13 February 2016

Uganda: NRM Drops Demands On Shaka Ssali, Confirms Museveni Attendance

Photo: Dominic Bukenya/Monitor
Presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi, right, chats with Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, second from left, after the second round of the debate between the eight presidential candidates.

National Resistance Movement (NRM) has dropped demands on Shaka Ssali, confirming participation of the party flag bearer, Mr Yoweri Museveni in today's (Saturday) Presidential Debate.

Speaking in a telephone interview on Saturday morning, the NRM Campaign Taskforce spokesperson, Mike Sebalu said: "We have been assured of neutrality. Issues were raised about him (Shaka Ssali) but we have reached an understanding."

The NRM had rejected Shaka Ssali's choice of moderation on issues of neutrality.

Mr Sebalu, who sharply down played the first leg of the Presidential Debate also confirmed "President Museveni will attend", but could not explain in detail why the ruling party had dropped its earlier demands.

During a talk show on Capital FM on Saturday, the NRM secretary general Kasule Lumumba also confirmed Mr Museveni's attendance saying my "chairman (President Museveni) is coming to add quality to the debate and he is ready for it with all the figures".

On Friday, retired High Court Judge, James Ogoola had told Daily Monitor that NRM's demand to drop journalist Shaka Ssali from the Presidential Debate moderation team had been a fluid issue, saying "It is one of the issues we have been discussing back and forth."

Party officials including Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the NRM legal counsel raised issues about Shaka Ssali, saying they doubted he would be a neutral figure given his public criticism of the ruling party.

Recorded clips presented by NRM and containing Shaka Ssali's alleged criticism of the ruling party had been played earlier in the week in meeting between debate organisers and NRM officials to demonstrate his impartiality.

Other demands which have been granted include allowing the President's security to vet all invited guests.

More than 1,500 people have been accredited to attend the debate.

NRM had also demanded that all media channels are given permission to air the debate, however, Daily Monitor understands NTV has exclusive rights with the option of other media channels picking a live feed from the Serena-based Television station.

The decision to drop demands on Shaka Ssali confirms that US-based journalist Shaka Ssali will join retired journalist, Joel Kibazo and Makerere University don, Suzie Muwanga to midwife the second round of the Presidential Debate whose major focus will seek to demonstrate candidates' capacity to handle issues of peace and security, foreign relations, East African integration, the Great Lakes region and terrorism.

The debate is the first of its kind and will go down in history as one of Uganda's most billed events having attracted the participation of key Opposition figures to exchange ideas with President Museveni on the same stage.

Last month the President likened the first round of the debate to high school discussions.

The debate is organized by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda and the Elders Forum of Uganda.

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