By Charles Ariko
and Jude Kafuma
BOTH the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the biggest opposition party, FDC, yesterday reacted cautiously to the election of Gulu district chairman Norbert Mao as the new president of the Democratic Party (DP).
Mao beat his challenger, Kampala mayor Nasser Sebaggala, on Sunday during a controversial delegatesâ€™ conference in Mbale which was boycotted by a faction of the party.
The NRM deputy spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, said Maoâ€™s election brings a new dimension to Ugandaâ€™s politics.
â€œAs NRM, we congratulate him. We hope he will inject a new dimension of politics, unlike the current opposition,â€ Opondo said.
He hastened to add that Maoâ€™s entry into the 2011 presidential race was not a threat to the Movement which he stressed had support across the country.
On the split in the DP, Opondo said this was an internal matter which the NRM could not comment on. â€œThat is not a matter for the NRM. We hope the wrangles will not paralyse Mao.â€
FDC said it was still in a dilemma as to which of the two DP factions to recognise. â€œWe are still cautious. We are not sure whether what went on at the DP conference in Mbale was in accordance with the DP constitution,â€ said spokesman Wafula Oguttu.
He advised Mao to work towards uniting the divided party and joining the Inter-Party Co-operation (IPC), the coalition of opposition parties. â€œWe donâ€™t want a divided DP to join IPC. We request him to unite DP to become a strong party,â€ Oguttu said.
Bidandi Ssali, who intends to run for the national presidency on the ticket of the Peopleâ€™s Progressive Party, welcomed Maoâ€™s election.
â€œThat is a democratic decision for those who sat to elect their leader. I congratulate him for being elected.â€
Commenting on the two DP factions, he said internal wrangles were normal in any party.
â€œI hope the factions will eventually iron out their differences as has happened in other political parties. If they donâ€™t, how can Ugandans trust them if they cannot contain a small diversity?â€ he asked.
Chris Opoka, the secretary of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress (UPC), also urged the DP to unite.
â€œThe DP delegates have exercised their democratic right. We wish they solve their differences. If they are united, we can jointly as opposition advance the cause of democracy,â€ Opoka said.
The DP faction that boycotted the partyâ€™s delegatesâ€™ conference remained defiant that the Mbale conference was unlawful since, according to them, the convener, Matia Nsubuga, was holding the post of party secretary general illegally.
The leaders of the rival faction addressed a press conference yesterday during which they called upon the newly-elected DP leaders to â€œcome back to the mainstream or consider creating their own political partyâ€.
Joseph Mukiibi, who was replaced as the national chairman in the Mbale conference, insisted that Bayiga Lulume is still the party deputy secretary general and Juliet Kafire the interim national president.
Lulume denied that his group is a faction of DP. â€œIt is the Mbale group that is a faction, not my group with the national chairman.â€
He described the elected members in the Mbale conference as a â€œbreak-away group that has been pursuing a socialist form of DPâ€.
He said if any of the elected members wants to be legally recognised as a leader, they have to attend the Kampala delegatesâ€™ conference and contest with others.
However, the group said they were not going to sack any party members for attending the Mbale conference.
â€œBecause they were misdirected by some NEC members, we want them to come back to the mainstream,â€ said Kafire