By Moses Walubiri
The ruling National Resistance Movement party and the main opposition political parties are in talks in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania under the auspices of the Commonwealth.
The NRM and the main opposition parties represented in Parliament, namely, Forum for Democratic Change, Democratic Party, Uganda People's Congress, Justice Forum (Jeema) and the Conservative party are meeting at a three-day forum for governing and opposition parties in East Africa.
The NRM team is led by ICT minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, while FDC is represented by secretary general Alice Alaso, DP by its president Norbert Moa, while Omar Kalinge-Nnyago is representing Jeema and UPC by its president Dr Olara Otunnu,
Others include Kenneth Mafabi, Dr Rwomukubwe Arinaitwe; Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi; and Samuel Kavuma, according to Manoah Esipisu, the Deputy Director of the Communications & Public Affairs Division
Uganda's opposition leaders said they will use the forum to discuss, among others issues, the restoration of presidential term limits in Uganda and role of the military in politics.
The forum to be addressed by a host of eminent political figures, including former Ghana President Jerry Rawlings, Speaker of Uganda's Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Rwanda's National Assembly Rose Mukantabana and Commonwealth Deputy-Secretary General, Mwasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.
The forum is intended to provide a platform for parties from the participating countries - Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Seychelles - to discuss their roles, rights, and responsibilities in ensuring functioning democracy.
The forum has come at a time when relationship between the Government and main opposition in Uganda is at its worst, following a year-long opposition protests that have caused loss of lives and destruction of property. As a consequence, Government is in process of enacting laws to regulate demonstrations. Government has at the same time mooted changes to the broadcasting and press laws.
The forum in Dar es Salaam opening this morning and intended to nurture democracy in the East Africa, is being held under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Similar fora have been held in the Caribbean, Southern Africa, Asia, Pacific and West Africa.
Co-hosted by the Speaker of the Tanzania General Assembly, Anne Makinda, the forum will be used as an avenue for exploring ways of buttressing the usually tenuous and suspicion fraught relationship between governing and opposition parties and underscoring their contribution to the democratic process.
The dialogue will also seek to explore ways through which other stake holders - like civil society and the media - can help in fostering democracy through demanding accountability and transparency in public life.
NRM Chief Whip and leader at the Inter-Party Dialogue, Daudi Migereko, said the forum will provide opportunity of dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties.
"Political parties should learn to open up channels of communication. The opposition parties ought to listen to governments and the parties in power should respond to legitimate concerns raised by opposition parties," Migereko said.
Migereko added that opposition parties ought to have a bigger say in how elections are organized to obviate complaints about the credibility of the results.
Alice Alaso has promised to make use of the forum to push for the restoration of presidential term limits in Uganda "in the interests of the budding East African Federation."
"Uganda is the odd man out in this region. It's imperative that term limits be reinstated so that the issue doesn't become a stumbling block towards the realization of a political federation in East Africa," she said.
FDC also wants the possibility of creating a regional electoral body explored, alongside defining the role of the military in national politics.
Omar Kalinge Nyago said the need to define the "national project" will be raised during the forum.
"There is an illusion that when you are the party is in power, you own the country and when you are in opposition you have nothing to do with the country. However, there are many national issues that go beyond narrow partisan interests that should bring us together," he noted.
DP's Mukasa Mbidde said discussions tailored to entrenching the rule of law ought to take center stage at the summit because the rule of law is a veritable bastion of good governance.
"The aim of this forum is to contribute to the creation of a constructive 'partnership' between government and opposition parties in each country," Masire-Mwamba said in statement issued from London over the weekend.
"While they may be political adversaries, they share a common national responsibility and obligation of nation-building and advancing the prospects of real development - human, political, social and economic - of the people of their respective countries," he said adding that; "this can only be achieved if the political system works constructively for the welfare of all, not if it creates or exacerbates ruptures in society."