Uganda Peoples Congress

Mama Miria speaks to New Vision


CONTENDER: Miria Obote

If she wins next year's election, Uganda will have its third Obote presidency. Charles Etukuri asked the former first lady, Miria Obote what she plans to do about winning the top seat.

Did you expect to win the top UPC seat?

No. I was surprised that I was elected. I have never, even in my wildest dreams, thought I would be in that position.

What special attributes do you possess that made the delegates put their trust in you?

It is true that the others were very experienced, eloquent and very able, but probably because of the wrangling that has been taking place in the party, I think some people thought that I am a neutral person. I have been away for 20 years and I have not been involved in politics so I am not part of all these problems. Some people thought I would be in a better position to bring all the fighting factions together.

What are your major challenges?

There are many challenges, the biggest being to try and bring all the party members together to work as a team. The other is to work out a strategy of how we are going to fight and win in the coming election.

Would your husband have supported your joining active politics?

No, not at all. He did not encourage me to join politics. I was just a good loyal politicianís wife and a mother.

What special thing are you bringing to UPC?

I am going to bring in a lot of women and encourage them to vote. I am going to work hard, campaign and make sure the young and old come and join me. Some party members who have left us will be called back so that we have one strong, big party.

You have never been in active politics but are now going to campaign against experienced politicians. How do you rate your chances?

I think I stand a good chance. I have not been involved in the politics here so I have a clean record politically and the people are going to rally behind me. The women are going to have a lady candidate for the first time and I am going to appeal to my fellow women and men of good will and party members.

Isnít your being new in the political field your biggest undoing? Some of your critics argue that you are not abreast with local issues.

I have not been in the country but that doesnít mean I donít know what is going on. Once a politician you are always a politician so wherever you are you try and keep up with what is happening on the ground. You read the newspapers and listen to the radio all the time. I canít say I know nothing.

You said you were surprised upon your election, but the moment you were elected you came up with a dream team to see UPC through the 2006 elections.
What considerations did you have in place in bringing this team together?

Were you once a boy scout? (Yes.) What is their motto? (Be prepared.) So when you are going for a thing like that you prepare because you donít know whether you are going to win or lose. But you must have everything in place in case you win.

We have tried to balance the team. It is a small team of 12 people and you canít get everybody in, but you must try to get a team you can work with. That is very important. You cannot just bring somebody because that person has to be there yet you are going to sit down and shout at each other. You are going to be bogged down arguing about this and that and you canít take a decision because whatever you try to do somebody is there to oppose you. So it is very important to work with a good team that will not frustrate you.

Some members of UPC are challenging your election. According to James Rwanyarare, UPC cannot be UPC without him or Edward Rurangaranga. What is your reaction?

It is a very sad situation. I am not very happy, but we are going to meet them and we have already agreed to talk to them at the right time. We donít want them to go. They are still part and parcel of our family. As a mother, I know you can have a big family, but it doesnít mean that everybody will agree with one other. You always have somebody who doesnít agree. Even brothers quarrel and fight, but they make up later. This is a very big UPC family. I am sure we can sit down and sort out our differences. The problem is that we should not do it from outside.

Should we start counting on you to take power in 2006 or is this is a reorganisation of the party for 2011?

No, we are targeting 2006. It is a very big challenge and we have a formidable contender ó the President ó who has unlimited resources. But we have the people behind us. I thought the party was dead and we had no following at all but when I brought back my husbandís remains, I was surprised there were still people who even knew we were there.

I was touched by the number of the people who turned up just to wave, look at the hearse or come and view the body and attend the funeral. That assured me that the party is not dead. With hard work I am sure we can revamp this party, we can get more people on board and ask those members of the party who have left us for various reasons to come back and join us.

Have you as a team tried to extend an olive branch to those that defected or are opposing you?

Not yet. But we hope to meet them and get their views and try to see how we can work together because they are old members of the party and are very good people. We donít want them to go away so I am trying to see how we can resolve our differences and work together. In the event that they feel they cannot work with me or my team we will see.

Where does the UPC get its funding?

UPC does not depend on donations. We use our little money very carefully. Most of those people that came for the conference came on their own and those that were really stuck borrowed. We need to fundraise. UPC is a poor party so we are going to ask anybody of goodwill to help us and we hope we will be able to manage.

There are accusations that the selection of the delegates was not done properly. It is said you shopped for people in town and presented them as delegates. Is that true?

We went through the process in September countrywide. We were supposed to have 11 delegates from each constituency as this has been our practice but we could only afford to bring one delegate per constituency. It is only in Kanungu where the elections were not done. Elections were done at all levels, the list was read and the voting took place in the open.

Some people say that you have locked out tested people like Ben Wacha, Omara Atubo and Cecilia Ogwal and brought on board novices on the political scene.

Locked out in which way? Being a Member of Parliament or not you are still a member of UPC and the party president has a prerogative to name people he/she wants to work with. What appeared in the press that people were sacked was very wrong because in the first place these people did not have any role within the body that existed. The Constitutional Steering Committee knew that when we got a party president they would cease to exist.

Contrary to what other parties have done you have handpicked your team.
Isnít this odd?

A party is a training ground for some one to take over national leadership. When a party president is elected as the President of Uganda, she is going to appoint her cabinet. Within the party we also want to build a team that is supporting the president. UPC has a large body, the Central Executive Committee, that acts as the government of the party. It is a large body and has two members from every district.

We are training for national leadership. At the national level we are not going to be electing ministers. The president will appoint them. We have a constitution and the only body that can change that constitution is the National Council.

What do you plan to do about the problem with Buganda?

I will have to talk with my people. They hated my late husband because of the attack (on the Lubiri). We have started talking and coming out a little. But we need to explain to the people and let them know why it happened. I am sure my late husband did not wake up one day say, ĎI am going to hit Lubiri.í Why did he do it? Most people donít know. We have got to talk slowly and get to the bottom of this. They wonít come on board immediately, but slowly they will do it.

Published on: Sunday, 4th December, 2005