Premier Robinah Nabbanja has asked Kampala Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere to order politics out of the church, or else unhappy believers will 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 president, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and former legislator Maria Babirye Kabanda, drew a sharp contrast between the values of the late Ssemogerere and the practices of the current government. First was Lukwago, who, after speaking about the deceased’s virtues, led an attack on the government, which he accused of abusing the right to association, a right 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, he 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 down opposition activity.
He said political parties only operated at headquarters, which 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 his age (he was about 90 at the time), 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 after the then-guerilla NRA made an assault on Tito Okello Lutwa’s government.
Besigye said Museveni failed to make 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 the 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 stated that the situation demanded a new effort, without which a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box would never be realized, as the people who failed the transition would remain in power.
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 7:00 p.m. Nabbanja, who by protocol came last, asked mourners not to politicize the rest of the funeral. She took a shot at religious leaders, accusing them of treating politicians unfairly from the pulpit.
She warned Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere that some unamused believers would be forced to leave the church, and the solution was to get politics completely out of the church.
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, whom 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 236 million shillings.
A three-gun salute, she said, would be accorded to him. Responding to accusations of attacks on opposition politics, the premier said there was enough political space, which is why 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; the first deputy Katikkiro of Buganda, Al Haji Dr. Twaha Kigongo Kawaase, who delivered the Katikkiro’s message; and Archbishop Paul Sseogerere, a cousin whose uncle brought up the late.
Dr. Gemima Namatovu, the late man’s widow, described him as a devoted husband, a caring teacher, and someone who was always willing to forgive. 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 at Nattale, Nkumba in Busiro County, and Wakiso District later today.