Proponents of the national dialogue have expressed optimism towards the progress of the process which they say has now attracted more cohesion from across the divide.
This was the overarching message on Monday during a retreat for the Uganda National Dialogue Coordinating team at Imperial Botanical Hotel, Entebbe. The retreat is part of the implementation of the national dialogue convening modalities National Dialogue.
At the retreat, government was represented by the Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana, the chief whip of the ruling party, Ruth Nankabirwa and State Minister for Privatization and Investment, Evelyne Anite.
In his remarks, Sheikh Shaban Mubaje, the Chairperson of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) said the two-day induction retreat is important because it kick starts the third phase which will include the constitution of an independent secretariat that will provide technical and logistical support to the national dialogue process.
“It’s time for us to work together as a nation beyond partisan interests,” said Mubaje.
“We are happy about the members of the opposition represented here by the Leader of Opposition and indeed opposition political parties and interested groups. My charge to you is to always be mindful that now is the time for us to work together as a nation beyond partisan interests,” Sheikh Mubaje said.
On his part, constitutional lawyer, Prof Fredrick Edward Sempebwa who spoke at the retreat advised participants in the dialogue process to refrain from calling out parties with dissenting views, saying this will be retrogressive.
“The things which may have been going wrong will have to be mentioned of course but not in a tone of finger pointing and condemning. Because the government is interested in ensuring that we have a peaceful developing nation,” he said.
Crispin Kaheru, the coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) said “we are glad that now, we are moving with everybody”.
“Some months back, we had some sections of society including political parties expressing some sort of coldness about the national dialogue process. Now, political parties are on board, we have representatives of the people, and government has fully endorsed the national dialogue process,” Kaheru said.
Members of the political opposition including Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ocham, Democratic Party President, Norbert Mao, religious leaders and civil society attended the dialogue.
Monday’s retreat reflected a semblance of progress in the process of organizing the national dialogue, in comparison with the previous meeting where members of the opposition expressed strong reservations.
At the meeting in March, FDC, DP and PDP were opposed to the process saying issues like the agenda, neutrality (of conveners and venue), stiffling of opposition as well as guarantees that resolutions would be implemented were of concern.
The process for the national dialogue was launched in December 2018 by President Yoweri Museveni. He said that he was happy to take part in the national dialogue because he has been engaged in political struggles for the last 58 years.
“It is a pleasure for me to be in dialogue with people with different views to tell them what and why we think. It is good to sit down and this is why I believe this,” said the President.