Democratic Party Fighting for Survival
DP's Ssebaana and Hashib Takuba.

Democratic Party Fighting for Survival

Are they on the right track?

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: April 25, 2006

Now that Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections are over and done with, the Democratic Party has taken the first bold step to insure their political future by holding a retreat for the party's leaders to discuss the way forward for their party.

A life threatening political disease has been hovering over the DP home, and has been infecting the party's political body for more than two decades and even the most confident in the Democratic Party know that something has to be done for the 54-year-old political party to survive becoming a party that was. Defunct that is.

The Democratic Party leadership are certainly aware of the party's (you might say expected) dismal performance in the February 2006 general elections.

In the Presidential Elections, the Party's Presidential Candidate, John Ssebaana Kizito got a paltry 1.58% in an election won by incumbent President Yoweri Museveni's 26-year old national resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O) with 59.8%.

This election practically put the writing clearly on the wall for old parties like the DP and the Uganda People's Congress as the less than one-year-old Forum for Democratic Change led by Col. Dr. Kiza Besigye managed to get 39.7% of the votes.

The Democratic Party has been losing members to other political parties at an alarming rate, while squabbles and disagreements over small issues among the party's leadership was becoming second nature if not name of the Democratic Party.

If it is not Ssebaana struggling with Ssebagala, the DP youths are fighting each other over who control's the office, or some DP leaders are busy defecting to her rival political parties. Even those that haven't defected from the DP have over the years found more solace in voting for non-DP candidates, as seen from elections held after 1980.

Many observers agree that the Democratic Party overwhelmingly won the 1980 multi-party elections, but were allegedly cheated of victory by then ruling Uganda People's Congress led by the late Dr. Appollo Milton Obote.

DP supporters
DP supporters.

Yoweri Museveni who was the worst performer (won only one seat-Dr. Cryspus Kiyonga from Kasese) contested the election by going to the bush to remove the government by force of arms as then DP leadership headed by President General Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere humbly agreed to form the opposition.

Of course Museveni took over office in 1986 and has been president since, winning three elections in which DP candidate's participated. In each election, DP's support in the ballot box has been dwindling. In 1996, Ssemwogerere managed to get 23% of the vote. In 2001, the party supported Dr, Besigye who managed 27%. In 2006, the party had their own candidate and he got 1.58%.

Many DP bigwigs openly supported other candidates. Ssebagala, who contested for the presidency of DP and lost to Ssebaana supported Dr. Besigye as did MP Michael Mabikke and a host of other DP leaders across the country. Many of DP members also refused to stand down for DP candidates and stood as independent candidates, eventually winning in DP strongholds of Kampala and Jinja.

Kampala Mayor elect, Ssebagala beat DP mayoral candidate, Dr. Hashib Takuba, Makindye east MP incumbent Michael Mabikke retained his seat after competing with DP's candidate Mrs. Sarah Ssebagala as did Jinja Municipality mayor Baswari Kezala who stood as an independent against a DP candidate after losing in primaries.

But in a move that defended the party's 54 years, the DP has decided to look into all this and forge a way forward to a stronger party that can compete for leadership.

During the retreat that took place at Ranch on the Lake in Kigo, at the banks of L. Victoria, from Friday April 20th to Sunday April 23rd 2006, the Democratic Party officially welcomed back party members who contested as independents in the Parliamentary and Local Council elections.

DP's Secretary General, Dr. Ebil Otto said that all party members have decided (the leadership) to burry their differences and work together for the good of the party.

The retreat convened by DP President General, Ssebaana Kizito and chaired by the party's chairman, Prof. Joseph Mukiibi, the Democratic Party agreed on seven strategies to transform the DP into a new, modern and vibrant party.

Ssebaana says among the strategies is the review and re-drafting of the party's values on which to base their activities. Other strategies adopted include training party members on election security, re-discovering party members who joined other political parties and re-accommodating those who contested as independents in the last elections. The party will also focus on mobilizing resources for the party, campaigning aggressively to recruit new members and appointing a shadow cabinet.

While these are noble strategies, it remains to be seen how the party's leadership will use them to find its tune among many Ugandans to once again proudly display the DP fist and chorus and fight for "Truth and Justice" that the Democratic Party stands for.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: April 25, 2006
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.