Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, a former leader of the DP, has passed away. At the age of 90, the president of the Democratic Party with the longest tenure passed away. He apparently passed away this morning at his residence in the Busiro county, though the exact cause of death has not yet been disclosed. The Democratic Party was led by Ssemogerere in the fiercely contested 1980 general election, which Milton Obote’s UPC party ultimately won.
The outcome was contested by Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere and DP stalwarts. A civil war broke out in Uganda as a result of the disagreement, and several political figures—including Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, a minister at the time—took to the bush to topple the Obote administration. For this reason, Museveni established the People’s Resistance Army (PRA), which would eventually change its name to the National Resistance Army (NRA).
Under his Uganda People’s Movement, Museveni had also run in the general election (UPM). Breakaway DP party member Andrew Kayiira, who led his UFM (Uganda Freedom Movement) in a comparable conflict, was among those who disagreed with the outcome. According to reports, Ssemogerere opposed using force to retaliate against the “theft” of his triumph. Ssemogerere, a steadfast supporter of democracy and open communication, frequently expressed worry that a war would claim lives while doing little to address the miscommunications plaguing the political elite at the time.
Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere chose to contest the election outcome in court, creating a precedent that is still in effect today. From 1981 until 1985, he served as the opposition leader in the Ugandan parliament. Before Museveni’s NRA fought their way to Kampala, the capital city, in January, the 1981–1986 “Liberation War” would reportedly claim the lives of 300,000 Ugandans.
Ssemogerere served as Interior Minister in Museveni’s administration from 1986 to 1988 as the NRA leader worked to mend the fractures that had almost caused the country to fall apart. Years later, Norbert Mao, the current president of the DP, would use this example to support his claim that he should serve as minister of justice and constitutional affairs in 2022 while still leading the party.
Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere would later hold a number of roles in the Museveni administration while pushing for a return to multiparty politics by filing multiple legal challenges. Prior to challenging Museveni for the presidency in the general election in 1996, he would permanently depart the government in 1995. His second run for president would be unsuccessful. During his 25-year reign, Ssemogerere tried to keep an increasingly fractured DP together before stepping down in 2005. John Ssebana Kizito, a longstanding friend and supporter who would later become the mayor of Kampala, would follow him.
After the famed DP founder Benedicto Kiwanuka was assassinated in 1972, Ssemogerere took over. In October 1962, Uganda became independent from British colonial control thanks in large part to Kiwanuka, its first prime minister. Ssemogerere, a devoted Catholic, regularly attended Rubaga Cathedral every Sunday and had a seat reserved in the front. In fact, when the Ssemogerere passed out on Sunday, October 28, 2018, during a Sunday Mass, it was at a religious gathering that the general public first learnt about his deteriorating health. He was transported to Rubaga Hospital, where he fully recovered.
After retiring, Ssemogerere’s Mengo residence turned into practically a place of pilgrimage for opposition politicians seeking his counsel and approval as they opposed President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s longstanding ruler. Dr. Kizza Besigye, the founder of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP), both of whom paid Ssemogerere a visit a week ago, sought his advice.
NUP leader has taken to his twitter account assuring of taking forward Kawang’s Legacy.
Today is a very dark day. Words cannot describe this loss. Mzee Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere stands tall amongst the giants of history. May his legacy live forever. pic.twitter.com/yRGE7KtTOn
— BOBI WINE (@HEBobiwine) November 18, 2022