Uganda’s oldest opposition party agrees to a new deal ruling NRM
President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to name Norbert Mao minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs could deal the opposition a blow in countering his leadership, even though it could calm political waters.
Mao, 55, a former legislator, is the current leader of the opposition Democratic Party (DP, Uganda’s oldest political party. His appointment on Thursday came a day after his party signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM.
Museveni announced the development on Wednesday on his official Twitter handle accompanied with a video of the two principals signing the agreement at State House.
“I met with Democratic Party President Norbert Mao at State House Entebbe. We signed a cooperation agreement between the NRM and the DP. I salute the DP leadership for this gesture of mature, foresighted and constructive politics,” President Museveni said.
I met with Democratic Party President Norbert Mao at State House Entebbe. We signed a cooperation agreement between the NRM and the DP. I salute the DP leadership for this gesture of mature, foresighted and constructive politics. pic.twitter.com/sPHDMjDeZq
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni July 20, 2022
Change of mind
Mao said his decision to work with the NRM – which he has for years criticised for its poor record on human rights, governance and rule of law – was a bid to create a better Uganda.
“Your excellency, you now have the historical opportunity to gather patriots that are scattered all over Uganda. You must look for them wherever they are. They are all in the political parties and in all corners of Uganda. These are things which I believe will be enjoyed most by the unborn children. They may thank you when you’re not around. So, we salute the courage you have shown,” Mao said.
NRM has a similar agreement with the opposition Uganda People’s Congress led by Jimmy Micheal Akena, the son of former president Milton Obote.
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Mr Mao, a lawyer who has led DP for nearly 12 years, has been accused by party members of poor administration, hobnobbing with the NRM and creating factions within the party.
In the run up to the general election in 2021, 11 MPs subscribing to DP defected to the new National Unity Platform party led by Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
Mao joins a growing list of opposition politicians that Museveni has wooed to his side in recent years.
They include Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, who was appointed minister for Youth and Child Affairs after losing the Kampala Woman MP seat on the DP ticket.
Mao had condemned her appointment and announced that his party would not work with her.
“We have had a very bad experience with those relations. Basing on what happened after the liberation war in 1986 in the gentleman’s agreement where DP members like John Ssebaana Kizito, Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere joined Museveni and gained nothing, we can’t work with him (Museveni again,” Mao had said.
Lewis Rubongoya, the secretary general of the National Unity platform has dismissed Mao as a self-seeker after the appointment to Museveni’s Cabinet.
“The pretense is over. [It] explains the attacks on NUP (National Unity Platform. Hope this clears the air for those who always ask about “opposition unity” in Uganda,” he said.
Museveni’s critics have over the years accused him of only allowing a semblance of the opposition to boost his democratic credentials with donors.