The head of Oxfam International, Winnie Karagwa Byanyima on Sunday afternoon made a passionate call for President Yoweri Museveni to step down from office and allow new leadership to take over.
Mrs Byanyima while addressing hundreds of mourners that gathered in Ruti, Mbarara for the funeral of her father Mzee Boniface Byanyima, appealed to the President not to dare alter the national constitution for the second time to secure Museveni another term in office.
“The time of President Yoweri Museveni has come to an end,” said Byanyima. “If he were here it would have been better. There is a clause, in the constitution which limits the president’s age. Speaking the truth my father who we are about to burry today, I ask the people of NRM and President Museveni not to dare tamper with the Constitution of Uganda. Don’t dare!”
Mrs Byanyima revealed that she has already met and discussed this matter with the President himself, concerning the coming 2021 presidential elections.
“President Museveni, our good president, with all the good things he has done, at that point (2021) will not be allowed to run again for office. Our country is the only one in East Africa that has not seen a peaceful transition of power. Ugandans should not be denied chance to effect their own peaceful transfer of power,” she said.
The principle of the people’s rule and human rights, Winnie said, was what her father stood for, for the years he famously manpowered the murky waters of Uganda’s post-independence politics.
“Remember that when my father was fighting in parliament, (President Milton) Obote used party numbers to abrogate the constitution of Uganda. You know how he ended. Don’t be tempted to deny us the chance to see peaceful transition of power.”
Mrs Byanyima like several other speakers at the funeral spoke of her father as a nationalist, a peacemaker and a community problem solver.
“Our family welcomed everyone from all over Uganda. He also drove us and took us to other parts of the country; we celebrated Christmas in Acholi families. He taught us the importance of appreciating our country and its diversity,” she said.
Citing the motto of the Mzee Byanyima’s DP party, “Truth and Justice,” Winnie reminded the mourners that her father spoke the truth in the most difficult of circumstances.
“Speaking truth came at a price, and in the 1960s it became very hard,” she said.
“The speaker of parliament, who was UPC, exploited the fact that the opposition had few benches in the house and used the numbers to deny them chance to speak. My father, because of that failed to make a contribution for the record of the Hansard, and he often came home frustrated that he was denied chance to speak.
“Obote banned the DP and other parties in Parliament, yet father remained in opposition. He was referred to as an ‘Opposition MP’ even though he couldn’t identify himself as DP.
“The Obote government then enacted laws, such as the Detention Act, which allowed one to be jailed for 5 years without trial. There was also the Treason Act, under which once could be charged with the capital offense with a maximum death sentence, if found discussing politics. That is the time my father endeavoured to speak the truth. He was detained several times, even in Amin’s time because he spoke the truth.”
The outspoken former Mbarara Municipality MP also exploited the event to preach against social injustice and violation of people’s freedoms to speak and express themselves.
“Uganda now has hundreds of radio stations but people are not allowed to go there and speak the truth….we have many registered political parties, but when they go for a rally you want to stop them; you have threaten to close NGOs; if we continue on this road, we will bury our nation. Freedom has to prevail for the truth to prevail.”
Mzee Byanyima, who died last Tuesday at the age of 97, was praised by several other speakers and family members as a problem solver and family man.
He was laid to rest a few minutes after 4pm, at his home in Ruti Mbarara.