Following a statement issued by the Netherland Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD) on the Interparty Organization for Dialogue (IPOD), the Dutch based Institute has suspended its support to the dialogue platform. This comes after NUP’s recent boycott in signing of the new 2022 IPOD Memorandum of Understanding. Forum for Democracy’s (FDC) final resolve to either/either not renew their membership with IPOD also remains uncertain as they continue to have internal party consultations.
IPOD was formed in 2010 by NIMD, a few years after Uganda had just agreed to have multi-party system after almost 20 years of a Movement system. IPOD, supported by NIMD through its secretariat aimed to provide a safe space for inclusive, respectful and effective dialogue between the Ugandan parties in Parliament.
Speaking on the withdrawal of support by NIMD towards IPOD, Frank Rusa, the Country Director-NIMD who also doubles as Executive Director-IPOD hinged on inclusivity as a core principle for democracy and a prerequisite for effective dialogue among others. He told SecretsKnown that for dialogue to be effective, all political parties represented in parliament must be willing to speak and listen to one another.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) however have on record severally accused the dialogue platform as a mere recruitment tool used by the NRM to “fish” from the opposition. The NUP diaspora chapter across Europe and America have protested at the NIMD headquarters in The Hague demanding that NIMD withdraws its support to IPOD accusing it of serving President Museveni’s interests. These are a few of the reasons NUP has cited to defend their stand in declining to join IPOD.
FDC and the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) that were part of the previous IPOD have also not yet signed the new MoU. Until last year’s general elections, all political parties represented in Parliament have participated in IPOD.
“NUP and FDC have not yet signed the new MOU and if they do not come on board, NIMD will not facilitate the secretariat in the 11th parliament.” Mr. Rusa said. He added that if one political party is not on board, it offends the inclusivity principle that NIMD believes in.
IPOD’s achievements over the years.
There have been noticeable successes registered by IPOD ever since its formation in 2010. Among them was the amendment of the Political Parties and Organizations Act (2005). It was through IPOD that the amount of public funding to political parties was increased significantly from UGX 10 billion to UGX 35 billion.
Another of IPOD’s achievements was the review of several electoral reforms and the formation of new regulations for the Public Order Management Act (POMA) which were developed constitutionally though not presented on the floor of parliament.
Mr. Rusa also believes that for a young multi-party democracy like Uganda, even for political parties to sit down and continue working together is in itself an achievement. It was also hoped that IPOD would work as a platform contribute to a national dialogue of political party leaders.
What political parties stand to lose?
SecretsKnown is reliably informed that NIMD has been facilitating IPOD activities with over UGX 1.5 billion ($389,306) annually. Among the activities include trainings offered to youth and women leaders in political parties. Some of the party members were even flown out to different countries such as Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa for peer learning to benchmark and learn how other countries are managing their democracies.
Political parties through IPOD also received technical trainings on Policy development, issue-based Manifesto development (not based on personalities) and Fundraising. IPOD also ssupported delegates conferences of its member political parties as well and covered administration costs to their respective secretariats.
NIMD’s suspension of support to IPOD is a window closed for political parties that have been beneficiaries of the above activities.
IPOD’s funding gaps.
The suspension of support to IPOD by NIMD will definitely impact on funding of capacity building programs being funded by the Institute. This suspension comes at a time when the Democratic Governance Facility-DGF that has been funding IPOD through NIMD with a sum of over UGX 6 billion over the last three years closes its operations in December 2022. Government suspended DGF operations in 2021 over accountability worries raised by the president.
The previous IPOD summit that resolved to increase public funding of political parties also resolved to have 15 percent of the UGX 35 billion to be allocated to IPOD to facilitate secretariat activities, but this was not implemented. Failure to implement this resolution further heightens IPOD’s funding gaps.
Mr. Rusa assured SecretsKnown that suspending of NIMD’s funding to IPOD does not mean NIMD will stop doing work towards strengthening democracy in Uganda.
NIMD shall still continue to work with youth, women and civil society, he said. The Institute also plans on launching a democracy school to teach and support political parties with knowledge and skills for responsive leadership.
Mr. Rusa also clarified that this is just a suspension and not a complete over haul of support to IPOD. “NIMD shall only consider continuing to host the secretariat if IPOD is fully inclusive” reads NIMD’s statement in part. Mr. Rusa emphasized that should NUP and FDC change their minds to join in, NIMD will gladly continue funding IPOD.