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Uganda Opposition Leaders Reject Invitation to Join Ruling Party

  • Peter Clottey

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters prior to his arrest at gunpoint in late April.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye waves to his supporters prior to his arrest at gunpoint in late April.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has called on two senior opposition leaders to stop fighting losing political battles – and join the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Mr. Museveni accused arch rival Kizza Besigye and the Lord Mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago, of opposing the government’s development programs and peddling untruths. He demanded an apology and repentance from the two opponents.

But, both Besigye and Lukwago dismissed Museveni’s call as “political jujitsu” to shore up support for the party in the capital, whose voters often fail to support the ruling party.

President Museveni and his ruling NRM has been in power since 1986. But, Lukwago says Museveni’s latest antics are as a result of what he says appears to be the disintegration of the ruling party.

“It’s now collapsing, and now you are inviting me to jump into a capsizing ship. That cannot happen,” said Lukwago. “Definitely, those are the kicks of a dying horse. The NRM is disintegrating, and the center can no longer hold. That is why President Museveni is just pandering from one angle to the other. He has lost direction, and he doesn’t know what to do.”

Museveni accused the mayor of undermining government’s programs aimed at improving the lives of city dwellers. Lukwago disagreed.

“I have initiated a number of ideas which have been frustrated. He doesn’t want the city to be run on the basis of a shared vision, and he wants to project a picture of one person running the city …He doesn’t want us to establish a system of accountable governance in Kampala,” said Lukwago. “I have been struggling to build a robust institution that can deliver the quality services the people of Kampala deserve.”

Lukwago, however, said he is willing to work with the ruling party to resolve the challenges facing the city. But supporters of the NRM say Lukwago’s statements are calculated attempts to embarrass the country’s leader.

“There wouldn’t be a problem ideally as much as I am in the opposition, I should have a working relationship with the sitting government,” said Lukwago. “But we have not addressed the crisis governance issues. The regime is tired; it’s a one man’s rule; it’s a crisis of institutions, and we are on the verge of being declared a collapsed state. That is the situation we are grappling with.”

Lukwago said officials of the administration have often refused to work with opponents on public concerns - an accusation ruling party representatives have denied as being without merit. They accuse the opposition of thwarting government’s efforts to maintain law and order and to ensure the country’s peace and stability. Lukwago disagreed.

“That is again a demonstration of the intransigence, the arrogance of the sitting government. They don’t want to listen to the voice of reason. They are quick to rubbish us as people who are just all out to criticize the government, and we are not appreciative. But, they forget that we are raising fundamental issues,” said Lukwago.

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