KAMPALA- The anticipated national dialogue may wait a little longer after the main Opposition parties yesterday listed seven demands that must be addressed by the conveners of the talks as a benchmark for their participation.
According to the organisers, who include the Elders Forum of Uganda, the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda and members of the civil society, the process of national dialogue is supposed to be launched on November 21. President Museveni is expected to preside over the launch.
Led by former Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party president Olara Otunu, the five political party leaders and other Opposition actors issued a statement at a press conference in Kampala yesterday, reiterating the need for the national dialogue to address what they called a “national crisis”.
But they insisted the dialogue must be based on a clear agenda and guarantees of mutual respect for the outcomes of the talks.
The statement was signed by Forum for Democratic Change party president Patrick Amuriat, the leader of one of the UPC factions, Mr Joseph Bossa, Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao and People’s Progressive Party (PPP) chairperson Dick Odur.
Others who signed the statement are four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye as leader of the “People’s Government”, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu of the New Formation political group and Mr Olara Otunnu as a “concerned citizen.”
“Our country is in the grip of a grave national crisis. This situation has become highly toxic and explosive. This toxic atmosphere has now infused all sectors and all levels of our national life. There is a need for a serious, genuine and well-prepared national dialogue to address this crisis,” the statement reads in part.
The Opposition want clarification on the agenda of the dialogue, composition of the participants, modalities of convening and arrangements of independent financing of the dialogue.
They also want the organisers to guarantee how the outcome of the dialogue will be implemented and a guarantee from government that it will first end acts of political repression, persecution and impunity and also show immediate guarantee of freedom of political activities.
“It is clear to us, the undersigned political leaders, in order to ensure that such a national dialogue is serious, genuine, well-prepared and fruitful, it is absolutely necessary to agree on and put in place these elements before embarking on the process of dialogue,” Mr Otunnu said in the statement.
He said as Opposition leaders, they welcome the dialogue so long as the organisers answer the issues they have outlined. Asked whether they had talked to the organisers and the government before outlining the demands, Mr Otunnu said; “We have engaged the group that is trying to organise the national dialogue. We need together to agree beforehand to those issues that will be discussed because Ugandans feel we should be talking to each other.”
Gen Muntu said Uganda has for the last 56 years of independence never had a chance for a national dialogue, adding that these conditions issued have been in place since 2011.
“The government knows these issues but it uses force to govern the people. If they want to continue moving on that path of using force, then they will choose that. But you cannot continue using force permanently,” he said.
Deputy government spokesperson Col Shaban Bantariza said Opposition leaders ought not to delay the dialogue because they are the ones that have been demanding it.
“Let them sit down as the Opposition, come up with what they think should form the points of discussion and put them to the conveners. As government, we will take care of issues that they think we should do,” he said.
The chairperson of the Elders Forum of Uganda, Justice James Ogoola, said he was happy that the Opposition have united for the country’s interests to have a dialogue. He said it is a good Independence gift to Ugandans.
“On their part, they should see that dialogue is a viable process of putting right things that have gone wrong. And the fact that they have issued this statement on the eve of our Independence is a good sign that this section of people is united on the issue of dialogue,” he said.
Justice Ogoola, however, said he was not in position to comment on the demands of the statement issued by the leaders.
Different view. Agenda of the national dialogue, composition of the participants, modalities of convening and facilitating the dialogue and agreeing on independent financing of the dialogue.
Others are guarantees on implementation of the outcome and a guarantee from government on stop political repression, impunity, and freedom of political activities.