Pope’s visit and landmarks in Uganda’s political history

The President has just returned from an official visit to the Vatican where he led a large delegation to meet the Head of the Catholic Church.

Mr Museveni extended an invitation to the Pope to visit Uganda to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs. The Uganda Martyrs were canonised by Pope Paul VI in October 1964.

1964 is a landmark date in Uganda’s political history as it was the year a number of key political developments took place in Uganda, setting the stage for a turbulent three decades that ended with the promulgation of a new Constitution in 1995.
In 1964, the Nakulabye riots in Buganda were used as a pretext for cancelling direct local government elections, removing a primary lever in local government governance in Uganda.

In 1964, the ruling party – Uganda Peoples Congress – had the infamous internal fall-out that edged out John Kakonge at the UPC Delegates’ Conference in Gulu and replaced him with Grace Stuart Ibingira.

In the same year, the referendum over the lost counties, which was mandated by the 1962 Independence Constitution led to the falling out between president Frederick Muteesa and prime minister Apollo Milton Obote.

The official Opposition, the Democratic Party, which had won 24 seats in 1962 saw its ranks eviscerated by the parliamentary crossing of the Leader of the Opposition Basil Bataringaya and 18 other DP MPs to UPC.

Six DP MPs remained, led by Alex Latim and their ranks had dwindled to two by the beginning of 1971 and only one survived the reign of Idi Amin.

In 1964, MPs from Kabaka Yekka mostly crossed to UPC even though UPC officially was a coalition partner. A few renegade MPs such as Abu Mayanja informally crossed back to the Opposition benches after the developments of 1966 when kingdoms were abolished.

In 1984, circumstances were slightly different. Milton Obote had beaten President Yoweri Museveni’s NRA fighters to a draw in the former Luweero Triangle.

In December 1983, his Chief of Staff Maj Gen David Oyite Ojok and his helicopter party went down in Nakasongola. Oyite Ojok’s death created a power struggle within UNLA. DP, still in opposition, was down to 35 MPs but it never reached the single digits at the time of the 1985 military coup. In 1994, many things happened, including elections to the Constituent Assembly and the era of cohabitation called the broad-based government ended.

In 2014, after another 20-year interval, another set of the founding fathers of the Constitution are up in arms against their “chairman”.

The authors of some of the most draconian provisions of the Constitution, like Hope Ruhindi Mwesigye, are starting to taste the effect of being on the “excluded list” of persons who cannot freely organise or call public meetings in Uganda.

Ten years ago, against a public outcry, they deleted an essential feature of any republican constitution – term limits. This deletion as accurately put by Jacqueline Ruhindi Mbabazi, set the stage for the Obote-method of resolving disputes that had informed the first post-independence conflicts.

Where a dispute cannot be resolved democratically under the current system, new rules have to be written to avoid using established procedures.

The delegation to visit the Pope had some contrived diversity. The President handed the Pope a gift – Sowing the Mustard Seed. In the Mustard Seed, the practice of intended deletions erased reference to a number of individuals who had fallen out with the system by the time it was published. We don’t know if the Pope will simply categorise the other deletions in Uganda’s history when he considers papal time for Uganda.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Aocate. kssemoge@gmail.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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