national unity platform
When was NUP formed in Uganda?

The founders of the National Unity Platform, and the People Power Movement, revealed that Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu was elected president of the NUP and flagbearer.

The National Unity Platform (NUP), formerly the National Unity, Reconciliation and Development Party (NURDP), is a social-liberal and progressive political party in Uganda led by the Kyadondo East legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine. 

Background

NURDP was formed in December 2004 and led by Moses Kibalama from December 2004 until July 2020 when it changed leadership. Currently, it’s called National Unity Platform (NUP) headed by Hon Kyagulanyi.

On 14 July 2020, Kyagulanyi assumed leadership of the party and was declared the party flag-bearer in the upcoming February 2021 Ugandan presidential elections. Its headquarters are located in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb with its ideology being Social; Liberalism Progressive Constitutionalism and its slogan People Power Our Power.  

Robert Kyagulanyi was sworn in as the Kyadondo East legislator in the 10th Parliament in July 2017, (2016-2021). To win that constituency, he beat two seasoned politicians in a by-election: Sitenda Sebalu of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and Apollo Kantinti of the main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

While running for the Kyadondo East seat, the former Ghetto President was shunned by both the DP and FDC political parties, so he ran as an independent candidate. He adopted the People Power slogan as his rallying call, leading to what is referred to as the People Power Movement in Uganda.

moses kibalama nkonge Bobi Wine unveil NUP
Former leader Moses Kibalama Nkonge and MP Bobi Wine unveil NUP.

Leadership – NUP

On 22 July 2020, the founders of National Unity Platform, together with leading personalities from the People Power Movement, disclosed that Kyagulanyi had been elected President of NUP and presidential party flag bearer in the upcoming 2021 national elections.

The party is registered with the Uganda Electoral Commission. The party’s symbol is an umbrella in red and white colours.

On 28 July 2020, the NUP presidential flag-bearer Robert Kyagulanyi unveiled membership cards that cost USh1000, an amount he said did not discriminate against social class and would be affordable to every Ugandan.

National Unity Platform unveiled its official membership card bearing white and red colours with the NUP logo, the Umbrella.

He said unlike other political parties like Democratic Party (DP) and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) whose membership cards vary in price, Kyagulanyi said their cards will remain at shillings 1,000 regardless of one’s financial, social, political or economic status.

Joel Ssenyonyi the People Power and NUP spokesperson said they took time contemplating about an amount that is affordable by every Ugandan. Ssenyonyi cited an example of boda-boda riders who have not been working due to COVID-19 lockdown and might not afford more than 1,000 shillings for buying NUP cards.

The cheapest card also known as ordinary for DP costs 2,000 shillings but they also have cards for 500,000 shillings and 1 million shillings. FDC’s annual ordinary ticket is 1,000 but a member can as well pay for one that goes for 100,000 shillings up to 5 million shillings, NUP leaders argued.

However, some sources who wanted the party cards revealed that they are charging them millions of Shillings for the card which they said was unfair contrary to NUP‘s earlier statements that a card will cost 1000 shillings regardless of one’s social status.

Kyagulanyi then said NUP is still welcoming all members to join the party or to form a People Power Alliance as the clock ticks 2021 general elections.

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Citing an example of JEEMA president, Asuman Basalirwa, who is also Bugiri Municipality MP, Kyagulanyi said all people they have been working with will not be abandoned because the agenda is taking over leadership of this country. 

Kyagulanyi and Ssenyonyi said NUP membership cards can be accessed at all regional offices.

Ssenyonyi says that the party will hold talks with aspirants who had picked nomination forms to be endorsed by People Power before NUP was unveiled, to reach a harmonized ground. And indeed many aspirants who had acquired People Power nominations forms who belonged to DP Bloc crossed over to NUP on the 13 August 2020.

These included Joseph Mayanja aka Jose Chameleone aspiring Kampala Lord Mayor and Members of the DP Bloc – Moses Kasibante, Rubaga Division North Constituency, Mathias Mpuuga, Masaka Municipality MP, Joseph Ssewungu, Kalungi West MP, Medard Lubega Sseggona, the Busiro East MP who is now one of the NUP lawyers, Betty Nambooze, Mukono Municipality MP, Ssempala Emmanuel Kigozi, Makindye Ssabagabo MP Muwanga Kivumbi, Butambala County MP, Allan Ssewanyana, Makindye West MP, Ssentongo Robinah, Kyotera Woman MP, Veronica Nanyondo, Bukomasimbi Woman MP, Florence Namayanja, Bukoto East MP.

However, some of the members of the DP Bloc have been dropped during the vetting exercise of NUP flag bearers including Moses Kasibante who disagreed with the results later saying he will run as an independent candidate even though he remains a committed member of the People Power Movement, Kenneth Paul Kakande who also disagreed with the results and others. 

NUP also dropped Bobi Wine’s musical friends like Dr Jose Chameleone and other musicians which until today is the talk of the town with some vowing to quit Bobi Wine’s struggle and campaign for President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

On 3 August 2020, the party president unveiled five members of parliament who crossed that day to the National Unity Platform. These included John Baptist Nambeshe (NRM), Patrick Nsamba (NRM), Francis Zaake (Independent) and Busujju’s legislator David Kalwanga (Independent).

These DP groups are the standard journeymen, always on the move once the political season kicks off. In 2011, when some of the DP members cut their political teeth, they were part of Suubi 2011; an informal grouping of pro-kingdom Buganda politicians who supported Dr Kizza Besigye’s bid for the presidency despite professing to belong to the Democratic Party (DP).

In 2016, many of them shifted allegiance and backed former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who had just broken ranks with President Museveni.

That time they moved together with the DP leadership under Mr Norbert Mao. Just a month into the campaigns, many of them had abandoned Mr Mbabazi and jumped onto the Besigye’s bandwagon, for the veteran activist had defied the odds to once again generate the biggest enthusiasm against President Museveni.

nup membership card
Kyagulanyi was elected President of NUP and presidential party flag bearer.

Now with the upcoming 2021 General Election, the group has moved again. This time joining Bobi Wine who’s President Museveni’s immediate rival. Hon. Kyagulanyi was perhaps the proudest and happiest man as he officially unveiled the additions to his new party, NUP.

DP Bloc has supported a different candidate for the presidential seat in 2011, 2016 and 2021, and none of those they backed belonged to DP, their mother party. 

This Bloc always sides with the Opposition candidate that appears to them to stand the biggest chance of success against President Museveni regardless of which party or formation fronts him. Mr Norbert Mao was a presidential candidate in DP; backed by DP, but they supported Dr Besigye.

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The group now supports Hon Kyagulanyi. In 2016 they first backed Mr Mbabazi but abandoned him for Dr Besigye when it became clear that the former had more support than Mbabazi. So, the support for Kyagulanyi will only be confirmed if they will stick to him until Election Day.

Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP, defending their actions said they are seeking power, to liberate Uganda from what he calls a dictatorship. When one is involved in a ‘struggle’ of this sort, Mr Kivumbi says, the vehicle (political party) he uses does not matter.

Kivumbi cited an example of President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni, who operated under different formations; the Front for National Salvation (Fronasa), Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), Popular Resistance Army (PRA) and eventually the National Resistance Army Movement (NRA/M), until he obtained leadership of this country in 1986.

Kivumbi reasons that they are just looking to move with the times and will not be beholden to colonial political parties with an outdated mentality as they seek to solve new problems. To them, dynamism is the name of the game.

But to Mr Norbert Mao, the DP President the defecting leaders are looking for ‘meal cards’. To him, they are looking for the most convenient way to get elected or re-elected, and earn salaries as a result.

In 2018, the DP decided to have what they termed as “reunions”. The idea was that they would entice Bobi Wine into their party.

Many members that belonged to the People Power Pressure Group did not have knowledge of Bobi Wine obtaining a party. 

Different sources say the DP MP’s had hoped that Mr Kyagulanyi would not find a party and run under the People Power Movement which would enable many of them to pick DP cards and then run under the People Power Movement, an arrangement that has served them well in the past.

According to sources Bobi Wine informed most of his allies about his decision to acquire a political party two or so days before it was inaugurated.

Taken aback, Mr Ssegona, Ms Florence Namayanja (MP Bukoto East) and others who were not ready to join NUP turned around and claimed that they were part of DP Bloc, an initiative in which political parties such as Abed Bwanika’s People’s Development Party (PDP), Michael Mabikke’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) were to be encapsulated into the mainstream DP.

As Mr Sseggona and this group turned to resuscitate the “DP Bloc” idea, they said as a bloc they would support Bobi Wine in the next elections.

Mr Mao’s response to this was firm; “There’s nothing like DP Block.” Mao went ahead to mock DP members who were fraternizing with Kyagulanyi, calling them watermelon, those who were green (DP) on the outside and red (People Power) on the inside. Mr Mao then issued a warning that his DP is not ready to issue party cards to DP members who were in bed with other political groups.

When Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago was unveiled by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Mao’s reaction was that his party had thousands of members who are ready to replace him and other DP rebels. And to Kyagulanyi who has been talking about forming a big coalition to end President Museveni’s long rule, dropped the idea after obtaining and successful launch of the NUP Party.

Kyagulanyi issued an ultimatum to all who claimed to be People Power members that they would either be NUP or not part of them. Most of the People Power structures shifted to NUP after its successful launch.

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Early this year, People Power had put in place an eleven-member team termed as the “electoral management committee” whose role was to vet all candidates to run under the People Power umbrella. 

It had members such as former DP stalwarts John Mary Ssebuwuufu and Sulaiman Kidandala, who is vying for the Kawempe North MP slot, and Samuel Walter Lubega Makaaku, who wants the Lubaga South MP slot, among others.

However, in light of the emergence of NUP, this committee was disbanded because some of the committee members had not yet joined NUP party according to People Power/NUP spokesperson Mr Joel Ssenyonyi.

With both Bobi Wine and Mr Mao taking radical positions, the DP dissidents who thoughts they could work with NUP under the auspices of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) realized that they had to go with the current political momentum in Buganda, which they deem to favour NUP.

And during the party launch, Bobi Wine made it clear that the new party would take up all that People Power had: “NUP is to unite all people just like the People Power Movement was.”

Kyagulanyi said NUP membership cards
Kyagulanyi said NUP membership cards can be accessed at all regional offices.

Speaking about what has happened over the past weeks, Mr Mao said whereas he was sad about losing members to NUP, there was another side to the story; that he had handed over his problems to Bobi Wine to deal with. Well, the MPs are now with Bobi Wine, and that’s what he wanted. Time will expose what else is in store.      

National Unity Platform flag-bearers

The National Unity Platform chose to pick flag-bearers for the various positions without holding primaries, party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi revealed earlier. 

Ssenyonyi speaking to Journalists at NUP offices in Kamwokya said that in constituencies where there are many aspirants for the same positions, they were holding negotiations amongst themselves to agree on the best candidate.

He said the party executives will interview where the aspirants fail to reach a consensus. In this case, the party leaders will vet the aspirants and pick flag bearers.

He added that the party will also deploy scouts to the field to find out who has more support in the constituency, Ssenyonyi said so far, NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi was the only flag-bearer who had been chosen for the position. Ssenyonyi added that in some constituencies, the negotiations have been successfully concluded.

“Kyagulanyi is the only flag-bearer who has been unveiled. Let no one come out to say that he has been chosen as the flag bearer,” he said.

Other positions are an automatic case like Joel Ssenyonyi for Nakawa East. Ssenyonyi added that when choosing flag bearers, the party will consider other factors besides academic qualifications. 

The party will consider the commitment to the struggle, value addition to the party, loyalty, self-confidence of the aspirant, ability of the candidate to finance their campaigns, and the conduct of the candidate in public.

At the same event, a group claiming to be from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and some pastors announced they had joined NUP.

Sulaiman Kidandala lauded the new entrants and said NUP was one of the fastest-growing political parties in the country. However, he was dropped as the Party’s flag-bearer for the Kawempe North Constituency and the card handed over to Muhammad Ssegirinya.