Uganda prodigal son denounces smear campaign

A prominent Ugandan diplomat who recently returned from 23 years in exile and is seen as eyeing the top job in 2011 polls on Monday accused the regime of spreading rumours about his sexuality.

Olara Otunnu, a former senior United Nations official who made a much-publicised homecoming last week, accused President Yoweri Museveni of trying to discredit him among the country’s electorate.

”What is being alleged, what is being put out there to discredit and intimidate me, is that Olara Otunnu is a homosexual and HIV-positive,” he told Agence France-Presse in an interview.

Otunnu was UN undersecretary general for children in armed conflict from 1997 to 2005 and Uganda’s foreign minister prior to Museveni’s military takeover in 1986.

A seasoned diplomat, he is seen as a potential rival to Museveni in presidential elections scheduled for 2011, although neither has officially declared his intention to run.

Otunnu, who denied being either homosexual or HIV-positive, said he trusted the public to ignore the allegations he said were being relayed mainly by politicians at the local level.

”I am completely confident Ugandans will see through this for what it is: a package of contemptible lies,” he said.

Uganda’s regime has in recent years moved increasingly under the influence of ultra-conservative Pentecostal pastors and caused international outrage by repeatedly describing homosexuality as the source of the world’s woes.

Otunnu recently completed a tour of eastern and northern Uganda, including a trip to his birthplace in Kitgum, one of the districts hardest hit by the two-decade civil conflict between Kampala and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

”In terms of the atrocities in northern Uganda, more were committed by the government than the LRA,” he said, reiterating claims that Museveni’s regime was responsible for a ”silent genocide” of his Acholi community.

Otunnu said that the country’s fractious opposition would have to unite to prevent Museveni and his ruling party from securing re-election in 2011.

”It will be necessary for the opposition parties to come together under some kind of common umbrella and to field a common standard bearer in the presidential elections,” he said.

Asked about Kizza Besigye, Uganda’s most prominent opposition leader who challenged Museveni in 2001 and 2006 elections, Otunnu said the two men have ”excellent relations”.

Ugandan political commentators insist an alliance between the two will be essential for any opposition coalition to hold.

Over the past year, Uganda’s opposition parties have struggled to forge a strategy to field a common candidate against Museveni. — AFP



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Ben Simon
Ben Simon
Daniel Ben-Simon is an Israeli journalist and politician, who served as a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party between 2009 and 2013.

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