MAY 27, 2010: Museveni 'Softens'

Museveni 'Softens'
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Tabu Butagira

Kampala — President Museveni yesterday set the stage for a possible "meeting of minds" with his opponents, arguing that political competition should be anchored on constructive ideas - and not inter-personal attacks or rhetoric. "The role of the opposition which is working for the common good is to propose a policy alternative to those of the sitting government," he said. "The provision of alternative policy is what is needed to make the opposition an indispensable component of democratic governance." He added: "It is important, therefore, not to base political competition on personal ambitions of individual actors but on competitive programmes and ideas."

The President's statement, in which he even suggested possible agreement on major national issues, appeared at odds with his previous proclamation that the Ugandan political Opposition is "ideologically bankrupt".

Speaking at the on-going Africa Regional Conference on Democratic Reforms, the Electoral Cycle and the role of political parties, the President highlighted national defence and security, justice, basic freedoms, human rights and a flourishing economy as priority areas for political consensus.

The Shadow Minister for Finance, Mr Oduman Okello, last evening said it is difficult to believe the President, whose ruling NRM government "uses soldiers and police to brutalise opponents and gag the media, is genuine about constructive engagement."


"If that's the idea, we are okay with it because the opposition is not bankrupt when it comes to developmental ideas," he said. He said: "But you can't eat your cake and still have it. Where do the ideas compete when Ugandans are being blocked from hearing from the Opposition? This is a contradiction."

At the Munyonyo conference in Kampala, which has attracted participants from 11 African countries, the ruling National Resistance Movement party and its competitors; FDC, UPC, the Conservative Party and JEEMA squared off on wide-ranging policy proposals as they explored a middle-ground for civil political trade on an election eve.