Independence: Can The UPC Party Use The Historic National Day To Rise again?
Independence Day for UPC marks the death of a Ugandan hero.
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First published: October 9th, 2007
It is Independence Day again. As has been the norm, the destination is Kololo Airstrip where the Uganda Flag of Black Yellow Red; Black Yellow Red replaced the Union Jack of the British, marking the hand over of power to Ugandans to govern themselves. Since that day of October 9, 1962, Ugandans have been waking up to the cerebration of the country's independence from the colonial administrators.
In the last 20 or so years, President Yoweri Museveni has been the main celebrant at the national celebrations. This has made it look like Independence is a thing of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). Only few people (maybe including you reading the article) think about the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), a political party that was handed over the instruments of independence and power by the British at Independence Day.
Dr. Apollo Milton Obote (RIP), its former leader, received the instruments then. He then ruled Uganda twice- between 1962 and 1972 and between 1980 and 1985. With Obote dead, the party seems to be losing political ground as a strong political party in Uganda, as seen in the last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
Mama Miria Obote (Late of Obote's widow) who took over the party leadership shortly before the elections to revamp the party that was once led from Lusaka in Zambia, is yet to prove that one of the oldest political parties in Uganda can rise again. This is in spite of choosing her to keep the memories of her late husband alive and ensure that the political party does not die. But even if the elections were held next year, UPC is far from seeing the president's seat from Uganda House (party headquarters). As things stand, it looks like UPC's hope is still in the man who died two years ago.
This is probably why as the country marks the 45th Independence Anniversary on October 9, UPC will mark both the independence of Uganda spearheaded by the party, and the death of their hero, and probably a Uganda hero, who died just a day after witnessing Uganda's 43rd Independence Anniversary on October 10, 2005.
In fact, one UPC supporter remarked; "Dr. Obote died a day after helping Uganda attain its independence. He is the father of the nation. The death on October 10th is therefore symbolic and we must always observe that day the same way we observe the national independence."
This could be the view shared by many UPC leaders and supporters as they try to revamp the party. It is not by mistake therefore that the party has dedicated the first days after independence (October 11-13) to mark the anniversary and hold a memorial service for the late Obote in Mbale district.
"Uganda Peoples Congress and the people of Uganda will this year hold the second anniversary and memorial service in honor of the late Party President ad twice President of Uganda and Father of the Nation Dr. Apollo Milton Obote in Mbale district. The occasion will be marked on October 13th, 2007," reads a statement on October 3rd.
"Ugandans should know that Dr. Milton Obote's death was very painful to his family, UPC fraternity, people of Uganda, friends and fellow Pan Africanist globally.
He relentlessly fought for the restoration of multiparty politics in our motherland and participated in many liberation struggles across Africa. UPC is proud that it is playing an active role in this new political dispensation," continues the statement signed by Dr. Kyeyune Ssebulime, the Assistant National Youth Leader for the UPC.
So, a close analysis of the Obote Anniversary is that it is not just a usual memorial service but a way to build political capital. That is why two days prior to the Anniversary that is to take place on October 13 at St. Andrews Cathedral will be set aside for political rally.
"...Two days prior to the events, between 11 and 12th of October 2007, a program has been drawn for the Party President Mama Miria Kalule Obote to tour and pay homage to party members in Sironko, Bududa and Manafa Districts. This occasion is a very special one and it is expected to enable mobilization and sensitization of UPC members on party programs," says Ssebulime.
But will this mobilization that is 'oiled' by the Obote Anniversary shortly after the national Independence help the Uganda People's Congress rise again?
Ishaa Otto Amiza, UPC Member of Parliament for Oyam South is doubtful about UPC's future at the time when President Yoweri Museveni is in power.
"Recently, President Museveni was at it again while he was touring Luweero sub-region where he waged his five-year guerrilla war against the UPC elected government of Dr Milton Obote (RIP).
Instead of showing the people of Luweero the development he has done for their area... Museveni, as usual, continued to brand UPC, a national political party that led Uganda to independence and has been twice voted into government, as a "a killer party," says Amiza.
The UPC MP says that the president and his NRM have been planting seeds of hatred, divisionism and revenge among the people through his inflammatory, sectarian and propaganda talk against UPC and the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) which the MP says he (President Museveni) served as one of its leaders.
"I read with total disbelief when he referred to UPC members as 'killers' and yet he has been in power for 20 years but failed to produce any useful evidence to prosecute our former leader, the late Milton Obote, who died in exile just two years ago. He died as a clean man without being tried in any court of law," he wrote in a commentary recently.
However, it is not clear according to his commentary, whether he is in support of the UPC under Obote and therefore behind the new strategy to sale the UPC using the former leader or in support of the 'new' UPC which is not tainted with blood.
"I had not even joined P.1 (back then) and President Museveni enjoys and continues calling members of UPC as 'killers'. I am UPC, whom did I kill, when, where and why?" he continued in defence of the current UPC leadership.
Amiza says that many young people are now members of UPC and they feel offended every time their party is condemned as a killer by the NRM and yet the only killings they have witnessed in this country have happened during Museveni's reign.
So, as Ugandans mark the Independence of their country on October 9 and the UPC marks the handing over of the instruments of power to their leader as well as the death of their leader on October 10, 2005 (a day after independence), we wait for the party to rise again.
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First published: October 9th, 2007
Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.