Last week, Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere hosted a party to celebrate an award he received from the Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, in recognition of his exemplary political leadership nationally and in Buganda, and service with humility.
The fete at Hotel Africana under a theme; Unity in Diversity, drew the attendance of notable political figures such as FDC icon, Dr. Kizza Besigye, presidential aspirants Robert Kyagulanyi (NUP) and Norbert Mao (DP) among others.
Dr. Ssemogerere used the event to speak about the need for a joint opposition candidate, urging the opposition players to look at his royal award as an underpinning emblem in a move to realize unity and fronting credible leaders.
Speaking to The Witness at the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi near Kampala, a senior member of the Dr. Besigye-led People’s government said that Dr. Ssemogerere is part of their “Plan B.”
“He is our Plan B; he is one we are bringing as President of Uganda. If you pay attention to all the speeches that were made at his thanksgiving, they point to that,” the official said.
After unsuccessful attempts to wrestle power out of President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s hands through an election, Besigye announced in August that he would instead announced that he was to embark on his Plan B to bring about political change in the country.
Well placed sources have since told The Witness that talks have been on since the beginning of the year intended to find a consensus candidate for the opposition.
“We did not necessarily discuss the candidature of Dr. Ssemogerere but he was part of the grand plan of looking for an elder who is agreeable to all [opposition groups],” a source said.
Dr. Ssemogerere has twice contested for the presidency in 1980 and 1996 and lost to the late Apollo Milton Obote and Yoweri Museveni respectively.
PROF. FREDERICK SSEMPEEBWA
Ssemogerere is understood to have written the concept paper that guided the talks which were however derailed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Among the probable candidates that the meetings discussed was celebrated law don, Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa who was one of draftsmen of the 1995 Constitution and also chaired the 2005 Constitutional Review Commission.
“We needed a person who is generally acceptable but given the setback we suffered due to the Covid-19, there is no time for finding that person, but also, bringing in a new person may kill the momentum,” a source said.
In fact, some of the parties to the talks, The Witness has understood, got suspicious of Besigye’s intentions.
“He appeared vague that some thought he was buying time as he quietly prepared for his candidature,” a source said.
On the sidelines, Kyagulanyi told his colleagues about his suspicion of “ill will” on the part of Besigye wondering why the four-times presidential contender was pushing for a consensus candidate as opposed to the idea of supporting an obviously popular candidate.
Kyagulanyi reportedly felt that Besigye was working against his [Kyagulanyi] presidential bid.
On Facebook, Wafula Oguttu, an active member of the People’s government made a lengthy post about the efforts which he however said were let down by “selfish and unprincipled differences” within the opposition.
“Where I see a strong possibility is, if that candidate is sourced from among the retired and respected statesmen or states women and agreed upon by all parties to serve as a transitional leader.
That transitional leader should serve for one term only,” Oguttu stated in his Facebook post.
This is not the first time that opposition politicians are making an attempt to find a joint candidate.
In 2011, efforts for a joint opposition candidate collapsed after DP and UPC made a last minute withdraw from a process that picked Besigye as the Inter-party coalition (IPC) candidate.
Besigye nonetheless pushed on with the coalition that had his FDC working with JEEMA, Conservative Party and Social Democratic Party (SDP) plus rebellious DP members under the Ssuubi 2010 pressure group.
In 2014, a new attempt made under the auspices of some civil society groups. The new push gave birth to The democratic alliance (TDA) which collapsed after Besigye who was the FDC presidential flag bearer was withdrawn.