Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0835 EAT on Tuesday 2nd August 2022.
Opposition doyens Dr Kizza Besigye and Robert Kyagulanyi have signed an agreement in which they committed to join efforts and strategies geared towards ousting President Yoweri Museveni from power.
The agreement which was signed during a meeting held at Hotel Africana today Monday afternoon attracted leaders of four political parties including Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), National Unity Platform (NUP), Justice Forum (JEEMA), and People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
In their joint statement, which was later read by the NUP secretary general David Lewis Rubongoya, opposition leaders noted the recent alleged blatant election cheating, particularly in the by-elections in Kayunga, Omoro, and Soroti, served as the impetus for the new agreement.
“In all the last general or by-elections, several political parties and formations have continuously participated with belief in democracy and rule of law as the modest means through which they could achieve a peaceful transition for the nation and change of leaders at lower levels…unfortunately, the quality of elections has now gone from bad to worse – each election being worse than the previous one,” the joint statement reads in part.
After giving the background to what happened in the recent three by-elections, the leaders, on behalf of their political parties and formations, noted that going forward they will unite to defeat their common enemy.
“Going forward, we shall jointly or severally use any upcoming elections to organise and rally the population to defend their democratic rights and the election madness that has bedevilled the country since independence,” the statement states.
In last week’s Soroti East by-election, NUP and FDC teamed up to support Attan Moses of the FDC, highlighting the need for the opposition to unite and unseat President Museveni. However, their candidate didn’t benefit from their last-minute pitch.
Erias Lukwago, the vice president of the FDC for the central region, committed FDC to the agreement and stated that they are prepared to do all within their power to oppose Museveni, whom he referred to as a tyrant, as long as doing so is lawful.
Lukwago said that the NRM leaders’ behaviour in the Soroti by-election amounted to treason, thus urging the oppressed Ugandans to band together, support the opposition leaders in this new pact, and use the legal authority granted to them by the constitution to overthrow Museveni’s government.
Besigye, the leader of the pressure platform, People’s Front for Transition, was more than happy to learn that opposition leaders are now accepting that participation in elections might not cause the much-desired change in Uganda.
Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate, pointed out that the NRM administration organizes only as a window show to legitimize their stay in power saying they are being given the mandate by the population and that, incidentally, the opposition has over time participated thus adding a stamp to legitimate the process.
According to him, the time for bemoaning arrests and vote-stuffing during elections has passed. The former FDC party president further called upon the unified forces of opposition to organize, spread the word about how to obtain one’s freedom and direct people toward taking appropriate action to obtain what they are due.
Besigye also used the podium to rally fellow leaders and the citizenry on what he described as an economic crisis that is making it hard for people to thrive, calling upon all those who are oppressed by the situation to raise and take part in a struggle to shift power from the government that captured it with guns.
“The political cause to the crisis is what we’re dealing with today. The fact that the greatest majority of the people who live in this country have no say in their country. That is where the social-economic crisis comes from. We’re in a country where we have no say. We’re taxed but we have no say as to what will happen to our money. Our wealth which we had collected and was being managed collectively as our wealth was all taken away by these handful of people as we watch the national wealth in terms of public assets that Uganda had 1986 were privatized to these individuals who are holding the country captive,” said Besigye.
Kyagulanyi, the NUP party president, also noted it is high time they did something to change this situation that he said is worrying. Kyagulanyi, who squarely agreed with Besigye that election might not cause regime change, noted that they should however participate in them to get a chance to sensitize their supporters.
“I think the time has come for us to change our gospel, for us to change our message and be more realistic to the electorate. We go into the election promising change even at MP level even when we know that when one becomes an MP under the Museveni regime, apart from agitating, apart from using the parliamentary platform, we can change very little. Therefore, it is my considered view that our message should be a revolutionary message. Whether campaigning for MP or even for LC I, the main agenda should be using that election one to sensitize people but to make that election no matter how small it is a spark to chase the junta. I think the election should be more for sensitisation than for winning. In any case, we know that Museveni decides weeks and sometimes even months who the winner will be,” said Kyagulanyi.
Kyagulanyi also used the chance to call upon NUP and FDC members to stop creating an imaginary rivalry between him and Besigye but rather unite given the fact that they all support leadership change.
“Now this country is bigger than our political parties and the mission is bigger than building our political parties…One would rightly argue that there are no political parties in Uganda because we don’t operate like political parties. Political parties are recognised in a democracy but in a country where you can’t even organise as a political party, then we can’t boast of political parties. Therefore we are all slaves and the more we fight against each other is the more we prolong it for Museveni…Many of the leaders are working closely with each but you; our followers, you; our supporters and you; our fellow leaders especially those below us are making it easy to unite and therefore unite as well. For example, I might have a very good communication line with Dr Besigye, with Hon. Lukwago, with Asuman Basalirwa but again those under me might undermine the same and the same thing also applies to the other side,” added Kyagulanyi.
The new opposition agreement was signed barely weeks after the Democratic Party (DP) leadership signed a working cooperation agreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). In the 42-clause agreement, the two parties not only agreed to share political power but also to foster constitutionalism, national dialogue and respect for human rights.
However, Besigye pointed out that Mao’s action won’t produce any results since an agreement with the NRM and Museveni in particular can’t bring about change in Uganda.
This is not the first time that opposition parties are forming coalitions or signed agreements. Since pre-independence days, opposition parties have always been attempting to join efforts as one of the collaborative means to defeat those in power. However, each time they failed immediately, or the new fronts they formed limped around before collapsing.
Under Museveni’s rule, for instance, the opposition tried to unite under one umbrella before the electoral year all in vain. The coalition was formed for the same purpose in 1996, the Inter-Party Forces Coalition (IPFC). There was also a coalition of six political parties and organizations, G6, G7. Others are the 2011 Inter Party Coalition (IPC) and The Democratic Alliance (TDA) ahead of the 2016 general election.
Just before the recently concluded general election, opposition political parties under their Unity in Diversity (UID) forum convened by former presidential candidate Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere signed an agreement to work together during and after the elections but the agreement was never implemented.
In light of this, Asuman Basaalirwa of JEEMA and Saddam Gayira of the PPP hoped that this time the leaders would do more than just sign agreements; instead, they put their promises into action.