Friday, May 9, 2008



New Vision, Uganda
Thursday, 8th May, 2008

Onzima is willing to support any party rated to win the 2011 presidential polls

Are you in FDC or NRM?

Under the law, if you cross from one party to another you lose your seat.

Is that why you prefer sitting on the fence? To blend with the President who heads a rival party?

Are you suggesting that I detach myself completely from him yet as MP I am part of the Government?

You said West Nile is no longer justified to vote against President Museveni or NRM because of upgrading the Karuma-Pacwach road?

That is speculation. In the 2006 presidential elections, that road was already done. And why didn’t I vote for Museveni? I am a mature politician and I know what I am doing as the political leader of Maracha.

What did you mean by ‘sending political signals’ to the President?

We, the people of Maracha, are entitled to benefit from any government policy like free primary and secondary education, and immunisation.

The President cannot say because the people of Maracha voted for FDC, they cannot benefit from these programmes. That would be political suicide.

But there are certain things that the Government can do at its discretion: those are the things for which you have to be in talking terms with the President to win his Government’s favour.

Which ones in Maracha’s case?

We want a giant multi-purpose polytechnic, a government hospital, community secondary schools to become government-aided, a model girls’ secondary school or a core Primary Teachers College. These are things the Government can do in isolated places at its discretion.

You promised to campaign for him?

The statement in your paper was, ‘if he plays his cards well’. When you say ‘if’, is it an automatic ‘yes’?

Aren’t you a Judas Iscariot of sorts, if you sacrificed your party’s interests for political survival?

Politics is about bargaining for allocation of resources. If you bargain and the other party responds positively, you also behave accordingly.

I am supposed to attract some developmental things for my constituency. Even if FDC was in power that is what I would be struggling for. My interest is more in my constituency. It’s not in the party.

The cause of your uneasiness in FDC is the dispute between you and Terego MP Kassiano Wadri over the headquarters of Nyadri district?

It is not. In August 2006 I handed files containing the genesis of Nyadri district to FDC president Kizza Besigye and Prof. Ogenga Latigo. I expected them to study the files and probably invite Wadri and I to present our case and solve this amicably. They never did that.

Why has the Nyadri saga dragged on for long?

This district was first requested for by Arua district council in 1999. When new districts were set up in 2000, the Ministry of Local Government ignored it. At the funeral of Francis Ayume, President Museveni told mourners that Ayume had requested for Koboko district.

Arua district council later demanded for a district for Maracha and Terego to be called Nyadri. When the Government was creating districts in 2005, the name ‘Nyadri’ for some mysterious reasons disappeared.

In Parliament, it was stated that the two counties were granted district status with headquarters to be agreed on later. How this name ‘Nyadri’ disappeared was the root cause. The Government should have honoured the two resolutions of the Arua district council.

How did the name vanish?

The game was played by former minister Bakoko Bakoru, Wadri, former Arua Woman MP Anin Angupale, who comes from Terego, Arua LC5 chairman, who comes from Terego, and the former speaker, who hails from Mado-Okolo. I have evidence.

Your party plans to take you to the disciplinary committee?

I don’t see why such a young party should engage in open war of words. It is better to talk about issues to do with a party member in the absence of the press.

Let it be an in-house affair. How do you preserve the image of your party when you wash your linen in public? The law of natural justice demands that even if a judge sees Onzima killing a person, that judge must first listen to the two sides.

The best thing would have been to invite Onzima, write to him and say, ‘we read this, we watched this on television, what defense do you have?’ To prove my guilt, then you can call a press conference. Nobody in FDC leadership has called me or written to me.

But they have gone ahead to pass a death sentence on me, and you call yourself ‘Forum for Democratic Change?’ And you label Museveni a dictator when you can pass a political death sentence on a member of your political party without hearing his side of the story?

Are you saying FDC is not democratic?

On February 27, Wadri took Besigye to Maracha without informing me. They also took a young man called Angel Atria, whom they had chosen to be the candidate for MP of Maracha on FDC ticket in 2011.

What will happen to other FDC members who would want to contest in Maracha but would have preferred that the party conducts primaries before a candidate is chosen? Fortunately, Besigye and Wadri hit a very hard rock.

The people said, ‘you have come here without our MP, we are giving you two options; if you are to speak here, let Kassiano go away or if you want him to remain, all of you should disappear.’ So Wadri left the venue and waited in Koboko.

Do you think you can still work with them in FDC?

I am a staunch Catholic, and I am a civilised person. I know people make mistakes just as I do. I am prepared to work with any person provided he also admits his faults.

What is the way forward?

I hope the disciplinary committee will have the courage to invite me and we shall sort it out at that level.

You were an ardent critic on NRM, what has changed?

They have acted on my grievances. For example, the Karuma-Packwach road was done, the construction of Nyagak power project is going on and the President has pledged to work on the Arua-Maracha-Oraba road that goes through my constituency. There is no way you can be 100% against what the Government is doing.

Do you see a future for FDC?

Besigye visited West Nile in February and the president toured the region in April. FDC should tell you whether the number of people who received the President were equal to the number which received Besigye in Terego.

Who was behind that mobilisation? And that is an FDC stronghold where they don’t have any doubt about the MP’s allegiance as opposed to Maracha.

Your last word?

I am uneasy about this political rhetoric that ‘some political tsunami will sweep NRM.’ If that tsunami happens and Museveni’s government collapses before 2011, I will also vie for the presidency on FDC ticket. If that tsunami doesn’t happen, I don’t know how they will defend themselves.

In Maracha, we totally disassociate ourselves from that rubbish. It is the biggest political joke of the third millennium.

You had a meeting at Rwakitura which FDC disapproved of?

It was for leaders from West Nile. Some boycotted it.

They castigated me for going to Rwakitura but when the President was in West Nile on April 28, he called a similar meeting and all MPs from the seven districts of West Nile were there!

Did Ogenga dare you to join NRM and you meet FDC in Maracha during the by-election?

My politics was not set by FDC. In 1996, my constituency gave over 80% for IPFC’s Paul Ssemwogerere. Museveni was trounced that year in our place. We were five parliamentary candidates, the four got 40% and I got 51% which means the total number of their votes was less than mine.

They did not contest in 2001 because they feared. I got a new set. These got 40% and I got 60%. They never came back in 2006. I got an army man called Baker Dudu and another from UPC. This time they got 41% and I got 59%.

So far, I have stood with eight parliamentary candidates and none has defeated me in his home sub-county.
However, it is not me to tell FDC to go to Maracha. I cannot stop them.

But they should work hard to make the tsunami rid us of this government or make FDC more popular. I will tell my people of Maracha to support the party which will be rated to win the presidential election, whether it will be UPC, JEEMA, NRM or FDC.

Don’t you fear to be called unprincipled?

I would go with ‘rational’. You should ask yourself, why are you in politics? What do you want to gain from politics?

Does it make any sense for you to be in a party like JEEMA for 100 years regardless of where JEEMA will be in government or not? Does it make political sense? Conviction? Irrespective of whether that conviction will materialise or not? Is that logical? It is debatable.

Alex Onzima is the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) vice-chairman (Northern) and MP for Maracha. He talked to Henry Mukasa about his ping-pong with his party.