When one of the professors at UBC (University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada) asked why Uganda parliamentarians were acting like animals and worse than kindergarteners, I knew then that Ingrid had already won. Let us play this one again. It was so much fun first time around.
INGRID TURINAWE was recently booed and heckled by MPs when she sought their votes to send her to the East African Legislative Assembly.
But the FDC national mobiliser tells Baker Batte Lule she felt triumphant rather than humiliated. Turinawe also denied ever calling MPs pigs although she likens their behaviour to pigs'. Excerpts:
How do you sum up your experience as a candidate for Eala?
We started with a primary election within FDC. We were nine candidates who were nominated. Out of the nine candidates, we selected the best two. Some communication ran around that I had lost because you journalists were not aware that we were electing two people.
I remember when we were giving our speeches after the election, I tried to make it clear but I don’t know how you rushed and communicated that I had lost; simply because you wanted me to be on the top.
For us as FDC we have always taken our two members of parliament to Eala; the first term we had our own president, Gen Mugisha Muntu and Counsel Wandera Ogalo as members of Eala. In 2012, we were betrayed by DP; at that time Mukasa Mbidde had gone to court and won because we as FDC and NRM had taken MPs without DP and UPC. So when he won, we sat and agreed to go to court as a way to push to have more seats for the opposition.
We wanted the NRM to release more two seats so that DP and UPC each get one. We signed an agreement with the two parties and then wrote to the speaker about postponing the election.
We as FDC committed ourselves to the boycott, but we didn’t know that there were moves to betray us and edge us out from representation at Eala. On the same day we signed that agreement, DP and UPC went behind us and made a deal with the NRM and they were nominated and they took our two positions.
We were fighting for them to get at least two positions but for them they were fighting to take away the two representatives we had in Eala. Our two elected members then, Anita Among and Augustine Ruzindana, didn’t go.
So this time we said let us appoint our people in time; but I think it was a trick for the speaker not to release the guidelines on which voting was going to be based. World over, I have never seen an election where people go for nominations without guidelines. As a party we were not comfortable with another election taking place in parliament because we clearly knew the way the NRM was dealing with DP and UPC.
The moment they cheer you, then you are no longer opposition. Don’t be deceived that there is a good DP; you are either DP or NRM. So according to me, NRM took nine [representatives] to Eala which we are going to challenge.
Why was it very important for FDC to go to Eala?
It is very important for our country; when we send members to Eala, we are not sending them to represent MPs in Uganda but to represent citizens of Uganda.
That is why the treaty is very clear that every political party represented in parliament should be represented in the [regional assembly] because they know these political parties have citizens that support them.
Look at the Kiggundu [Badru, former EC chairperson] results; even if you ignore the rigging, how many people are behind FDC? Millions of Ugandans. All these have no representation at Eala; so, it is very important because matters of trade, security [and] investment, they affect all our people.
What caused the confusion that surrounded your candidature that even your party president had to write to parliament withdrawing you?
You will ask him, I wouldn’t want to discuss any internal matters of the FDC in the media. In any case, the letter that came from parliament made it very clear that he was not acting according to the law.
Let’s talk about the treatment you received in parliament!
I expected it very much. I started my speech by telling the MPs about the greatest players in the world. Many people follow and watch football so, I told them about Ibrahimovic; he is one of the greatest players of Manchester United but the fans of Arsenal cannot like him because they see him as a dangerous man because he competes with them.
I also told them about Alexis Sanchez, the greatest player of Arsenal, who will never be liked by Manchester United team members because he competes with them; he gives them trouble. I also told them that as a country we have one team; Uganda Cranes, but Micho will not take one team – KCCA, Vipers or Onduparaka – because that will not be a national team.
I was telling them that I’m the greatest player in FDC so they needed to pick from all the teams to make a team that will represent us at the regional level.
I knew they didn’t like me and they were not going to vote for me because I’m the greatest player in the team that competes with them but I needed to participate. I wanted all these things to come out, including evidence of how we can challenge this thing.
I think we should find a solution once and for all. They threatened me; they had weeks of practising songs. They were saying that they were going to humiliate me, not knowing that they were taking me to the field which I understand most; nobody can defeat me in that field of defiance.
So, you went into an election well knowing that you had zero chances?
Most people don’t understand what defiance is all about. Whenever I get an opportunity to weaken any arm of government that supports a dictator, I will use it. So, I used that opportunity to really weaken and expose them internationally.
This was an international activity; up to now those clips from parliament are playing worldwide. All integrations are going to learn from what happened to me. Museveni told us he is going to weaken the opposition by 2021. Should we subject ourselves to that?
Should I go there to kneel after them or cross from my party because I want to go to Eala? Did I join FDC to be a member of parliament in Eala? I joined the FDC to bring about change. So all those who were heckling, to me they were really entertaining me. I still maintain that I respect everybody but I fear no one.
When I walked into parliament, I found all of them standing; I said this is respect from members of parliament. Hon Muhammad Nsereko was the choir master; now who has ever got a chance anywhere to be sung for by over 400 members of parliament apart from me Ingrid Turinawe?
Interestingly, while Nsereko’s people were being evicted, their property being destroyed here in Park Yard [market], he was in parliament training choirs to sing for me. Even people who didn’t know Luganda, the Bakiga, the Bagisu, the Langis; everybody had been trained on how to receive Ingrid on the floor of parliament.
So I also didn’t disappoint; I joined the dance and they became more annoyed because, I was not bothered at all. I had told myself that I had to address them whether they liked it or not. I also told myself that if I can’t address them, no other candidate would address them. I was even ready to be arrested because I had resolved that I won’t leave parliament before I address them. Finally they accepted to listen.
I found them with placard that read: ‘Pigs cannot vote for you’. I didn’t take those placards to parliament; even when I said ‘big is big’ for them they heard ‘a pig is pig’. So in the end they thought they were reducing me but they ended up reducing themselves.
But is there any credence to the allegations that you were one of those behind the pig demonstrations?
Have you seen any quotation of mine anywhere calling them pigs? Let them bring evidence. When I’m going for my activism, I have never hidden myself. I come openly and do my things in the public view.
Those who have been taking pigs to parliament have been arrested several times but I have never been part of them. I have learnt that this is no longer politics but defamation and I’m going to take action; whoever says that I called MPs pigs let him/her be fair and bring evidence. What kind of leaders are those?
Even if you don’t like me, I’m supposed to campaign because I’m a candidate. But these are people who know that in their constituencies they have no support. So let’s wait for these MPs; they will also not address people who don’t like them.
That is the precedent they have set. Nsereko has been getting votes from our people because he lied to us that he was independent yet he is not. So people are waiting for them, this is what they started countrywide; our people will be waiting for them.
Members of parliament had vowed that you will get a zero votes; did it surprise you that actually you got 25?
For me and the people who believe in me, we are very happy because we managed to sort out who is who. The 25 votes are the only members of parliament who are there to fight for the people. People are badly off but instead of changing people’s lives, they are busy changing their own lives.
That is why pigs are sent there to send a message but it seems they don’t understand the message. If you behave a like a pig, and you eat like a pig, you walk like a pig, then what are you? So, I’m very grateful for the honorable members who rose above the heckling and voted for me even those who came up to be my polling agents.
There is a bill that is coming that will attempt to change the Constitution to remove age limits; who will be there for Ugandans to say “no”? That was the beauty with my participation: for Ugandans to know that the people who can fight for them are very few probably the 25.
What do you say to some people including those in DP who say that you scuttled Florence Ekwau Ibi’s chance of being elected to Eala?
What Norbert Mao in essence is saying is that he was determined to let Mukasa Mbidde stay so that my colleague Ibi goes through. My colleague almost fell in the same trap because she was told that NRM will vote for her if she makes sure she doesn’t mention anything FDC; but it was a lie.
So, the likes of Mao should be frank and say they were working tooth and nail to make sure that Mbidde goes at the expense of the FDC. He was not so cooperative so that we can reduce the number of NRM from six to four.
So, whoever is saying that I reduced the chances of my colleague, I want him/her to understand that these were two different constituencies. I think the refusal to give us the guidelines until the voting day did us a disservice. Even the MPs didn’t know what to do; that’s why we saw about 30 invalid votes because these MPs also needed civic education that was never done.
What next for you now?
I can’t be diverted from the side of people; I stand for what is right even if it means standing alone. The treaty is going to be challenged; we want it to be clear on how political parties are going to be represented without being compromised.
I think the EAC should also be promoting democracy on top of its other objectives. There is no country that is going to trade when there is no good governance, and stability. For now, the Eala is a caucus of ruling governments because what is happening in Uganda is what is happening in other countries where leaders of dominant parties handpick those who represent them in Eala.
Why are politicians from across the political divide so allergic to defiance?
Because they don’t understand it or because they pretend. For us, we decided to fight a dictatorship without using violence; that’s why we came up with defiance. I will stand up to oppose whatever law is unjust; I will use my brains and, through innovations, come up with activities that challenge the dictatorship.
I was talking to some journalist who said I got a miserable 25 vote, I said to him, if I had lost, why was he coming to my office to interview me? Why didn’t he look for the winners? If he was interested in the losers, why didn’t he look for the other 36 members who didn’t make it?
Why was he singling me out? For me that is defiance; we are really advancing and we are reaching [the] very time soon.
THE OBSERVERIngrid: I stand for what is right even if I'm alone