By Ofwono Opondo
As each general election draws closer, the Democratic Party (DP) leadership under the feeble, although ever buoyant and boastful, Norbert Mao, has presented itself as a political platform that accommodates progressive ideas upon which a new national political consensus can be built to replace the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Mao, has lately taken to advising NRM, and publicly claimed that the ‘Luwero Consensus’ which brought NRM to power in 1986, has ‘irretrievably’ collapsed. Yet, even with the ongoing round of opportunistic political realignment, Mao and DP already appear lost in marshland.
Mao often cites, among other issues, the acrimonious fallout of former NRM historicals, Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Eriya Kategaya, Augustine Ruzindana, Amanya Mushega, John Kazzora, Gen. David Sejusa (Tinyefuza) and others, as the most eloquent evidence of his analysis. It is true these individuals have indeed fallen out with the mainstream NRM, ably being led by President Yoweri Museveni. However, it’s inaccurate in political terms, to have expected the NRM revolution to travel in a straight political and ideological lines or what used to be called, the “correct line,” especially, when put in practice under very difficult environment.
Secondly, from the start, NRM has always been a multi-ideological, and mass national platform bringing together different, and sometimes, antagonistic, and even petty tendencies, but which due to good leadership has over the years generated viable consensus on the most critical areas to enable Uganda move forward.
As a result, the NRM managed to persuade Ugandans to freeze the sectarian and divisive multi-partyism in favour of broad-based democratic politics. It has built a disciplined national army, and security system, private sector led economy, and returned cultural institutions which have generally created social harmony in Uganda. It is necessary to state that once the country was stabilized and pacified, the NRM shouldn’t be a place of conscription for those with different and legitimate political ambitions. Like Besigye.
As a national liberation movement, the NRM remains a vanguard organisation, and those that break away, or form entirely new formations, are at great liberty to do so, provided they maintain peace, security, stability, and ensure, as a minimum, that the broad democratic constitutional framework is functional and effective. We firmly believe that Ugandans have better prospects today than ever before.
But examining DP since its formation in 1954 as a party mostly of disgruntled catholic Baganda elites, in a feudal Buganda kingdom, reveals monumental leadership failures that even history may not correct soon. From 1954, DP presented itself more as a Buganda catholic party under Stanilas Mugwanya who had been cheated in election for the Buganda Katikiro, remained a fringe party, although attracted some people along the way. Sadly, its development, in different parts of Uganda, has followed the same pattern, attracting mostly disgruntled elements into its leadership, and hence a party of adventurists, opportunists and careerists spreading hate.
Many pundits believe that this is the reason why at every turn of political change in Uganda, DP leaders have been the first to join the new bandwagon as they joined UPC I regime soon after the collapse of the UPC-KY alliance in 1966, which proceeded to declare Uganda a one- party state. In January 1971, when an illiterate Idi Amin Dada overthrew, the UPC political party government, it was, again the DP leaders, including its President General, Ben Kiwanuka who rushed into it. Kiwanuka was then appointed by Idi Amin as Chief Justice, but never lasted even two years in office before he was brutally dragged out of his judicial Chambers and murdered without a trace to-date.
After Amin’s overthrow in April 1979, it was again, the DP leaders, starting with Yusuf Lule, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, Andrew Kayira and Robert Serumaga, that became cheer voices for re-introduction of ethno-religious sectarian politics, but got outflanked by the malevolent UPC. Had DP leaders listened to the voices of caution at that time, most likely, Uganda’s trajectory would be much different and perhaps better.
In fact, as a reminder, it was the same DP leaders alongside with of KY, who instigated and spread political violence characterized by wanton arson, plunder, expulsions, and murder in Buganda against each other, which they repeated in 1971, 1979, 1980, 1985 and 1986 when government fell! And listening to them even today, there is trepidation, they will repeat, given the slightest chance.
DP leaders have been notoriously good in political mischief with the main hope of fanning sectarian politics and eating on the cheap. As UPC II regime rampaged the Luwero Triangle between 1981-85, DP MPs were crossing to UPC, and without shame, joined Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa’s junta when it staged the coup. Yet DP, postured as civilian democrats, whose motto, reads “Truth and Justice.” DP and UPC leaders have such checkered past selling their souls even to the most base politics, considering that then DP President General, Paul Ssemogerere, and Olara Otunnu who represented the UPC regime at the UN, served Lutwa in the most ebullient positions as Internal, and Foreign Affairs ministers respectively.
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