Queen Elizabeth the Second of England will Friday officially open the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon says majority of the organization’s 53 member states will attend the three-day Kampala meeting.
The Ugandan government says the fact that CHOGM is taking place in Uganda is a vote of confidence in the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni. But Uganda’s main opposition leader Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change says the Commonwealth, by holding its meeting in Uganda has placed itself on the path of becoming an irrelevant organization.
Besigye told VOA the opposition will hold its own activities during the summit to draw world attention to what he called the ills of Uganda.
“We had made a petition to the Commonwealth sometime last year and again sometime this year to express to them our grave concerns about the situation in Uganda as it relates to the principles established by the Commonwealth for its member states. And we had requested that we engage in a discussion over those concerns during the CHOGM meeting here in Kampala. But the Commonwealth, for whatever reason, did not even acknowledge our request. So we are involved in our own activities which we have set up to serve as shining touch on the concerns that we have presented to the Commonwealth,” he said.
The government of Uganda has said that by calling for a boycott of the summit and planning demonstrations the opposition was unpatriotic. But Besigye said the opposition is doing its patriotic duty.
“Patriotism requires us to continue struggling to make Uganda a place that everybody can live comfortably, that human rights can be observed, that the rule of law is respected, that corruption which is now systemic and at an unprecedented level can be brought down, that indeed the democratic practice and institutions can be observed. If we didn’t do that, then certainly we would be acting contrary to the interest of Ugandans,” Besigye said.
Besigye also shot down the Uganda government’s claims that the fact that the Commonwealth meeting was being held in Uganda indicated a vote of confidence in the leadership of President Museveni.
“We also consider that indeed the Commonwealth, to be hosted in a country where people are dying in illegal detention centers, where the military just a few months ago invaded the High Court of Uganda, for the Commonwealth to be sitting in a country where the next chairman of the Commonwealth is going to be a president that was elected last year through an election that was judged by the Commonwealth to have had too many flaws, that was judged by the European Union as an election that was not free and fair...so what it means is that the Commonwealth has decided for itself that the standards which it has set for itself are no longer important. And what I can assure you is that the Commonwealth has firmly placed itself on the path that will make it totally irrelevant,” Besigye said.