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Besigye Shuns Heroes Day Celebration in Uganda

Uganda opposition leader Kizza Besigye has rejected an invitation from President Yoweri Museveni to attend this year's Heroes Day celebrations. The day, which is being commemorated Saturday, honors the lives and contributions of those who fought in the 1981 to 1986 guerrilla war that brought president Museveni to power.

Besigye, a retired army colonel, fought in the same bush war that brought Museveni to power. But he told VOA that he did not attend this year’s Heroes Day celebration because it has become a partisan event.

“It’s first of all supposed to be a national function to which really, I think, they expect everybody to attend. Indeed I was invited, and I will not be attending. This is because this is a controversial function that was established by the NRM (National Resistance Movement) whose concept is and still remains controversial in terms of who the heroes that are being celebrated…in fact right from the beginning it was a partisan kind of recognition,” he said.

Besigye said his decision not to attend Saturday’s Heroes Day celebration does not mean he is against those being honored. Instead he said he is contesting the whole concept of Heroes Day.

“If one is talking about liberation heroes you ought to understand that Uganda has been in conflict right from independence. We have independence heroes, those who fought for independence. We have the various liberation struggles that have succeeded the independence movement. And you have the NRM struggle of which I was once a member. But if one wanted to recognize liberation heroes, one would have to have a broader concept, which it isn’t in this case…and therefore the whole concept needed to have a national consensus. The idea is good of having and recognizing national heroes. But what I am saying is that the way it is being done is partisan and unacceptable to us,” Besigye said.

He rejects suggestions that by not attending this year’s Heroes Day celebration he was not interested in national reconciliation in Uganda.

“Even if I accepted the invitation, it would not cause national reconciliation. There is fundamental need for national reconciliation which must be taken in its own merit to have a dialogue under the areas of conflict, what causes conflict within our society, to resolve those areas and to indeed build a process that can lead to national harmony and reconciliation. That is not something that is going to be recognized for indeed attending this partisan function like this one,” Besigye said.