Country Report Uganda March 2010

The political scene: The DP selects Norbert Mao as its new leader

The Democratic Party (DP) looks to have given itself a chance of recovering some of its lost support by choosing Norbert Mao as its new leader at a delegates' conference in February. Mr Mao won the ballot convincingly against Nasser Ssebaggala, the mayor of the capital, Kampala. He is young for a party leader (43) and comes from northern Uganda, where he is a local council chairman in Gulu district. The DP is Uganda's oldest political party, briefly forming a government in 1961, just before independence, but it has been in decline for more than a decade. It has been disadvantaged by its relatively narrow traditional power base (mainly Baganda Catholics), and was unable to match the wider national appeal of the NRM or the FDC. It has also been weakened by interminable in-fighting for control of the party, especially between the ageing, largely Kampala-based, traditional leadership and a youth-ful, more outward-looking group organised under the banner of the Uganda Young Democrats. During the last few years the internal wrangling resolved itself into a serious split between the two factions, each of which challenged the legitimacy of the other and seemed determined to go its own independent way, despite the attempts of a former party leader, Paul Ssemogerere, and others to reconcile the factions. The younger group ultimately succeeded in carrying out a pre-emptive coup by holding a delegates' conference at Mbale and electing Mr Mao as leader, with the equally youthful Mohammed Kezaala, the mayor of Jinja, installed as national chairman.

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