Opposition eager to emerge from Entebbe retreat united

Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga (right) hands over a copy of the Complaints Register for Victims of Human Rights Violations to ANT party leader Mugisha Muntu during a three-day retreat in Entebbe. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The retreat comes at a time the Opposition is seemingly not speaking the same language on many issues.

A three-day retreat that the Opposition wing in Parliament convened in Entebbe ran its course yesterday. 

The retreat was intended to—among other things—forge strategies upon which the Opposition can deal a telling blow to Presidents Museveni’s 36-year-long grip on power.

The retreat also pulled in some party presidents such as Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu of Alliance for National Transformation (ANT). 

It comes at a time there is disunity in the Opposition, but the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP) insists this is not the time to throw in the towel.

“We have barely four years to make the difference to our people as we promised them when we were looking for votes,” LoP Mathias Mpuuga said to the Opposition legislators.

The legislators have already run into some strong headwinds, having served only seven months of their five-year term. 

Former LoP Winnie Kizza, who was no stranger to such headwinds when she was in active politics, delivered a keynote speech on Friday. 

She lauded the Opposition for its recent boycott of Parliament in reaction to the rampant acts of torture in the country. 

She also reminded the Opposition lawmakers—83 percent of whom are fresh entrants—of their obligations.

Other challenges
The retreat, however, comes after the Opposition was beset by a series of problems. 
A boycott of plenary meetings has been met with infightings after legislators subscribing to the Acholi Parliamentary Group momentarily broke ranks. 

The leading Opposition party, National Unity Platform (NUP), also recently suffered a sucker punch after 56 of its 85 councillors in Wakiso District defied the party position to attend a two-week leadership training called by President Museveni. 

Various reports indicate that a Shs3m carrot was allegedly dangled before the councillors, who gave audience to Mr Museveni at Garuga Resort beach in Entebbe.

Before dust from that episode could settle, revelations that NUP legislators hailing from the Buganda Sub-region were warming up to the presidential initiative on job and wealth creation or Emyooga offers, left a bitter taste in the mouths of some observers. 

Saccos stand to get Shs30m apiece from the initiative that teems with billions of shillings.
It is fast-becoming apparent that money—or the lack of it—is the Achilles heel of Uganda’s Opposition. 

On Wednesday last week, Mr Museveni underlined this when he suggested that Opposition parties that do not cooperate and comply with activities of the Inter-party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) be denied government funding. 

The IPOD is an informal inter-party dialogue platform that started in 2010 and is chaired by the ruling party.
“It should even be put in the law that those who don’t want to be part of the forum should not share that money,” President Museveni said in a statement released by the State House.

NUP spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi, however, retorted that “Museveni is desperate to be in that room with us because it polishes him internationally.”

The Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005, provides that the government shall contribute funds or other public resources towards the activities of political parties or organisations represented in Parliament.  
IPOD council chairperson Richard Todwong confirmed that—as per the last allocation—the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party got Shs17b (74 percent); NUP got Shs3.1b (13.5 percent) and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Shs1.7b (7.4 percent). 

The Democratic Party and Uganda Peoples Congress each got Shs485m (2.1 percent). The Justice Forum (Jeema) and People’s Progressive Party received Shs53m (0.2 percent).

*Reported by Benson Tumusiime, Elizabeth Kamurungi and Precious Delilah
 

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