UGANDA: WHO WILL RESTORE THE PAST GLORY OF UGANDA PEOPLES’ CONGRESS PARTY AND MAKE IT RULE AGAIN?

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GULU-UGANDA:Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) party was formed through the amalgamation of two parties; Uganda National Congress (UNC) of a veteran politician, the late Ignatius Musaazi, from the largest ethnic group- the Baganda and another veteran politician from the north-a Langi, Mr. Apollo Milton Obote’s Uganda Peoples’ Union (UPU). The party UPC was formed in 1960 at a time that political independence was in sight. Mr. Obote became it founding leader.

During the agitation of independence, there were two nationalist parties- the Democratic Party (DP) which was led by another veteran politician from Buganda, Mr. Benedicto Kiwanuka; a party which was leaning towards the Catholic Church and the UPC party-majority of whom were Anglicans and Moslems. A third party; the Kabaka Yeeka (KY), meaning Kabaka of Buganda’ party was mostly advocating for a more autonomous Buganda where it plays central role in the governance of Uganda.

In the pre-independence election of March 1961 which was boycotted by the Buganda Kingdom officials, the DP won and established the first pre-independent self-rule government. Mr. Obote and the Kabaka of Buganda, the late Sir Edward Muteesa formed a ‘partnership’, primarily for the forthcoming constitutional conference in London to prepare for fresh independent election.

In the April 1962 election to elect representatives to the National Assembly, UPC won 37 seats, DP won 22 seats and KY swept 69 out of 72 seats in Buganda and the Kukiiko (Parliament) of Buganda elected 21 representatives to the National Assembly.

Because they had worked together for the constitutional conference in 1961, Mr. Obote and Kabaka Muteesa again worked together to form what was to be called ‘unholy alliance’ and announced a ‘unity government’ where Mr. Obote became the Executive Prime Minister and Sir Edward Muteesa assuming the role of a ceremonial President. They took over from the British colonial masters, with their full blessings, on October 9, 1962.

That ‘unholy alliance’ fell apart in 1966 in what became known as ‘Uganda Crisis’ during which Mr. Obote ordered his army Commander, Mr. Idi Amin, to storm the official residence of Kabaka Muteesa. Muteesa had to flee in exile to London where he died a few years later and his remains could not be brought back home under Mr. Obote. Mr. Obote assumed the new post of Executive President and began to rely heavily on his army which was dominated by his kinsmen, the northerners.

This event polarized Ugandans more into two major blocks; The Bantu speaking ethnic groups south of River Nile and the Lwo/Nilotic ethnic group in the northern part of the Nile.

In 1969, Mr. Obote announced his unpopular policy major swift of ‘move to the left, much to the annoyance of the British which ruled Uganda for over six decades and had blessed the ‘unholy alliance’ between UPC/KY. This was at the height of the ‘Cold War’ between ‘Communist East’ which was led by Russia and China, and “Capitalist West’ which was led by United States of America and European countries.

In January 25, 1971, when Mr. Obote was overthrown by his army Commander, Mr. Idi Amin, hundreds of thousands of Acholis and Langi ethnic groups who were elite civil servants and in the forces were prosecuted and killed during the eight-year reign of Mr. Amin. This forced thousands of Acholi to flee to exile in foreign capitals while others joined Mr. Obote in Tanzania where they began to plan for counter offensive against Amin’s rule.

When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania helped Ugandans in exile to overthrow Mr. Amin on April 11, 1979 a unitary government was formed called the ‘Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) with a military wing Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Mr. Obote, as an individual, had been locked out of this government but the leadership was vested in the hands of a Muganda Moslem, the late Professor Yusuf Lule. He was to rule for only 68 days because of intrigues and ambitions of other leaders within UNLF. He was overthrown in a palace coup.

He was succeeded by Mr. Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisia (QC), a close ally of Mr. Obote. He was again overthrown within a year and another right hands-man of Mr. Obote, Mr. Paul Mwanga, took charge of the affairs of UNLF.  

It was under the stewardship of Mr. Mwanga that the controversial election of December 1980 was held, where Mr. Obote was declared winner, much to the chagrin of Mr. Yoweri Museveni, whose party- the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) won only one seat in Parliament but shun its seat.

This event led to the birth of the ‘Luwero Triangle’ bush war launched by Mr. Museveni’s new movement; National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M) on February 6, 1981 with the sole aim of putting to an end the domination of northerners (an in particular, Mr. Obote) from running the country.

A boldly five-year war ensued where hundreds of thousands of people again perished which again led to the second overthrow of Mr. Obote, again by his army commander, General Tito Okello Lutwa, on July 27, 1985. General Toto Okello initiated peace talks, which Mr. Museveni called ‘peace jokes’ with NRA/M under the chairmanship of Mr. Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya.

Although a peace agreement was reached  between the parties in Nairobi and they signed documents of sharing power and circulated it to the parties, Mr. Museveni went ahead to ignore his signature. On January 26, 1986, he overthrew Tito Okello.

When swearing in as new President of Uganda, Mr. Museveni is quoted by the media to have said that what happened in the country was ‘not a mere change of guards, but a fundamental change’, adding the problem of Africa was that ‘of leaders who overstay in power’. He has now ruled for thirty-three years and still counting.

Under Mr. Museveni, other political party activities were suspended except that of his NRM party, which was fused with other government institutions until 2001 after a national referendum. Because of the ban, UPC could not elect a new leader to replace Mr. Obote who was aging fast. It was only after Mr. Obote died in exile from a South African Hospital on October 10, 2005 and his subsequent burial at his ancestral home on Akokoro in Apach District, that his widow, Ms. Miria Obote, was elected to succeed her late husband.

It was under her presidency of the party that UPC participated in elections organized by Mr. Museven in 2006. In that election UPC sent 9 out of 289 Members of Parliament and she got only 0.8 per cent of the total votes counted.

She stepped down as party president after serving only one five-year term and on May 14, 2010, an Acholi diplomat, Dr. John Olara Otunnu, who was United Nations Under-Secretary General for children and armed conflict, defeated Mr. Obote’s son, Jimmy Akena to be party president.

This did not go down well with Mr. Akena and his supporters who have all along seen Dr. Olara Otunnu as part of the putsch that overthrew his father, Mr. Obote, in 1985. Dr. Olara Otunnu was the Minister of Foreign Affairs under General Tito Okello and he played a central role in talks with Museveni. This animosity gave birth to two factions within UPC; Akena’s faction and Dr. Olara Otunnu’s faction.

When Dr. Olara Otunnu stepped down, he kick-started the process of electing his replacement, that process never went smoothly as Mr. Akena stormed the party headquarters at Uganda House in central Kampala on May 30, 2015 and forced the party election commission to declare him winner of the district conference polls after getting 67 out of the 110 districts in his favor.

In order to secure his victory, Mr. Akena’s faction held a consultative delegates conference in July 2015 at UMA show ground and forced the party electoral commission chairman to declare him the new president.

Dr. Otunnu took the matter to the High Court in Kampala in the same year where High Court Judge, Mr. Yasin Nyanzi, ruled that ‘Mr. Jimmy Akena is not the substantive Party President because he did not follow the party constitution when he assumed Presidency’. He appealed against the ruling of Justice Nyanzi to the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Owiny-Dollo.

“It is remaining ruling on whether the appeal should be accepted or not. The ruling should have been on October 24, 2019 but it has been postponed to a later date”, says Mr. Christopher Ouma Opwonya, a member of Dr. Otunnu’s faction.

Meanwhile party faithful remain torn apart by the factions with no end in sight. Who will restore the past glory of UPC and make it rule again?

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