Uganda's next president to come from Dokolo?
Some in NRM want President Museveni to run for a fourth term.

Uganda's next president to come from Dokolo?

I am sure that the people have realized that they have been taken for a ride for so long and now need a more serious person to lead them.

By Olive Eyotaru Yemima
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First published: May 21, 2008

With three years left to the next general elections in Uganda, several political parties are drawing strategies on how to win in 2011. The choice of presidential candidate for each party is crucial and several people are already warming up to become candidates for the most coveted seat in the land. From the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party circles, there are signals that the incumbent (who is also the party chairman), Yoweri Museveni, is set to run for a fourth term. Some NRM loyalists are already subtly campaigning for him while others like Hon. Okot Ogong, the Member of Parliament representing Dokolo County, believe that they are capable of taking the reins on the NRM ticket. Ogong spoke to Olive Eyotaru about his intentions and why he should be the next president-elect of Uganda.

Okot Ogong
Okot Ogong.

Some of you in the NRM party are said to be already running campaigns for Museveni's fourth term in 2011. How far have you gone with the preparations?

I have no idea about these preparations you are talking about. In any case, for someone to be candidate, it should be that person to state his interest and willingness - I have not seen Mr.Museveni come out publicly to declare his intention to stand for presidency again. Although, I'll admit that his body language and unwillingness to relinquish power are already signs that he wants to stay in power.

All I know is that some people who are idle and disorderly are trying to speak on behalf of all party members by declaring Museveni's interests. Such people only want to be seen milling around the holders of power. They are after their own selfish interests, not the people's.

We have heard about your intentions to stand for presidency in 2011. Are you ready to compete against Museveni if he stands again? If so, why?

I am not going to compete against Mr. Museveni. If he offers himself, he should be ready for the shock of his life. Currently, there is a generation in Uganda that wants to move forward, not lag behind. All they want is change, which they have not seen for over 20 years.

My reason for standing is that I believe I can present very good programmes for this country. I can lead a better team that is able to work as one. We need to have a common strategy and focus for this country so that it can develop fast. Under Mr. Museveni, we have seen some peace and development in Uganda but it has come at a very slow pace due to lack of working implementation strategies. As president of Uganda, I will present a very good team that will drive the country forward and develop a common vision.

Why is NRM so stuck to Museveni? Are there no other people in the party that are capable of taking over from him?

Honestly, most of these politicians have nothing to offer. Therefore, when someone who does comes along, they all follow. Many in NRM are like that. They know that Museveni has overstayed in his leadership role but are mum because they want to continue benefiting from him.

There is this 'queue' we keep hearing about but I totally rubbish it. Many people have been named as potential successors to Museveni but I doubt their capability to lead this country. The Vice President, Professor Gilbert Bukenya, once admitted that he cannot cope with being the number one of this country. Imagine the second-in-command of this land admitting failure! How about the rest in the so-called queue?

Nonetheless, who do you think is capable of taking over from Museveni?

[Laughs]. Myself, of course. That is why I want to stand. I have told you that there is no one else in NRM, apart from me, to take over from Museveni. All those people being mentioned queuing up do not know which direction to take this country because they have been blinded by Museveni's vision.

You have come out to strongly oppose Mr. Museveni's fourth term?

I do not oppose his fourth term like many people think. The Constitution of Uganda allows it since the limit on number of terms a president can serve was lifted. Nevertheless, my bid to reject Museveni's fourth run for presidency is the right thing to do. Need I remind you that when Museveni came to power in 1986, he said that the problem in Africa is that leaders lose focus after being in charge for a long time? During past presidential election campaigns, he assured Ugandans that he would stand for only one term and then retire. A decade later, he is still in power and there are no signs of him leaving.

Is it wrong for someone to stand forever if people still love him and vote for him in free and fair elections?

You know, many politicians use the phrase 'the people have voted'. Yet, it is these politicians who keep manipulating the people's interests. It is common in Uganda for politicians to rig elections and then announce that the people have chosen.

Do you think that anyone in the NRM can defeat Museveni as the party's flag bearer in 2011 presidential elections?

Anyone is capable of defeating Museveni through one thing - the ballot paper. This is the weapon capable of ousting Museveni in 2011. As I have said, the time is right for a new leader for Uganda. It will all depend on the people. I am sure that the people have realized that they have been taken for a ride for so long and now need a more serious person to lead them. That is where I come in.

If Museveni is elected by the NRM party to stand for a fourth term, what will you do about it?

I am going to stand against him. Whether he stands or not, I will be there. I am going to mobilize people and campaign vigorously. The most important thing in an election is that the people have the power to decide whom they want.

Are there are any chances for the opposition to win if Museveni stands again? With the happenings in Kenya and Zimbabwe, do you think the 2011 elections will be eventful?

One thing is for sure; when you manipulate an election in your favor, violence is bound to happen. If Ugandans are serious, 2011 is the time for them to express the way they feel through the vote.

The incidents in Kenya and Zimbabwe were brought on by the dictatorial tendencies that leaders have failed to give up. Museveni has had the opportunity to leave power peacefully in previous elections and be different from other African leaders but he squandered it.

Former leaders like Nelson Mandela and the late Julius Mwalimu Nyerere of South Africa and Tanzania respectively stepped down from power to give others a chance to rule. Museveni promised to be a different leader in 1986 but he has instead turned out to be like all the other dictators.

What would be your agenda for this country if you were to be elected president?

My agenda has to be a collective one. By this, I mean that I will consult the people on their needs and priorities before I come out with a comprehensive plan for the country. With the public's views, I will be able to lay a strategy and implement the programmes in order to achieve fast development.

The NRM caucus has approved a bill to fund political parties. The opposition views it as a bill to fund the NRM since you have an overwhelming majority in Parliament. What is your take on such concerns?

There is need to support political parties so that they can develop. If they are developed, the will of the people will be respected. In any country, it is good for political parties to be active because they create alternative views which the country can discuss objectively. However, parties should not depend on this funding alone. They should encourage their party members to contribute to the causes of the party.

How should these funds be distributed?

I think these funds should be distributed according to the relative strength of the parties. The incumbent government should look at the performance of the parties in general elections. The presidential, parliamentary and local council elections should be looked at to see which party has performed how.

Another area to consider is the strength of a party in Parliament. The number of party members in parliament should be taken into consideration. The way a party is organized is another pointer to how much a party should be funded. Some parties are registered but remain just that registered parties. They have no headquarters, members, etc.

How do you envisage Uganda without Museveni in power?

Uganda will exist even when Museveni leaves. Now is the right time to start thinking of Uganda under the rule of someone else, not Museveni. Currently, Museveni has the support of the army, police and other national institutions. Any other aspiring president has to start working now, especially by mobilising the public, to ensure that he or she has a smooth path to State House in 2011.

I believe that Uganda will be the same after 2011 but there is need for a new leader with a new vision to lead the country to more progress and development. Ugandans are tired of a government that keeps recycling an old and redundant team. We need positive results if we are to take Uganda forward and I believe I am the right person to do so.

By Olive Eyotaru Yemima
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First published: May 21, 2008
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Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.

A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.