Published by Patra K on

The People’s Front for Transition. “Is it old wine in new bottles?”

Besigye during the launch of Peoples Front forTransition (Photo courtesy Nile Post)

Last week, a section of opposition politicians launched a political coalition dubbed the “People’s Front for Transition” (PFT) with the sole intention of unseating the current government in power. The coalition is being led by political veteran and four-time presidential candidate Colonel Kiiza Besigye. Various groups have already subscribed to this front, including a block from the Democratic Party (DP), Conservative party, People’s Progressive Party, and JEEMA party among others.

Political coalitions in Uganda are not a new phenomenon ever since the introduction of electoral democracy by the colonialists with a long history dating back to 1962 where the Kabaka Yeeka political party and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) teamed up to rival DP which they won. In the 1966 elections emerged the Interparty forces led by Dr. Paul Ssemwogerere, the Reform Agenda in 2001 that later culminated into the Forum for Democratic Change with Kiiza Besigye at the helm.

In 2011, Ugandan’s witnessed the Inter-party coalition still led by Kiiza Besigye who later on formed another pressure group hailed as For God and my country (4GC). The list of these coalitions could go on and on.

All these political formations come with well-intended plans, they, however, never seem to succeed at achieving what they set out to do. This is the reason why Ugandans are questioning how different the PFT is from the previous formations.

Henry Muguzi, Executive Director ACFIM while speaking on a weekly virtual talk show hosted by ACFIM commented that the timing of the PFT isn’t the issue but the approach, strategy and practical steps the proponents intend to use to achieve the transition isn’t clear.

He also interrogated whether the new formation was indeed the people’s front? This is because the proponents of the formation simply announced and never made any consultations with Ugandans and other key stakeholders.  Mr. Muguzi added that if at all the leaders of the coalition had consulted the people on what affects them the most, they would be surprised that poverty reigns supreme over the transition. “Should we be talking transition now or talking about other things?” he probed.

Ruth Namara, a pro-democracy activist that also featured on the show commented that the coalition chose to do last things first because ideally, they should have begun with consulting the people. She also emphasized that unity is a constant in any struggle. This is contrary to the PFT’s strategy because many actors declined to join stating that they would remain supporters. This is because of the high level of mistrust involved. National Unity Platform (NUP) particularly declined to join and this speaks volumes.

Ms. Namara also stated that since the elections are done, leaders need to focus on serving the citizens that voted for them other than forming coalitions. She also advised that instead of duplicating efforts, actors should come together to rally resources to achieve their common agenda.

The show highlighted concerns on how the PFT was planning to achieve transition since they had earlier alluded that they do not believe in elections as a vehicle for transition.

Felix Kafuuma, a political finance expert who too was on the show added that most coalitions suffer an identity crisis and the PFT is no exception because it is the same old familiar faces that have been in the political arena whose candles are burning out fronting the coalition. Ugandans want to see new faces and different ideas, the old actors can still be part of the cause but work behind scenes, Mr.Kafuuma advised.

It is important to discuss the identity of the outfit because that is what determines the kind of people that will be mobilized since most follow based on charisma. Many Ugandans are also troubled about whose interests the actors are serving. The SecretKnown is that many politicians who had lost relevance use these coalitions as platforms to come back to the scene.

The panelists unanimously agreed that the PFT had been so predictable in their operations. The Uganda Police has even already declared that for the coalition to hold meetings they would first have to get clearance, we all know how that path leads.

“The PFT should have first mobilized and worked like termites underneath unnoticed then probably had different faces so that by the time they gained momentum, it was a surprise to the establishment,” Mr. Kafuuma said. 

He also remarked that their approach mimicked mushrooms in being very visible at the top and less on ground hence they won’t survive.

The panelists advised that to wrestle for power, one must use sublime means to conceal information instead of parading in front of cameras. On the contrary, the coalition has done just that exactly. 

Mr.Muguzi acknowledged his worries that the PFT would end up just like the others whose actors loved to operate in the full glare of the media and organized a bubble for publicity so that when they were arrested and harassed, it would create public sympathy. He advised Ugandans to open up their eyes and not allow to be hoodwinked by these politicians.

Ugandans have been ready for a united opposition for a very long time, they want to transition and change, Mr. Muguzi said. For any transition to take place, however, the formation needs to pronounce itself on issues of national dialogue and bring the young people on board too.

You can watch this interesting episode of #TheOtherPerspective here.

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