate the opposition political parties. How can you dialogue with somebody who has promised to eliminate you? “That would mean that someone is using that platform to eliminate you,” argued Dr. Ndebesa.
Dr. Ndebesa says the fundamental problem is with the ruling party, which presides over the whole political order in Uganda. He says that the government can only change the current political situation, which is marked by unfair elections and military interference in what are supposed to be democratic processes, if it wants to change the political climate and set up the right rules of engagement.
The Vice Chairperson of PPP, Sadam Gayira, says it is unfortunate that the two major opposition parties have chosen to withdraw from IPOD. Gayira says that the NRM government doesn’t understand the need for dialogue and doesn’t follow the decisions made through dialogue.
Gayira also says that issues of human rights abuses and arbitrary arrest of people with dissenting voices could have prompted the two parties to join IPOD.
According to Gayira, the opposition should not stop dialoguing with the government. He adds that PPP was built on the core values of non-confrontation, non-violence, and a peaceful approach to political impasses, and for this, they should stick with IPOD.
Sarah Bireete, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Governance, says that to assess the relevance of IPOD, one needs to look at its objectives and how much it has achieved in more than a decade of existence. She says that even though IPOD was meant to encourage dialogue and strengthen multiparty politics in Uganda, it hasn’t done much, if anything, to do those things. This makes it useless.
“IPOD took decisions on the Public Order Management Act and improving the context of political party operations in Uganda. Were those decisions ever implemented? ” “No Is it a photo of a good moment? What is it? Because budget arguments can be made before Parliament, “Bireete says.” ” ‘
She says that the NRM and the President don’t seem to want to talk about anything important, which makes IPOD useless.
Dr. Sabiti Makara from Makerere University says the spirit behind IPOD was good but has failed at implementing the main goal of dialogue. Even though the opposition is committed to the platform, Dr. Makara has noticed that the government in power tends to treat the opposition as if they are not serious government actors.
“The government perceives opposition as a byproduct rather than shareholders in the government, or it views them as stampers or cheerleaders or something like that, so that attitude, I believe, discourages opposition,” Dr. Makara said.
Makara says that when the government doesn’t follow through on IPOD resolutions, it makes things difficult for the opposition.
Dr. Makara also says that the nature of politics played by the NUP party doesn’t allow for dialogue. The party, he adds, behaves as though they are very wise and insists on what they desire, leaving little chance for dialogue.
“They are also almost taking the path of NRM, which says you either have it or you don’t have it, so NUP seems to be on the same trend of argument, thinking that if they are not heard seriously, then they can’t be part of the discussion,” says Dr. Makara.
He says that the NRM can save IPOD from collapsing because they have the capacity to make the dialogue count.
Frank Rusa, the Executive Secretary of IPOD and Country Director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy-NIMD, says that while IPOD is a voluntary platform, it is NIMD’s desire that it be inclusive with opposition political parties like NUP and FDC also participating. He urged the IPOD members to continue engaging the NUP and FDC to join the platform.
There are two main resolutions that were passed by IPOD that have never been implemented.
These include the regulations for the implementation of the Public Order Management Act (POMA), which is used by the government to subdue activities organized by opposition politicians or activists. While the opposition interpreted the law to mean informing the police, security insisted that organizers of political events needed to seek permission from the police, which claimed powers to grant or deny the request. The IPOD Council of Secretaries General drafted the regulations. They were adopted but never presented before parliament for approval.
Another resolution was to the effect that the government increase funding to political parties to the tune of 35 billion shillings (up from 10 billion shillings) and revise the mode of sharing. They also agreed that 15% of the money would go to the IPOD secretariat, another 15% would be shared equally, and the remainder would be distributed based on numerical strength. Even though the money was raised, the way it was split stayed the same, which helped the NRM, which has a majority in parliament.
In the new MoU, the parties have introduced a committee to follow up on resolutions passed.
The IPOD has also asked the government, through the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, to fast-track the past IPOD resolutions, including funding for the secretariat. IPOD has asked the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Nobert Mao, to talk to the government. He has said he will do so.