The minority leader of Uganda’s parliament says opposition groups have come together under one umbrella to challenge President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The groups signed a protocol on Wednesday to form the Democratic Alliance ahead of next year's elections. The group can now present joint candidates to represent the opposition in the elections.
The opposition was joined by the Uganda’s former vice president, Gilbert Bukenya, as well as Amama Mbabazi, former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling NRM.
Minority leader Phillip Wafula Oguttu says Ugandans have warmly welcomed the announcement. He said unity will prevent the “splitting of votes” among opposition groups, which often enables Museveni and his NRM to win elections.
He also says the opposition will not be deterred in its demands for electoral reforms, which he says will ensure an equal playing field in the elections.
“What brought us together initially was basically electoral and constitutional reforms... And so, we are going to continue with pressure for the reforms at the same time we are preparing for the elections in case we get the reforms we want,” said Oguttu.
“We are excited because this is what we have been looking for and Ugandans that is what they prefer. We have also been working together with the several civil society organizations. Members of the church and some retired bishops and priests. So, we hope we shall be moving forward,” he added.
Challenge to Museveni
Oguttu says the presence of the two former leading members of the ruling NRM will give the opposition a significant chance of defeating President Museveni in the next general election. He also said unity among the opposition groups will put pressure on the NRM in the run up to the election. He says the prospect of the opposition in next year’s vote is bright.
“The advantage is that we are not going to split and we are not going to divide our vote… We are going to go to these elections united; we are going to cooperate at all levels. We are going to have joint candidates. People have been pushing us to do that,” said Oguttu.
“The last time we had a sort of alliance, we did not cooperate fully and we began to fight among ourselves and 40 percent of the public actually refused to vote saying they would be wasting their vote," he continued. "This time around, we hope we have enough time and we are going to agree on a joint candidate... and we are going to work together as a team."
Some analysts say choosing former Prime Minister Mbabazi as the opposition’s presidential candidate could help defea Museveni and his NRM. They contend that Mbabazi who is still a popular figure despite his recent fallout with Museveni, which eventually led to his expulsion from the his positions in government and the NRM, will split the ruling party as well as garner all opposition votes in the election.
But Oguttu says it would be too early to choose who leads the opposition in the next election.
“As of now I do not know who is going to be our joint presidential candidate… Mbabazi could be one of them. What we are going to do because we are going to choose by consensus, we are going to put them on a bus and we drive around the country in some sort of campaign among the public. The public will indicate to us who they want, and most likely, we shall choose that one,” said Oguttu.