Prepare to leave peacefully, Opposition leaders tell Museveni

Opposition party leaders used a rare opportunity at Munyonyo in Kampala to tell President Yoweri Museveni in the face, the importance of peacefully handing over power.

Museveni and leaders of Democratic Party (DP), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Justice Forum (JEEMA) had an open discussion for the first time under the auspices of the Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), a grouping of political parties with representation in Parliament. The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) boycotted the meeting.

Speaking at the conference, DP President Norbert Mao told Museveni to think of retiring from the presidency so that the country can witness a peaceful handover of power.

“Our goal should be that Uganda should see at least for once what we have never seen before; peaceful transition. That for once, we should have an army that serves more than one regime, that we break the cycles of violence and unconstitutional changes of government,” Mao said.

Norbert Mao gifting Museveni with a DP cap

Museveni has been president for nearly 33 years now, having come to power after a guerrilla bush war. He has since caused changes to the constitution to remove any clauses that would have compelled him to leave power peacefully. The last such amendment was last December’s deletion of Article 102(b) from the Constitution that would have made it impossible to seek re-election in 2021 because he would be above the 75-year age cap that had been set under the clause.

“Mr President, it would be wonderful that you attended the swearing-in of a president that is not you. We all have to live up the high expectations our people have of you and us,” Mao said.

His colleagues, Jimmy Akena (UPC) and Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA) repeated the same message, also telling him to stop using state institutions to curtail the activities of other political parties.

Basalirwa particularly mention the fracas in Arua that led to the arrest of 34 opposition supporters who are currently facing treason charges for allegedly stoning Museveni’s motorcade.

In response, Museveni said that his party, the NRM, does not condone acts of torture but said political players too need to be disciplined.

“On the issue of torture, we are against it. I spoke to the soldiers who were caught on video beating up people. I have given them guidelines but I urge political players to be disciplined,” Museveni said.

Museveni speaking during the IPOD conference

He said that while he has no problems with the freedom to associate he has issues with is politicians assembling in markets and disrupting people’s businesses which he said will not be tolerated.

“We also take issue at times with motive and message of these gatherings. We will not accept political actors who purport to use constitutional means to engage when actually they have another leg in unconstitutional arrangements. That we shall not allow,” Museveni said.

“I have been accused of threatening to wipe out the opposition. Truth is, they are in danger of wiping out themselves because of miscalculation and leaving the NRM to offer solutions to all problems. As long as they oppose what Ugandans see as beneficial, they cause their own defeat,” Museveni added.