Museveni approves multipartyism

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's decision to open up the country to political parties has been received with a mixture of optimism and scepticism.

On Tuesday, Museveni recommended that Uganda should open up to multiparty politics as opposed to the current "Movement" system.

He made the decision despite concerns among high ranking movement officials that opening up the country to political parties would lead to the Movement's disintegration or lead the country to political chaos, Uganda's largest independent daily 'The Monitor' reported.

"The challenges will be a new kind of political struggle which we will undertake in order to realise our vision," the paper quoted him as saying.

Cecilia Ogwal, member of parliament for Lira, northern Uganda and a long term critic of the Movement system, said the step was a "positive change of heart in the right direction".

Ogwal, who is a member of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) party of exiled former president Milton Obote, however said Museveni's proclamation was not enough, and "needed to be backed by changes in the country's laws to have any effect".

"I urge Museveni to stop behaving like the sole king and respect the rule of the law," Ogwal told IRIN. "All his whims and dreams do not automatically become law. Can he now prove that he means what he says by translating his proclamation into law to legitimise the existence of political parties."

Museveni banned political parties in the country when he came to power in 1986, saying that they had been used to promote ethnic division and were responsible for internal armed conflicts that had plagued Uganda.

Museveni instead adopted a "no-party system" in which he established the National Resistance Movement (NRM), later renamed "the Movement". All Ugandans are by law members of the Movement. Critics argue that the Movement system is akin to a single party system.

Several political parties, including Ogwal's UPC, have however continued to exist but their activities are restricted to their headquarters offices in the capital.