By Arthur Larok
Country director Action Aid Uganda
Warm greetings Mugisha Muntu,
As I thought about writing this Open Letter to you in the wake of recent developments in FDC, I recalled the time I first met you and several interactions thereafter. You may recall that the first time I met you face-to-face was at a Youth Manifesto Meeting at Hotel Africana where you made keynote remarks, shared a platform with Capt. Mike Mukula. The contrast between what you said and what Capt. Mukula focussed on is what endeared me to you – I have followed your work since. At the meeting, among many enriching insights, was a profoundly important distinction you made about how to approach citizen struggles for justice. On the one hand, you identified a negative approach anchored on fighting against what we don’t like and on the other a positive one that pitches a vision and a fight for what we want, accompanied by our attempts to live that reality in our daily struggles. That distinction and your orientation towards the latter is partly what I believe distinguishes your leadership style from many, including within FDC.
Fast forward in 2016, in the remote village of Apiriri in Pader district, at the burial of a distinguished Ugandan, James Otto – mentor and inspiration to many, including me, in your characteristic modesty, you admitted not knowing much about James Otto but that he being a father to one of your party members and having heard all that was said about him, you presented another profound analogy about leadership that struck the core of the crisis this country has. You described leadership driven by two contrasting mentalities – first was a scarcity mentality exhibited in the unyielding quest to grab resources and own as much as possible from the perceived little there is – thus corruption, primitive accumulation of wealth and the greed to cling onto power for selfish reasons. Majority of our leaders in this country are driven by a scarcity mentality. On the other hand, are leaders who believe in plenty and enough in the world to go around – enough for everyone’s need but not for their greed. This paradox is at the centre of our crises as a country blessed with enormous resources but with some of the poorest people living on this planet. We are a country ‘gifted by nature but robbed by man’.
So why have I decided to write you this Open Letter even after my short texts to you on another platform? First this letter is not so much to you as it is to those who care about leadership especially at this moment of trial in our country. Secondly, I want to make a modest contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of the country. And thirdly, I want to make an open invitation to you to consider what I believe will be an even more telling contribution you can make to this country. I have read about your unyielding belief in the struggle that has seen you pay a very high price for this country’s now ‘stolen liberation’. You faced life-threatening gun-shots in the bush but returned after recovering till the war was won, you were undermined as army commander but fought the good fight and your track record remains unrivalled in the army. You have been undermined in FDC but you worked hard to keep the party as one during your tenure, with your accommodative style.
I had mixed feelings of relief and worry after hearing of the results from the recent FDC Presidential races that you took part in as an incumbent and lost. For starters, it is important to congratulate FDC for treating Ugandans to the nearest to democratic hopes anyone could. Though not without problems, including a severely constraining external political context as well as internal ideological and approach tensions within FDC, it remains by far, the most democratic in comparison to all others.
You should be proud of the humble contribution you have made to FDC as a leader, a competitor in various internal elections and a voice of reason at a time of deep polarization in the country. You will be remembered for keeping the party as one and the next leader of FDC can build on that. As for you, on second thoughts, I am relieved that you are no longer the FDC President for I see you destined for greater than FDC can offer. You should consider your recent lose to Eng. Patrick Amuriat as perhaps the most important development in your political carrier.
As I debated with my fellow political speculators (aka analysts) about the implications of the FDC election outcomes, I argued that your leadership and skills are perhaps best suited in a different set up, even if the struggle remains the same. If you remain in FDC, and I will respect you for that, but I would like to urge you to expend your energy differently and allow, unlike your predecessor, the new FDC president to take full charge. FDC is destined for what it will be, with or without your direct involvement. I would thus encourage you to spend your time reaching out to a ‘political middle’ that is neither attracted to the dominant FDC radical wing nor to NRM’s central politics of loot and greed. I foresee a situation in which Museveni and a core in NRM will dig in and do everything possible to remove Article 102 b and attempt to consolidate their grip on power but at a considerable cost to NRM. On the other hand, the dominant opposition will in response become even more radical and intolerant while the mainstream will negotiate for some crumps as we saw with DP and UPC after the 2016 elections.
In my view the real positive force for the country will emerge from what I consider the ‘political middle’ that will likely attract support from progressive thinkers from either side of the political spectrum as well as civil society in their diversity, the business community, churches, social movements, professional associations and other organic people’s struggles such as those by medical workers, teachers, prosecutors and others. The most important task of our time will thus be connecting these struggles and making them even more inclusive, bringing in a level of organisation to it to endear the wider population to it. The success of this project presents the most likely avenue to the much-needed political transition agenda for Uganda. Traditional Political Parties will remain important in the struggle but not leading it and so I would dissuade you from thinking or launching a new political party but instead associate with many other progressive political leaders with an emerging non-partisan citizen movement for change. Creating another political party in the current political context will not add value in my view. Uganda, is headed for an inevitable political transition that no matter how delayed it will be, will come, in fact sooner than many expect. The next authentic leadership for Uganda will emerge from citizens struggles for a better country – one of equal opportunity and shared prosperity.
I look forward to exploring the above prospects in a face-to-face with you and a few others soon!
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