Q&A; Mao Unbothered by Noise in Democratic Party

Norbert Mao the DP President General has said those accusing him of misguiding the party are on a smear campaign to tarnish his name ahead of the party’s delegates’ conference next month.

Speaking to URN, Mao said despite of the ‘noise,’ they are not going to be distracted by anybody in implementing the party’s roadmap towards changing leadership. 

Below are excerpts of the conversation; Members of your party are dissatisfied with the direction you are taking them…

Is there something new in their accusations?  The problem is with the elections. Why don’t they want them?  Those complaining are not the ones in charge of elections. Wasn’t the roadmap approved? The elections in DP are supervised at the local level, not by any individuals. Do you really think that the constitution of DP would be in a crisis? It wouldn’t. Everything is supervised by the NEC and everybody who is a leader in DP is supervised by the president. But DP is a highly decentralized party. Therefore, there is no debate on whether there will be elections or not.  There are some places which have some contradictions but out of the 138 districts in Uganda, the majority are going on with the elections.  

Where is the point of contention?

You see others have mixed up the issue of registering members and elections. We want to have a national register of DP members so that we are a party that knows who are the people who have the powers to decide. So, I’m not the one who wants elections. The Political Parties and Organizations Act says that the mandate of elected leaders is five years. So we must elect other leaders because it’s also in our party constitution. We have also already announced a national delegates’ conference so who are those who are going to go to the delegates’ conference if we don’t elect them.  

Speaking about the delegates’ conference, they are accusing you of taking it to your tuff in Gulu, from Mbarara where it was supposed to be…

There has never been that kind of thinking…when DP went to Mbale, whose tuff was Mbale? The idea of Mbarara is just a figment of People’s imagination. In Mbarara, we were supposed to hold a National Council in honour of Muzee Boniface Byanyima who was the DP chairman for a long time.

So as NEC we decided; it wasn’t Mao who decided. Actually, when they were deciding I walked out of the meeting because I don’t want people to think that maybe I have a conflict of interest. But in any case, this is not the first time DP has held a delegates’ conference in Gulu.

In the 1960s there was a delegates’ conference in Gulu and the choice of where to hold the delegates’ conference is determined by the National Executive Committee. Anyways, Gulu is a good venue and probably the next one we shall hold it in another region. DP conferences are not like those of NRM that are only held in Kampala.  

One senior member of your party said you have lost control over the NEC lately…

I don’t need to control NEC because it has people who have the mandate to decide when to hold the delegates’ conference. Majority of the members of NEC are supportive of me but I don’t even lobby these members before NEC meetings. I’m probably the only leader who doesn’t call people before meetings because I believe that if my ideas are not strong enough, they should be defeated in the meeting. I don’t have to arm-twist anybody to agree with me. My ideas should be taken on merit. In any case, we have always had people who disagree with us. You remember during the first East African Legislative Assembly elections, we had issues but we resolved them. You also remember when we had quarrels over UYD in 2013 we resolved them.  

You are trying to take away the role of Sulaiman Kidandala as the Organizing Secretary; who’s in charge of elections…

I don’t think that the issues that Kidandala is raising you can call them a row inside NEC. I think the proper thing would have been for him to refer the matter back to NEC because when NEC has made a decision, it cannot be overturned by an individual. Nobody has a veto over NEC, not even the president.  

The other day we saw DP MPs also up in arms against you claiming you are working against the party.

They are not against me; they are against their party which is a very foolish thing. When the party is going for elections how do you start destroying the party brand?  

They accuse you of financial misappropriation….

They are lying because DP is the most accountable party. We have financial systems and Hon Florence Namayanja sits on the Finance committee. Hon Ssewungu is the member of the top management, the top 11 leaders of the party and he doesn’t attend meetings. I think they were just in some comedy but all that is part of a smear campaign against me. 

If there is one thing you cannot fault Mao on is accountability and financial integrity.  I never joined politics to make money and you can buy me with anything but money. The accusation they brought were just for propaganda value.

The financial report was tabled before the National Council and there are responsible for people who have written in response to the financial report. For instance, our former parliamentary candidate for Kalangala wrote in a very respectful manner to the treasury telling us certain things that we must do right. I think that’s how intelligent people behave to make the institution better not to make it worse or to make the leaders look bad. 

The noise we are hearing in DP is going to cleanse the party and by the time the dust settles, those who are a liability to the party will have found their own way to where they are happier and those who love the party will be there. In any case, those who left the party are coming back because we have made it better.  Why do you think all of them no matter where they are, keep on looking back at party headquarters? Because there are people who are in charge and are working hard for the party. That’s why we choose to ignore them.  

But isn’t there anything legitimate in all the things they raise?

Their only concern is to win their small constituencies and the talk about liberating Uganda is just empty. Those who want to liberate Uganda don’t talk like that. Do they think they can liberate Uganda without Mao? Most of them won very narrowly even to come to parliament none of them has overwhelming support. They won by less than 50 per cent. Let them work with the current leaders in a respectful manner and stop making noise over nothing.  

But isn’t it important to make sure that these MPs keep these positions?

They don’t want competition because the last time we didn’t have primaries for incumbents and the mere fact that we have announced that this time everyone is welcome to compete, that’s why they are up in arms. But even my office is competed to have you heard me quarrelling with anybody who wants to be the president of the party.

But in principle, they are quarrelling because there are some people who have come up to challenge them. They have a misguided sense of entitlement.

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