The document spells out details on how they seek to work together to take power, how to behave upon achieving their desired goal and an alternative plan to counter the sitting government’s effort snatch their victory.
Veteran politician and former Democratic Party-DP President Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere with members of different opposition political parties display a signed Declaration of Principles. Photo by Olive Nakatudde
With just four weeks to the presidential election, the opposition parties and camps taking part in the race have finally agreed on a joint strategy to protect the victory of one of their own immediately after the January 14th polls.
The process is surprisingly led by "man of peace" Dr Paulo Kawanga Ssemogerere who is widely believed to have won the December 1980 elections but on failing to translate his victory into power, the country was launched into a five years civil war that claimed at least half a million lives.
Kawanga Ssemogerere told representatives of the political forces that signed an agreement to work together that he has been leading the efforts for a new political order 'underground but clean"
The strategy basically entails immediately forming a government of national unity after the electoral victory of one of them and sustaining the victory by peaceful means. Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, widely seen as the top contender for incumbent Yoweri Museveni's seat did not attend the meeting. But interestingly, even before the declaration of the meeting, he told his rallies that he intends to form a government of national unity if he wins the elections. This shows that he has been party to the negotiations.
Though Dr Kizza Besigye is not standing and has ben talking of plan B and runs an unofficial outfit dubbed Peoples' Government, he backed the new Coalition but warned them that they have run out of time and must act quickly "to restore a country as now there is none".
The opposition forces in Uganda are in yet another collaborative attempt to win an election by agreeing on specific common grounds despite their difference so as to break President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s 35 years’ rule.
The document signed by the meeting that was convened by Dr. Kawanga Ssemogerere, committed the parties represented to basic principles on "a new political order".
The political formations in the coalition are Democratic Party-DP, National Unity Platform-NUP, Forum for Democratic Change-FDC, Alliance for National Transformation-ANT and Justice Forum-JEEMA. Others are; Henry Tumukunde’s Renewed Uganda, Kiiza Besigye’s People’s Government pressure group and opposition minded Uganda People’s Congress-UPC faction led by city lawyer Peter Walubiri.
Their common document asserts that it is possible to identify and pursue a common objective in principle without losing their individual political identities.
Ssemogerere explained he was asked by a group of leaders sometime back in October to lead efforts that would see them achieve their desired objective and since then he has been working ‘underground but clean’ towards the agenda of seeing that opposition forces unite to bring change and development to Uganda.
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Ssemogerere, the two-time presidential candidate, argues that Uganda has never held a free and fair election and that the events involving security are enough to send a clear message that there is need for change, address gaps in the Constitution and examine powers in government.
According to the Declaration of Principles document seen by URN that the political leaders in different political parties signed, they have set four principles of collaboration including peaceful democratic governance, constitutionalism and democracy, free and fair elections and social justice.
The document also spells out details on how they seek to work together to take power, how to behave upon achieving their desired goal and an alternative plan to counter the sitting government’s effort snatch their victory.
For instance, in the event of winning the 2021 general election, all key change seeking candidates and political leaders will form a Transitional Coalition or Government of National Unity.
“When the will of the people is manipulated, the common platform shall undertake to do everything possible, in a non-violent and democratic manner, to cause structural changes to restore democracy in our country,” the signed document reads in part.
The Political formations also pledge to form a common platform to work towards addressing the structural and institutional issues which they say are the principal sources for misuse of power and are threatening to adversely affect the forthcoming elections.
Wilberforce Sseryazi, the ANT Spokesperson says the document is an outcome of a conversation that has been going on for a long time aimed at uniting the Opposition in the country. He however worries that the document might be signed and shelved thus calling for establishment of an implementation Committee.
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Ambassador Wasswa Biriggwa, the Chairman of the FDC also sees the document as one that ought to be nurtured. Biriggwa points out that previous efforts have been failing because the involved parties didn't take long enough time required to plan for the unity.
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Almost every General Election cycle, since independence, there have been attempts at forming political coalitions as one of the collaborative means to win an election. Each time they either failed immediately, or briefly materialized before collapsing after the elections.
The Kabaka Yekka-Uganda People’s Congress unprincipled coalition came at the eve of independence in 1962 geared towards defeating a common rival, the Democratic Party (DP). Their electoral alliance temporarily succeeded.
Under Museveni’s rule, opposition has tried to unite under one umbrella prior to electoral year all in the vain. The coalition formed for the same purpose since 1996 are the Inter-Party Forces Coalition -IPFC, The Group of six political parties and organizations (G6), and The Group of Seven political parties and organizations (G7). Others are the 2011 Inter Party Coalition-IPC and very recently The Democratic Alliance-TDA ahead of the 2016 general election.
Israel Mayengo, a former legislator whose name has been prominent during early coalitions having been a member of 1979 Moshi conference governing organ which had given birth to Uganda National Liberation Front –UNLF bringing together the political parties which were in exile at the time, warns that signatories shouldn’t raise their expectations.
According to Mayengo, the principles agreed upon are not geared towards a promised land but rather a vessel to enable them get out of what he described as fires of hell.
However, as the leaders commit towards the formation of a coalition, the self-declared People's president Dr. Kiiza Besigye says right now “Uganda doesn't have a country and should focus efforts to establish one.”
Besigye who has been at the centre of several political coalitions in all the last four general elections says the discussion now is on founding a state before they can run one. He says Uganda needs an honest discussion with herself to know where Ugandans want to head and how they shall get there.
Dr. Besigye says Uganda is really "hopelessly" out of time and that if they do not plan and rise for Uganda, they shall become extinct and other people shall take over.
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Besigye’s words invoked memories of the aftermath of the 1979 Moshi Conference whose goal was to overthrow former President Idi Amin. Back in those days, the exiled political groups joined forces forming the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF).
However, the coalition had limited objectives-to depose the then leadership and take power. Soon after ousting Amin from power, thing fell apart leading to two other sadden military coups.
Muhammad Mayanja Kibirige, the Chairman of JEEMA says the principles of the declaration are in tandem with the principles JEEMA stands for. He committed his party to the declaration.
NUP was committed on the declaration by the Lina Zedriga Waru, the party’s Deputy President in charge of Northern Uganda.