UPC seeking democratic change - Otunnu
To continue pushing the government to make economic reforms and find solutions to the rising cost of living, opposition politicians have dedicated this week to demonstrations, starting tomorrow (Monday) and ending on Sunday.
The most ambitious of the events lined up by the opposition will be the march to the Constitution Square on Tuesday, where opposition leaders will address a joint rally. On Thursday, May 12, when President Yoweri Museveni swears in for a fourth five-year term, the opposition will be leading the country in a “vigil” over the economic situation.
Coming at a time when political watchers are saying the absence of FDC leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, had taken the steam out of the walk-to-work campaign, the week-long activities, the opposition says, will put fresh breath into their efforts to exert pressure on the government to act on the cost of living. Indeed this will test the opposition’s ability to make an impact without Besigye’s active participation.
The activities, the leaders say, have been organised “to further express our solidarity with the suffering majority, some of whom cannot afford a meal every day”.
“We are inviting all Ugandans to join us to find solutions to the current economic meltdown,” said Norbert Mao, the DP president general.
Although Besigye was discharged from Nairobi hospital on Friday, it is not clear when he will return home, although various sources say it might be this week.
The opposition, in their joint press statement issued on Saturday, May 7, at Uganda House, the headquarters of the UPC, also condemned the government for “violations of human rights” and “committing crimes against Ugandans who are peacefully expressing themselves over rising fuel, food prices and high cost of living and the waste of public resources by the NRM regime”.
Opposition politicians that issued the joint statement were led by Mao, the DP President General, and included party heads: Olara Otunnu (UPC), Michael Mabikke (SDP), Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA), and Salaamu Musumba (FDC Vice President).
The walk-to-work campaign, initiated by Activists for Change (A4C), an opposition pressure group, will this week occur daily as opposed to only Mondays and Thursdays since its inception four weeks ago.
The week’s programme, Mao said, will be as follows: Monday: countrywide ‘walk-to-work’; Tuesday: rally at the Constitution Square; Wednesday: rally at the Clock Tower, Nsambya; Thursday (swearing-in day): countrywide vigil over the economic situation; Friday: countrywide walk-to-mosques; Saturday: torture victims’ parade; and Sunday: walk-to-places of worship.
For the past few weeks, police and the military have clamped down on politicians seeking to walk to their work places. The police say they must be notified before any demonstration can take place, but the opposition supporters insist they are not obliged to do so. However, Mao said they have notified the police this time about their planned activities.
The opposition has also urged religious leaders not to attend Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony.
“It’s a bogus ceremony. We appeal to religious leaders not to show up. Ugandans should know that we’re dealing with a president who is arrogant. We are dealing with a government that doesn’t listen,” Mao said.
“Our country is hugely divided between the haves and have-nots, but this government does not see that. The other day, the First Lady, Janet Museveni, was in Parliament saying that she doesn’t see sense in our campaign. She is behaving like Marie Antoinette. The situation is bad, but some people don’t feel it.”
On his part, Otunnu said that according to UPC, the ultimate goal for the campaign is to change government.
“Our goal still remains, even if fuel and commodity prices reduce. Our overall goal is a democratic change,” he said, lending credence to claims by different government officials in recent weeks that the ‘walk-to-work’ campaign ultimately seeks to overthrow the government.
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