Friday, 4th February, 2022
DP National Campaign Headquarters, Balintuma Road, Kampala
I regret that I am unable to join you at this important meeting of party leaders from the Buganda Region. I would have loved to be here in person but I lost my aunt and I have to be in Gulu for the burial which is set for next Thursday. I have therefore asked the National Vice President Hon. Fred Mukasa Mbidde to represent me. He will have his own message but I also thought I should share with you a simple thought on how to make our party combat ready after a grueling electoral season. Nevertheless, I am with you in spirit. I’m also pleased that the National leadership of the party is represented by a high level delegation.
The question we have to answer is simple: what is to be done to revive the Democratic Party?
I propose five things. First, we must realise that ideas are what make an organisation. Voters will elect us not because of the organisations we stand with, but rather what we stand for. Second, we must clarify our historical fundamentals. Our credibility must be beyond reproach on issues like human rights and good governance, on private enterprise and economic prosperity for all citizens. The party should resist the temptation to reduce its agenda to a mantra of regime change. Yes, we want regime change, but regime change is but a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. The fundamentals of change must be crafted, agreed upon and articulated. Third, we must reach out beyond our traditional core constituencies and historical base. We must speak to the middle class and also to those aspiring to get there. Fourth, we must begin to talk to the electorate, as it will be, not as it was. Old messages do not work anymore. We must not churn out party messages as if we were addressing a 1960s electorate. Fifth, we must seek to get elected because the “best government is the best politics”. Those who when given the chance to lead, lead well, will continue to be re-elected again and again. There is no point in being mere commentators without transforming ourselves into the party of choice at elections.
The writing is therefore on the wall. Do we remain on the old beaten path of smug partisanship or do we embark on a new course leading to the kind of politics in which the day to day problems of the people are met with fresh ideas? How can we build a modern, vibrant and progressive DP that deals with Uganda’s teething problems with bold and innovative ideas? These are not only key to winning elections but also to the re-building of our party and the grassroots as well.
How do we reverse our party’s flagging fortunes in national politics? All of us are summoned to make our contributions. The Democratic Party is the party of ideas. No party beats us in the arena of public policy. Our party needs a thinktank to initiate, debate and prepare the policy positions of the party. The party needs a leadership academy to spearhead a training program for up and coming leaders. As a beneficiary of these training programs I want more young people to benefit too. Our goal should be to further traditional DP values with modern means. The old way of politics are becoming increasingly irrelevant as the voters become more educated, independent and less partisan. Moreover, the composition of the voters is changing. There is a demographic shift. Many of the voters are young people. There is the generation X which is more skeptical and has a different attitude towards government as a whole. These new voters hold the key to power. These new voters do not want any intermediary. They have to be talked to directly in the language they can understand. Is it any wonder that many of them say politics is boring?
If the Democratic Party is to shape and dominate public debate it must not only renew itself radically but deliberately. If we are to be the party of choice we must renew our organisation. There will never be enough card carrying members of any party to enable a party to win on the basis of its members’ votes. To win, a party must appeal to multitudes based on its ideas and values and also it’s political strategy.
We live in a country that has been dogged by armed conflicts from all corners, that has a weak economy, that is more divided than ever and whose promise of democratisation has been betrayed. Is our party in its current form capable of inspiring Ugandans to grapple with these challenges? I say unless we collectively resolve to rebuild our party, we shall have betrayed the millions that cherish the ideas and values that the party stands for. And who is going to rebuild this party? Whose party is it anyway? It is ours – all of us who believe in it!
So if the party is going to end it’s days of wandering in the Sinai Desert of confusion and toxic dissension, and walk confidently towards Canaan, then the leaders and members have to stop worshiping false gods in the shape of golden calves fashioned to assuage short term goals. Instead, we should believe in ourselves and our historical mission as Uganda’s indispensable party and indeed the conscience of the nation. This analogy also applies to the Ugandan opposition as a whole. During the last general elections I said that unless we have an urgent mind-shift before the elections, we risk sentencing Ugandans to the proverbial 40 years of Musevenism! Indeed it happened! And I don’t speak lightly about this because the problems of Uganda are systemic. We’re not just dealing with a man. We’re also dealing with the machine and the mindset he has created. A machine that suffocates democracy and paralyses efforts at change and a mindset of confusion and an inflexible view that every difference of opinion is a difference of principle. A curious fact according to Deuteronomy 1:2 is that the journey that took the children of Israel 40 years of rudderless wandering should have actually taken 11 days!
Ugandans are looking to DP to show the way. Let’s celebrate our proud heritage and pedigree.
DP has value. That is why we are talked about. The Baganda say “Oguwedeko entonto enyonyi eguyita ttale!”
Finally, DP has a great opportunity because of the disenchantment the masses have due to those who presented themselves as an alternative but are exposing themselves as office seekers without substance. They are like people who issue bouncing cheques. They raised the hopes of the population but failed to deliver. But we can’t blame the voters alone. We also have to blame those who failed to present leaders of substance. After all as the Baganda say “ETTALA ELEETA ENSWA Y’ELEETA N’EBIZEZENGERE!” Therein lies our greatest opportunity. Let us draw a firm line between the edible white ants and the inedible moths!
Thank you very much.