Premier Robinah Nabbanja has asked Kampala Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere to order politics out of the church, or else unhappy believers opt out. She said this during the requiem service for former Democratic Party President and Minister, Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, who was eulogized by many as a good, clean, loving, forgiving, principled, patriotic, and peace-loving man.
Opposition politicians including Dr. Kizza Besigye, the former Forum for Democratic Change-FDC President, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and former legislator Maria Babirye Kabanda, drew a sharp contrast in the values of the late Ssemogerere and the practice by the current government. First was Lukwago who after speaking about the deceased’s virtues led an attack on the government he accused of abusing the right to association, a right he said the deceased had fought so hard to restore.
The late Ssemogerere served under President Yoweri Museveni’s government until 1995, when he quit accusing the latter of perpetuating a one-party state codified into the “National Movement System.” Ssemogerere lost the 1996 presidential election to his former principal and later in 2000, led a legal assault that culminated in the restoration of multiparty politics, which Lukwago said until now, has remained in theory as the government continues to lock opposition activity.
He said political parties only operated at headquarters where members are restricted from accessing. Also raising the issue of human rights abuses including killings, torture, and disappearances, Lukwago said the deceased in spite of age (late was 90) was spearheading a collective opposition effort for change.
Dr. Besigye, a former NRM ideologue turned critic, made a moving speech explaining the connection between the late Ssemogerere and the ruling NRM. He said he personally first met the latter at Nabbingo Trinity College when Museveni sought DP’s alliance to form a transition government when the then guerilla NRA made an assault on Tito Okello Lutwa’s government.
Besigye said Museveni failed the anticipated transition and that is what marked his departure from the disposition he helped bring up. He said he shared principles with the late Dr. Ssemogerere when he served under him for two years as internal affairs state minister, only to be transferred to President’s office as national political commissar.
Under the new placement, Besigye said he caused himself more trouble when he pushed for the anticipated transition that his principal was not willing to actualize. He said that when Museveni appointed the Odoki constitutional commission to spearhead the writing of a new constitution, it took another two years under his pressure, to have it funded.
Besigye said the situation called for a new effort, short of which a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot would never be actualized, as the people who failed the said transition remain the ones in charge.
The attacks rabble-roused Premier Nabbanja who as a representative of the government at the ceremony had sat through the long service and speeches stretching for five hours until over 7:00pm. Nabbanja who by protocol came last asked mourners not to politicize the rest of the funeral. She took a swipe at religious leaders she accused of making selective treatment of politicians using the church pulpit.
She warned Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere that some un-amused believers would be forced to leave the church and the solution was to get politics out of the church completely.
Earlier on, the premier had explained that President Museveni wasn’t in a position to attend the service because of another Catholic Church engagement in Agago where the beatification of the late Italian Father Joseph Giuseppe Ambrossoli was taking place.
She said the late Dr. Paul Ssemogerere was a personal friend of the President, who he had fondly talked of as having held a clean presidential campaign in 1996, devoid of personal attacks. The deceased’s contribution to NRM and the country, Nabbanja said, was the reason the government had decided to accord him an official burial, shouldering all funeral expenses amounting to 236million shillings.
A three-gun salute, she said would be accorded to him. Responding to accusations of attacks on opposition politicians, the premier said there was enough political space, the reason the opposition could manage to have 107 members in Parliament.
Other speakers included Prince David Kintu Wassajja who represented and delivered Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s condolences, first deputy Katikkiro of Buganda Al Haji Dr. Twaha Kigongo Kawaase who delivered the Katikkiro’s message, Archbishop Paul Sseogerere – a cousin whose uncle brought up the late.
Dr. Gemima Namatovu, widow to the late spoke of him as a sincere husband, loving, a teacher, and ever forgiving. Karoli Ssemogerere, the eldest of the orphans said his father had left an obligation to political leaders especially the executive, religious and traditional leaders. The late Ssemogerere, who died on Friday last week is to be buried at one of the family burial grounds in Nattale, Nkumba in Busiro county, Wakiso district later today.
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