SOME MPs of the Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress (UPC) are fronting former UN diplomat Olara Otunnu as the partyâ€™s presidential candidate for the 2011 elections.
The MPs, led by vice-chairman Livingstone Okello-Okello, yesterday told journalists that they met with Otunnu in Nairobi last week where they asked him to be the partyâ€™s flag-bearer.
A statement, signed by MP Benson Obua Ogwal (Moroto county), said consultations were held, in which Otunnu was briefed about the status of UPC and the state of affairs in Uganda.
When asked about the request, Otunnu reportedly replied: â€œI have heard the voices of the people of Uganda and I am deeply touched. I am taking these voices seriously. I will get back to you very soon.â€
Ogwal said if Otunnu agreed to return, he would be UPCâ€™s single possible candidate. He, however, hastened to add that nobody was barred from contesting.
â€œWe are in the process of sieving for the best, but we are not blocking anybody. Otunnu is an accomplished diplomat and the best Africa has ever had and if he came back and led this country, he would change Uganda.â€
Okello-Okello stressed that the 20-person delegation from Uganda, which attended the Nairobi meeting, went as individuals and did not represent the party.
They denied that Otunnu possessed double citizenship of Uganda and Ivory Coast. Ogwal said Otunnu, who lives in the US, is â€œstatelessâ€ and does not hold any passport, but remains a Ugandan by descent.
Okello-Okello added that the issue of Otunnuâ€™s passport was being handled and would soon be sorted out.
Otunnu was born in 1950 in Mucwini, Kitgum district. He became Guild President at Makerere University in the 1970s before he fled the country during Idi Aminâ€™s reign of terror. He completed his law degree in Oxford University and later went to Harvard Law School.
As a student leader and later, as secretary general of Uganda Freedom Movement, he is said to have played an active role in the resistance against the Amin regime. The Obote II Government appointed him Permanent Representative to the UN.
In July 1985, after the fall of Obote II, he was appointed minister of foreign affairs by the short-lived military junta of Tito Okello, which was overthrown by President Yoweri Museveni six months later.
Between 1997 and 2005, he served as UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict. At several public occasions, he hit back at Museveni, accusing him of genocide in northern Uganda.
Otunnuâ€™s relationship with the Government has not been smooth. The Government has branded him an LRA rebel collaborator while Otunnu has accused the Government of denying him a passport and not supporting his candidature to become the first UN Secretary General from Africa.
It is not clear how much support Otunnu would have in his own party.
MP Jimmy Akena, a son of the party president Miria Obote, has also declared his intention to vie for the presidency.
Asked about Akenaâ€™s declaration, Okello-Okello said it was worrying that the party leadership was becoming a family matter.
â€œBut we cannot tell Akena to withdraw because that would be trampling on his right to contest for any elective position in the country.â€
UPC fronts Olara Otunnu for president