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Collapse of the Opposition Inter-Party Coalition in Uganda

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Catherine Promise Biira

1. Introduction

Texte intégral

  • 1  Nation Television Uganda. ‘UPC abandons IPC Marriage’. YouTube video uploaded on 31 August 2010, h (...)

“After very careful review, I have to say that the UPC is unable to continue working within the IPC project and process.”1
– Dr. Olara Otunnu, President of the Uganda People’s Congress.

1This paper examines the dynamics of formation, operation and subsequent dissolution of the opposition Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) coalition in Uganda. Through analysis of media reports, official documents as well as primary data obtained from one-on-one interviews with key party leaders, the paper reveals the underlying concerns of each party in the Cooperation. It critically evaluates actor interactions and opinions regarding the negotiation process in order to uncover the relationship issues among the parties that culminated in the IPC’s collapse prior to the 2011 election. The collapse occurred just eight months after the successful negotiation and adoption of the Additional Protocol for the Inter-Party Cooperation.

2Whereas disagreement over whether or not the coalition should participate in the 2011 election was publicly presented as the cause of the IPC’s collapse, this paper argues that the real explanation lies in the poor relationship that existed among the IPC partners prior to the negotiation. The above-noted disagreement simply masked deeper relationship issues that influenced the way the partners communicated and interpreted events in the coalition, eventually leading to the collapse. The paper focuses on the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) as the main protagonists. It makes reference to the behaviour of the Democratic Party (DP) throughout the IPC process and corroborates its conclusions with both information obtained from the Conservative Party (CP) and written records issued by the various concerned parties.

1.1 What is the Inter-Party Cooperation?

3The IPC is a coalition of several Ugandan opposition political parties, which, in 2008, adopted a Protocol committing them to work together in order to break the dominance and weaken the position of the ruling National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O). In the run up to the 2011 elections, the IPC adopted an Additional Protocol (2009) providing for a common electoral platform in which the parties would field a single presidential candidate to run as the opposition flag-bearer. On 24 August 2010, reacting to rumours that his party had left the IPC, the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party President Dr. Olara Otunnu stated:

  • 2  Nation Television Uganda. ‘Otunnu affirms IPC coalition stand’. YouTube video uploaded on 24 Augus (...)

‘Let me stress, the UPC has not pulled out of IPC and we have not made a decision whether or not to pull out of IPC…we are concerned that there may be partners within the IPC who on the one hand will say we reject the Museveni-Kiggundu Electoral Commission (EC) but on the other hand may be willing to live with it in the end…’2

  • 3  Nation Television Uganda. ‘UPC abandons IPC Marriage’, op. cit.
  • 4  Mubangizi Michael (2010). ‘IPC bashes Olara Otunnu for ‘betrayal’’. The Observer, http://observer. (...)

4A week later, Dr. Otunnu announced that the UPC had left the IPC. He insisted that advocating for the change of the Electoral Commission (EC) was the main issue that had brought the parties together, and that in light of the IPC’s decision to participate in the 2011 elections under the EC existing at time, the UPC ‘was unable to continue working within the IPC project and process’.3 In an unprecedented turn of events, however, the UPC leader quietly filled nomination forms to run as a presidential candidate. In stark contrast to his earlier explanation, in a speech on the issue of his candidature, Dr. Otunnu reportedly said: ‘Boycott is not in the UPC vocabulary. The choice we have is either participating in the Museveni-Kiggundu fraudulent elections or in free and fair elections’.4

  • 5  Mpyisi, K. and V. Mwiricia (2011) ‘Uganda: Analysis of and Reflection on the 2011 Elections’, Situ (...)
  • 6  European Union Election Observer Mission Report (2011). ‘Uganda: Final Report. General Elections 1 (...)
  • 7  Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. ‘List of Members of Paliament (The 9th Parliament)’. http:// (...)

5Although a definitive connection between this incident and the dismal performance of the opposition in the 2011 election remains to be established, there is no doubt that this stance only served to discredit the opposition.  A Situation Report on Uganda’s 2011 elections notes that ‘on the ground, people expressed their disappointment with the opposition for not being organized enough to field a single candidate…’.5 The overall performance of the opposition in this election at both presidential and parliamentary levels was disappointing. The percentage of votes earned by the strongest opposition presidential candidate, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, (who was also the IPC flag-bearer) fell from 37.39 per cent in 2006 to 26.01 per cent in the 2011 elections. The ruling party’s candidate President Yoweri Museveni made gains from 59.26 per cent in 2006 to 68.38 per cent in 2011.6 In addition, despite an increase in the overall number of constituencies represented in parliament arising from creation of new districts between  2006 and 2011, the percentage of seats held by the opposition parties combined also fell from 17.5 per cent in 2006 to about 15.4 per cent in 2011.7

1.2 A Brief History of the Inter-Party Cooperation against the NRM

6Between 1986, when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power through a guerrilla war, and 2005, Uganda was governed under a movement system characterized by a prohibition on formal political parties’ activities. During this period, the historical political parties, namely the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Democratic Party (DP), that had been at the heart of Ugandan politics since independence, struggled to survive. In 1996, however, despite the ban on parties, the DP and UPC set aside their long-standing differences and under the banner of the Inter-Party Forces for Cooperation (IPFC), supported the presidential candidacy of Paul Ssemwogerere (DP), against President Museveni of the NRM.

  • 8  Bakandonda, Wycliffe, Chief Administrative Officer of the Forum for Democratic Change. Interview h (...)
  • 9  The G7 included the CP, the DP, the UPC, JEEMA, the National Democrats Forum (NDF), The Free Movem (...)

7In 2001, President Museveni’s long-time ally and personal doctor during the bush war, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, defected from the NRM. Without a signed agreement, the opposition parties, namely the CP, the DP and the UPC joined the ‘Reform Agenda’, a pressure group of others who had broken ranks with the NRM, and fielded Dr. Kiiza Besigye against President Yoweri Museveni. After the 2001 election, the Reform Agenda’s desire to enter into a formal cooperation agreement with the opposition parties (the DP and the UPC) was met with disdain, ostensibly because they felt they were too big to work with a pressure group.8 The Cooperation continued, however, as a loose coalition of the G7, united by a desire to break the monopoly of the NRM, eventually resulting in a 2005 referendum that returned the country to multiparty democracy.9

  • 10  Obote, Miria K. (2008). ‘Political Cooperation is Imperative Now’. Uganda People’s Congress Offici (...)
  • 11  According to information obtained in the interview with the FDC party leader, the DP signed the pr (...)
  • 12  The Republic of Uganda (2009). ‘Additional Protocol for the Inter-Party Cooperation’. Uganda Peopl (...)

8Born out of the Reform Agenda, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)currently Uganda’s strongest opposition partywas registered in 2004. Its president, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, ran against President Museveni for the second time in 2006, but ‘attempts to stretch the work of the G6 Cooperation during the 2006 general elections aborted as electoral rivalry between the political parties took over’.10 Thereafter, realizing that the real problem confronting opposition political parties in Uganda was not a failure to market themselves, but rather the lack of an arena in which to do so, the Justice Forum (JEEMA), the Conservative Party (CP), the UPC, the DP and the FDC signed the 1st Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) Protocol on 5 August 2008.11 The aim of the Protocol was to promote the expansion of political space by promoting administrative and legal reforms to address bottlenecks in electoral competition. Article 2(d) of the Protocol provided for the parties to, at an appropriate time, adopt a common electoral platform.12

  • 13  The common electoral platform refers to an arrangement in which the parties agreed to field a sing (...)
  • 14  The National Resistance Movement (NRM), which had ruled the country since 1986, adopted the name N (...)

9In the run up to the 2011 general elections, however, just as the transition to adoption of a common electoral platform was being negotiated in the Additional Protocol, two key parties expected to be major partners in the IPC withdrew from the agreement.13 The DP did not consent to the Additional Protocol, while the UPC signed the Additional Protocol but abandoned the Cooperation five months before the elections took place. The IPC continued, supported by  membership of the FDC, JEEMA, the CP and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a new member of the coalition. This development shocked many Ugandans, as none of the opposition parties, alone, could come close to defeating the ruling National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O),14 which enjoyed the advantage of institutional strength, superior financing and a 25 year incumbency.

Notes

1  Nation Television Uganda. ‘UPC abandons IPC Marriage’. YouTube video uploaded on 31 August 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11maIr-VFc4. (Last retrieved on 6 August 2013)

2  Nation Television Uganda. ‘Otunnu affirms IPC coalition stand’. YouTube video uploaded on 24 August, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrlseVBUjRs. (Last retrieved on 6 August 2013) Museveni-Kiggundu are the names of the Ugandan President and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission at the time, respectively.

3  Nation Television Uganda. ‘UPC abandons IPC Marriage’, op. cit.

4  Mubangizi Michael (2010). ‘IPC bashes Olara Otunnu for ‘betrayal’’. The Observer, http://observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10387:ipc-bashes-olara-otunnu-for-betrayal&catid=78:topstories&Itemid=116, 3 October .

5  Mpyisi, K. and V. Mwiricia (2011) ‘Uganda: Analysis of and Reflection on the 2011 Elections’, Situation Report 5. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, p. 6.

6  European Union Election Observer Mission Report (2011). ‘Uganda: Final Report. General Elections 18 February 2011’. http://eeas.europa.eu/eueom/pdf/missions/eueom_uganda2011_final_report_en.pdf, 10 March, p. 40.

7  Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. ‘List of Members of Paliament (The 9th Parliament)’. http://www.parliament.go.ug/new/index.php/members-of-parliament/members-of-parliament.

8  Bakandonda, Wycliffe, Chief Administrative Officer of the Forum for Democratic Change. Interview held in Kampala on 31 December 2011.

9  The G7 included the CP, the DP, the UPC, JEEMA, the National Democrats Forum (NDF), The Free Movement (TFM) and the Reform Agenda. It became G6 when the FDC was formed and the UPC left the coalition.  See Kakande J. (2006). ‘Uganda: UPC, Allow FDC to Lead the Opposition’. New Vision, http://www.newvision.co.ug/PA/8/459/494765, 24 April.

10  Obote, Miria K. (2008). ‘Political Cooperation is Imperative Now’. Uganda People’s Congress Official Website, www.upcparty.net/president/09aug08_interparty.htm, 9 August.

11  According to information obtained in the interview with the FDC party leader, the DP signed the protocol in a boardroom but did not appear at the official public signing ceremony.

12  The Republic of Uganda (2009). ‘Additional Protocol for the Inter-Party Cooperation’. Uganda People’s Congress Official Website, http://www.upcparty.net/ipc/AdditionalProtocol.pdf, p. 2.

13  The common electoral platform refers to an arrangement in which the parties agreed to field a single presidential candidate, campaign jointly and coordinate regarding the endorsement of IPC candidates at all other levels of political representation, so as not to divide the votes of the opposition.

14  The National Resistance Movement (NRM), which had ruled the country since 1986, adopted the name National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O) after the introduction of a multiparty system of governance following the 2005 referendum.

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