Former DP President Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere is dead. The longest serving Democratic Party president has passed away at the age of 90 years.
Ssemogerere led the Democratic Party in the highly contested 1980 general election which was won by two time Ugandan president Milton Obote’s UPC party.
Ssemogerere and DP stalwarts disputed the result.
The disagreement triggered a civil war in Uganda during which various political actors, including then Minister Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took to the bush to overthrow the Obote government. Museveni founded the PRA (People’s Resistance Army) which would later morph into the NRA (National Resistance Army) for this purpose.
Others who opposed the result included breakaway DP party member Andrew Kayiira who led his UFM (Uganda Freedom Movement) in a similar struggle.
Ssemogerere was reportedly against an armed resistance to the “theft” of his victory. A lifelong believer in democracy and dialogue, Ssemogerere repeatedly expressed concern that a war would cost lives and not really resolve the misunderstandings that plagued the political class at the time.
The 1981-1986 “Liberation War” would cost an estimated 300,000 Ugandan lives before Museveni’s NRA battled their way to the capital city Kampala in January.
Ssemogerere would serve as Internal Affairs minister (1986-1988) in the Museveni led government as the NRA leader sought to heal the divisions that had nearly torn apart the country.
He would go on to hold various positions in the Museveni government while agitating for a return to multiparty politics through numerous court challenges.
He would leave government for good in 1995 ahead of challenging Museveni for the presidency in the 1996 general election. He would lose his second presidential bid.
Ssemogerere struggled to hold together an increasingly divided DP through his 25 year tenure before relinquishing his position in 2005. He would be succeeded by longtime friend and ally, and future Kampala mayor John Ssebana Kizito.