Former independent presidential candidate, Mr Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta, has launched a political party – the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) that seeks to bolster an economic growth message across the country.
Unveiling the party whose emblem is a hand holding a maize on Monday afternoon, Mr Kabuleta said the party aims at encouraging Ugandans to demand and restore their lost property such as land and mineral deposits.
He said he hoped to unite the fragmented opposition seeking to oust President Yoweri Museveni, 77, who has been in power since 1986.
The new political party that started as a political pressure group has metamorphosed into a political party seeking to help bolster economic advocacy.
Mr Kabuleta said his pressure group, NEED, had entered into a partnership with the People’s United Movement (PUM), a political party that has been active since 2005 to form the new political party.
“So there was no point in me leaving People’s United Movement, which I’ve been a party to for the last two years to go and start another one and reinvent the wheel. So we decided we can just change this to fit our ideology. The founders of the party (PUM) had no problem with that because they share our ideology.”
“And they believe in what we stand for. So they were absolutely comfortable with that and then they also know that NEED has been popularized around the country. Which People’s United Movement hasn’t. So, we had what they didn’t have…..and they had what we did not have…the registration. So we united and now we are a party which is known across the country.”
Mr Kabuleta launched a scathing dig at President Museveni, accusing the long-time leader of attaching his name to national resources such as oil, gold and iron ore and in the process unfairly pocket their proceeds at the expense of the country.
“For instance, for the past few years, Uganda has been getting in excess of USD 1 billion worth of gold every year, but that money is not even reflected in the national budget as an income for the nation. Because one greedy man has been taking all the proceeds for himself and his family. $1 billion, not even reflected as an income in the budget. There are so many other extractions that are coming out of the soil,” he said.
Mr Kabuleta also a former journalist, has joined a long list of vocal critics challenging President Museveni’s long-time leadership, hoping to harness deep dissatisfaction among younger, more educated and often urban voters.
“I invited Ugandans from all walks of life to come and join us as we move and create economic empowerment for our people and reverse all these three and a half decades of poverty revolution led by Mr Poverty himself. I want to tell you that change will definitely happen. It’s a matter of when. It cannot be avoided.”
Adding: “Secondly, the change that NEED proposes will be to the benefit of everyone. We are not proposing the kind of change that causes disruption, disorder or that seeks to settle old scores as if we have vendettas against anybody. That’s not who we are. We are not a vindictive people in our relentless pursuit for a bright future for Ugandans shall have very little time to look to the past. Because we are just so be engaged in working out a future that benefits all of us. Therefore, nobody has anything to fear about what we are proposing for this country.”
However, analysts say the incumbent leader continues to benefit from a powerful patronage network, a long-established political machine and links to big businesses as well as support from the military or other security forces.
When Mr Kabuleta announced his intention to contest for president in the 2021 General Election, he said his primary objective was to get Ugandans out of poverty through financial liberation.
Data from the 2016/2017 National Household Survey indicates that 21.4 percent of Ugandans are poor, corresponding to nearly eight million persons.