Last Updated on: 20th May 2023, 07:08 am
Lira, May 20, 2023: Uganda’s political terrain is ever slippery as those in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and the opposition competes for leadership positions.
Currently, the biggest political party on the side of the opposition is the National Unity Platform (NUP) whose party president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, widely known as Bobi Wine stood for the 2021 presidential election and came second after incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the NRM.
Prior to the 2021 general elections, NUP whose majority members came from People Power founded by the then Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, had gained national support from the youth. In Lango sub-region, the support was also massive.
On Monday, TND News had an exclusive interview with Adonyo Michael Chris, the Regional Coordinator of NUP for Lango sub-region and he shared with us a number of successes, threats, the Muhoozi wave, and holding on.
Tell us your story in Lango sub-region
Since its inception in Lango sub-region, NUP has done well. Despite the challenges, we have had success that overwhelms challenges. NUP came into Lango in early 2019 and by then we all know it was People Power. As leaders appointed then, we had the challenge of convincing the people of Lango on taking People Power because as you all know our driver then and who’s still our driver – Kyagulanyi being someone from the Central, we know we had a history that was not good between the people of Lango and Central. It is not only Lango and Central. Central had issues with the people of Bunyoro, the people of Lango had issues with Acholi, Acholi had issues with West Nile and I think it’s still ongoing regarding the Apaa issue. So, Uganda has been in many periods of turbulence.
But since inception, as I said, it was hard for us to penetrate deep into villages, the reason being that the propagandists deployed by the regime kept on saying it was a Buganda thing. Despite all the propaganda, we as leaders of NUP never gave in. We went ahead and opened our offices; it was not easy for us to open an office with a movement (under People Power) because no movement is allowed to open offices.
We opened an office in Odokomit, we had an office in Kangai Dokolo and in Oyam – under People Power. Then we took on the step of appointing leaders, who would help us because it was nearing elections. We appointed district coordinators and representatives for women and elders. We also went ahead and appointed a committee for Lango that was to oversee the activities of NUP in Lango.
We also tried to bring together the different groups because you remember when we came in, some change-seeking individuals also said they subscribe under us. We tried to bring all the groups together so that we would work together. It wasn’t also easy to manage because we got these groups and each group had their chairperson, and merging them was not easy but at last, we sat down and agreed on a common goal.
How many people hold NUP party cards in Lango?
Because this was our initiative, we asked whoever comes to our office should be given a party card free of charge and the last time I checked, our register had about 400,000 members in Lango.
When did you last check?
It was two weeks ago.
Yes, 400,000 members for Lango for two cards: NUP and People Power. We started giving out cards in 2020. We still have our register of 400,000 people. Students came in and got these cards since this was a party showcasing the values of the young people. What we are doing now is to clean our register. That register has contacts of persons and we want to see who is still with us. We are aware of what happened towards the elections, our office was raided and the copy of the register was taken by the security.
Most of the people have been calling, telling us that very many people had contacted them, asking them what they do with the party and we suspect that must have been security doing that. We are trying to bring them back together and remove the element of fear because right now we are not acting illegally, we have a legal vehicle which is NUP and whatever activities we are doing are legal.
How have these party cardholders or Lango embraced Kyagulanyi, and what do they tell you about him?
Like I have told you it has not been easy to sell NUP in Lango but one thing that we have capitalized on is the fact that NUP uses red. I went to a village in Kole and there was an old man (Mzee), about 80 years. He told me ‘This (red) is the colour that I love; it makes me remember Milton Obote’ and I told him UPC is still there. He said ‘No, the UPC that is there now we feel like it’s married to NRM and yet for us we want that old UPC that was purely for Obote.’
So, we have capitalized on the fact that NRM has tried to bring in UPC and in that process, UPC has lost its native supporters. Whenever we go and sing ‘NUP everywhere….’ They feel we are holding the values of UPC because that was a song of the UPC. That is why whenever we are printing materials for Lango we print them in red, not to confuse the people but we know there is a wave nationally and here people are attached to the colour red.
Do you feel threatened to do what you do?
Yes. The threat is much and I can’t deny that. It is not easy for one to come out and say they subscribe to NUP. Prior to 2021 very many of our leaders were arrested in Amolatar. Lira here, we had someone who had come from the US to help us with the elections, he was arrested. Personally, my home was raided. In Otuke, we had leaders who were arrested, and DR forms taken.
It’s not easy but we have leadership training that we usually give to party leaders and try to reenergize them and to tell them whatever they are doing is not illegal but legal. We have Lawyers who offer pro bono services. Despite the fact that threats come in, at least I don’t see the spirits of the people going low.
What did they take from your home when they raided?
I had a car that was given to me to manage elections. I had materials, and appointment letters for agents. That car was towed and it is still at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). They insisted that I was starting a tally centre at my home; they stayed at my home until the President was announced and left without any charge levied against me. When we tried to follow up with the vehicle they said the investigation is continuing. It’s now 2 years since we can’t get our property back but nevertheless, we are still marching.
Do you regret working with Bobi Wine?
To some extent, I don’t think I do. I would say it has… first of all, I’m a professional and I can’t get a job when I apply. I’m now known, it’s very hard for people to employ me because of different intentions but sometimes when I look at the generation I will leave behind I don’t think I will regret it.
The party is power buys people to either work for them on a specific assignment or join permanently and they will give you what you want. Have you been approached to cross to NRM?
Of course, it has come several times. They don’t come direct; they use the people around you to try to convince you. I’ve comrades who would call me and say we need to meet certain types of people at this time of the hour. There is a UPDF Captain in Gulu who contacted me, and the late Speaker of Parliament also contacted me and they all made offers of money but because of what I feel, and because I have something I earn a living from I’m not a desperate person who would give in.
I’ve seen most of my colleagues around me bought (I don’t want to say they were desperate). If you don’t have a sense of hope and bread for tomorrow, I think it’s easy for them to bribe you.
There is someone who told me they sat down and realized that I’m someone who is just radical and wants change because they felt like they have failed to approach me several times and I failed to give in to what they demand. So, that is why they decided to buy people close to me including my secretary who used to help me in the office and was taken for brainwashing in Kyankwanzi.
How much did they put before you?
The figures have been varying because they used brokers. They would come and say, ‘I’ve been sent.’ I remember the late Speaker’s offer was shs70m and there was a Captain who wanted to take us to Kyankwanzi and was offering shs25m. Figures have been varying.
There was shs10m and shs25m and I turned it all down because I don’t think I can stay in Lango after picking people’s children and promising them to change and I betray them. I don’t think I will enjoy that money – not in Lango, not in Uganda.
What do you think President Museveni has done that he shouldn’t have?
Museveni has done a lot of bad things. We can’t talk about Museveni and not credit him for the good things he has done. At least I’m one person who loves reading and I’ve read most books of freedom, Museveni’s ‘Sowing the mustard Seeds’ – I like his 10 point program – that was very perfect but I think the greatest mistake Museveni has done was to change the Constitution.
Not only Museveni, even the people that were in charge of drafting that Constitution should have entrenched it and not given it the provision of being tampered with. They should have made it very difficult for Museveni.
His wave is just like the wave of his son – Muhoozi and he’s also trying to woo people to his side. Do you feel there is a possibility of Muhoozi’s camp approaching you?
I feel pity for Uganda. As I told you, even my leader is not someone you can see and think he lacks something on the table to feed his children. Unfortunately, the people who lack that fail to see things from an angle that other people see things.
The wave of Muhoozi, I don’t feel threatened ad even if they approach me I don’t think I will work with such a person like Muhoozi because I have been following how he Tweets. Even before you know who someone is, you see them by the way they conduct themselves both online and physically.
I’ve seen Muhoozi as someone who is non-democratic. Why? He supports anything that doesn’t move in the path of democracy. We have seen talk-ill about Russia and Ukraine, we have seen him say he wants to attack Kenya in two weeks, we have seen him tweet about women, and he doesn’t respect women. So, I don’t think I will feel comfortable working with such a person in Muhoozi.
As NUP in Lango, we don’t feel threatened by the Muhoozi wave.