Talks are on going as five of the 10 opposition presidential candidates seek to rally behind one joint candidate, but the choice is said to be narrowing to Patrick Oboi Amuriat of main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine of the National Unity Platform.
For a second time since the arrest, on November 18, of Amuriat and Bobi Wine in Gulu City and Luuka District, respectively, five ‘main’ opposition candidates or their representatives met to chart a way forward.
The first meeting was held via video teleconferencing while the second one happened at Makerere University Guest House on November 20.
In the meeting that happened at Makerere, FDC chairperson Wasswa Biriggwa represented Amuriat while NUP deputy president Lina Waru Zedriga stood in for Bobi Wine.
Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party (DP), Maj Gen (Rtd) Gregg Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) and Lt Gen (Rtd) Henry Kakurugu Tumukunde of the Renewed Uganda pressure group attended in person.
At a press conference held at Maj Gen (Rtd) Muntu’s ANT office along Buganda Road, the five political groups agreed on at least five areas of cooperation.
The candidates resolved that they were in the struggle to defeat incumbent president Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni “together as leaders who are responding to a failing state.”
They agreed on the need to “avoid attacking each other and thus deny the regime the opportunity to divide us up in the field, and expressed readiness “to work together in areas of common interests.”
“Where we do not agree we shall strive to understand each other. If one of us is arrested, harassed or mishandled, we shall all stand together in solidarity,” they said in a joint communique issued after the meeting.
“We agreed on a common understanding of each others positions in order to avoid contradictions that may play into the hands of the regime.”
They also resolved to “design a common response to the arrests, brutalisations and harassment of candidates aimed at denying them access to the electorate. We are on different fronts but our cause is the same – CHANGE!”
JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TALKS
At the presser, the five principals seemed optimistic that it was still possible to have a joint opposition presidential candidate.
“This shows that regardless of our political views, it is still possible to unite as one for a common purpose/agenda,” said Lt Gen Tumukunde.
Mao also revealed talks were ongoing and it was likely four of the candidates would pull out to back a single opposition candidate.
Besides the optimism that the candidates could agree on one strong politician to take on Museveni, there was no clear pointer to this form of coalition.
Months ago, the United Forces of Change (UFC) declaration excited opposition circles, especially after opposition strongman Dr Kizza Besigye led others into an agreement on working together to end Museveni’s 34-year rule.
The FDC and Besigye insisted coalition with other political group should focus on alternative processes of ending the Museveni rule other than elections.
While other political opposition players seemed to agree to work with Bobi Wine and his NUP.
But FDC insisted the joint presidential candidate should focus on what the person brings on table in comes of intelligence, political clout and strength of party.
This is the same point Amuriat emphasized in his interview aired by state broadcaster UBC TV hours after the Makerere meeting of five.
FDC’s Besigye scored just over 35 per cent in the 2016 presidential election.
Despite mainstream media focus on Bobi Wine, NUP and People Power, FDC still considers itself the main opposition political party.
From the 2015 failure of The Democratic Alliance (TDA), FDC is also likely suspicious of Tumukunde, who campaigned for Museveni in the previous poll but is now a presidential candidate.
FDC pulled Besigye out of TDA after key principals zeroed on former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi as a joint presidential candidate.
For Muntu, his fallout with FDC, after which he started ANT, could make it difficult for Amuriat to back Muntu, a man he defeated in FDC in 2017.
With barely two months to the 2021 presidential election, Amuriat and Bobi Wine are viewed by some as the main opposition candidates. But a choice between the two could be difficult to make.