The Observer | Walk to Work’s Mathias Mpuuga on why he left Besigye for Mbabazi

Posted October 4, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in TDA Protocol ~ 4,660 views



Masaka Municipality MP MATHIAS MPUUGA, 40, is mostly remembered for coordinating the walk-to-work protests after the 2011 elections, where former FDC president Kizza Besigye was, literally, the ‘chief walker’.

But Mpuuga has now switched allegiance from Besigye to Amama Mbabazi in the 2016 presidential elections. Deo Walusimbi asked Mpuuga about his newfound love for Mbabazi.

What motivated you to switch loyalty from Besigye to Mbabazi?

First of all, there is no problem between me and Dr Besigye. He remains a comrade in the struggle and I have high regard for him for what he has done over the years. What is very clear is that at every stage, the struggle takes different facets and this is just one of the key junctions of the struggle.

The entry of JPAM [John Patrick Amama Mbabazi] in the struggle is part of the additional efforts to propel the struggle to the next level. I don’t find a contradiction when the struggle gets a new face and I choose to work with one of the key players without any fear.

First of all, I belong to DP [Democratic Party]. We have been working hard over the last four years to forge unity in DP, and there is a sign of unity within DP. Apart from being convinced that Mbabazi is a key player in the new face of the struggle, I am also trying to make sure that I participate in the party efforts to re-energize the struggle for the restoration of the rule of law.

I think Mbabazi is helping us widen the scope of the struggle and he deserves our support. In fact, the spirit of TDA [The Democratic Alliance], which is the founding ground upon which we have been working with Amama, recognized his critical importance and enrolled him.

But you have been so critical of Mbabazi since you joined Parliament!

It is [out of] a conviction that we can play the next [political] game together and reach the aspirations we have been fighting to achieve together.

When he [Mbabazi] said that ‘I have erred over the years and the system has gone astray, I want to work with forces of change’, it is only right that we appreciate his position. I am very sure that by Mbabazi joining TDA, he had turned into an activist for change.

Did Dr Besigye fail to deliver, in your view?

It’s not about failure, because it’s a collective effort, and not personal. The effort has been collective and I have advised variously that even when TDA failed to work, I contend that [even if] the two players [Besigye and Mbabazi] have disagreed on the principle of cooperation, they are not disagreeable on working together for change.

As long as they are not disagreeable, I think we are still carrying on with the same collective effort.

Why didn’t you concentrate on consolidating the available support you have built since 2001 when Besigye parted ways with Museveni instead of building a new opposition force under Mbabazi?

There is no new opposition force. The opposition had an opportunity to widen the scope of the opposition by embracing either persons or institutions and groups [interested in change] but they didn’t see our point of view.

For me, it’s not about how long the struggle has taken; it’s also about the key junctions of the struggle because if there is added momentum obtained by the entry of new players, I don’t think anybody wishing to see regime change in Uganda would see that in bad light.

I am for regime change… at all costs, which is why away from the gymnastics of electoral politics, I have been at the forefront of doing extra-electoral activities to make sure that we quicken the speed of removing this regime.

If Mbabazi also fails to get the disjointed opposition into power like Besigye, would you unite and launch another phase of walk-to-work protests?

You are asking a wrong question. It’s not Mbabazi personally to deliver the opposition to victory, it’s a collective effort. Any failure will be collective failure. Otherwise, if it were personal, then we would leave the individuals to do it alone. It’s not Besigye’s personal mission.

Secondly, I don’t hold any misgivings about anyone I have worked with in the struggle because nobody pays me to be in the struggle. It’s a conviction I hold. If we don’t win, perhaps we shall draw lessons from the fact that we shall have made extra strides because fighting a dictator of 30 years is not an event but a protracted struggle, which everyone of us must contribute to.

In fact, if [Mbabazi and Besigye] choose not to work together, I have advised that we can cultivate a spirit of cooperation and separation because I don’t think it will be sensible for all these forces of change to be antagonistic.

I have heard some sections of the opposition trying to blackmail others. I think those are lost in the woods; they need to be put right. This struggle has junctions and realities. In 2011, we parted ways with the Democratic Party and they said they were building party structures and they were willing to be patient while doing that.

Over the last five years, if you ask the DP president [Norbert Mao] and his team how much they have expanded the party, I would be shocked if they have anything to show for it.

So, they were trying to do things right by playing party politics, but I know the difference between doing things the right [way] and doing the right thing. In politics, especially when you are fighting a dictator, the biggest thing is the choices you make rather than doing things the right [way]. The right thing I need to do, actually what I am doing now, is to make sure that we re-energize the force towards pushing the dictator to the tipping point.

Whoever adds momentum to the struggle is one of us and our friend, and we shall work with whoever is not our enemy. We shall even work with former enemies as long as they accept to change their ways and proclaim their desire to change the way things are done in this country.

Are you and your opposition colleagues, ready to push NRM and Mbabazi forward because according to Besigye, Mbabazi has no problem with NRM. Mbabazi is allegedly disappointed with Museveni lying about handing over power.

I think your question is pedestrian. I have sat with Mbabazi, there is nothing like NRM in his conception of what needs to be done. Anybody who went to school would know that between Mbabazi and NRM, there is a complete departure both in terms of what needs to be done today and tomorrow and what actually he obtains now in terms of the political path the country is supposed to take.

So, whoever tries to tell us that Amama is not convincing, I think they are mistaken. First of all, if you invite somebody to sit on the table as an equal to discuss the way forward, then don’t tell us when you disagree that we disagreed because this person is too bad.

I think that would be a mark of some form of intellectual dishonesty on whoever says that. And I would rather say that people should be straight in their dealings. It is very easy to tell the country that we have disagreed in principle but you don’t have to turn around and try to portray the other as so bad. I have seen people crossing from NRM to the opposition and we have embraced them without asking them any questions.

I have known the current FDC chairman, Wasswa Biriggwa, as an NRM. He actually crossed straight from NRM without even a stopover for a bottle of water to FDC and he is now the leading FDC ideologue.

I don’t remember ambassador Biriggwa anywhere in the struggle for either a free and fair election or a human rights struggle; he simply crossed and he was embraced by FDC.

So, the way Biriggwa was recruited and embraced to the level of becoming the top party ideologue is the same way we have recruited Mbabazi and we are offering him the same platform to come and give us his input in the struggle.

Whoever wants to kill the struggle, the worst thing they can do is to try and personalize this struggle. The small mirror theory seems to be working for some of my colleagues. For me, I am for the bigger picture theory. These struggles are not personal [because] in this nature of struggle, some people will fall by the side.

It’s now clear the battle lines have been drawn between Besigye and Mbabazi, who are the key opposition forces in 2016 election. Aren’t you afraid that the opposition vote will be split, to Museveni’s advantage?

The whole idea of TDA was to bring together and consolidate [our support]. The fact that these two players and institutions disagreed on the approach, of course as a matter of strategy, complicates our business.

It means that we have to invest more time. The time we would have invested in trying to dislodge the dictator shall have to be divided into explaining to our people why these two [Besigye and Mbabazi] decided to go different ways and at the same time explaining to our people that at the end of the day, these two people are still committed to seeing the struggle to its end.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment


    Sam mpuga with due respect you should analyze some sensitive things in the right way. Ugandans are not all learnt people the way you may think and they are people who are tired of things of war. It’s very clear that JPAM has never parted ways with the dictator. Reasons being he has not returned the NRM card and he is not fighting for the general public because electoral reforms is an assurance to the public that power will belong to the people. According to public opinion, trust has been built up in Dr Kizza Besigye and everyone clearly shows his fight to empower everyone irrespective of your financial status. What makes you to really trust JPAM so fast like that leaving out the person whom many activists have chosen to trust? .Just be open to the public and don’t deceive. If you are money minded, tell the public because for me as a person I don’t have shame. We all know how NRM has personalized Uganda and mismanaged the economy and we are here trying to front JPAM one of the staunch NRM cadres and promoting the NRM ideology. If JPAM has come to finalize the deal of you people crossing to NRM, it’s better you cross in peace instead of bringing division to opposition because I don’t see what you are fighting for in the country by supporting JPAM.

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