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Ssemogerere, architect of Democratic Party’s glory dies at 90

Dr. Ssemogerere who twice contested for presidency and led DP for over 25 years died early morning on Nov.18 at his home in Rubaga, a Kampala city suburb

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | In 1980 he contested for the presidency in the first post-Amin era election under the DP flag against Dr Apollo Milton Obote of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and Yoweri Museveni, then of the Uganda Patriotic Movement(UPM) and the Conservative Party (CP) of Mayanja Nkangi.

The controversial election was held under a parliamentary system in which the party that won the highest number of seats provided the president of the country.

The official record shows that Obote’s UPC won the most seats in parliament; 75, the DP 50 seats, the UPM of Museveni one sea and CP zero seats. However, basing on the shenanigans surrounding the vote counting process, there is widespread belief that Ssemogerere’s DP was the actual winner of that election but he was rigged out.

Museveni, although a distant loser, opted to fight the Obote government militarily in what came to be called “going to the bush”. But Ssemogerere, a staunch disciple of non-violent politics refused to join any military adventure.

When Museveni’s rebel forces defeated the government forces in 1986 and he became president and formed an “umbrella” government that brought in people from all shades of the political strands, Ssemogerere joined Museveni’s government.

Ssemogerere served in Museveni’s administration for 10 years until 1995 when he quit and ran against Museveni in the 1996 general election. He lost and to all intents and purposes retired from politics.

It is said that as Foreign Affairs minister in the Museveni government, Ssemogerere steered Uganda’s contribution in the negotiations leading to the abolition of apartheid and introduction of majority rule in South Africa. He also forged strong links to the Germany.

In February this year, Ssemogerere celebrated his 90th birthday at a colourful event attended by leaders of most of the political opposition in Uganda and the Buganda kingdom of which Ssemogerere was a staunch ally.


Dr. Ssemogerere was born on 11th February 1932, at Bumangi, Buggala Island, in the Ssese and he was baptized on 18th February of the same year.

In 1940, he started formal education at St. John’s Boys Boarding Primary School. He later joined St. Henry’s College Kitovu’s  Primary Section before it was abolished. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere then went to  Kisubi Boys where he completed his Primary Leaving Certificate in1946.

In 1947 Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere joined St.Mary’s College KisubiJunior Secondary One. He obtained the SecondaryLeaving Certificate in 1949 and was admitted to Senior Secondary One in 1950. He obtained the Cambridge OverseasSchool Certificate in 1952.

After St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerereenrolled at Makerere College, then the University College of East Africa, when it was still an affiliate of the University of London. He  underwent an Intermediate Course (the equivalent of  Higher School Certificate) and, thereafter joined the Faculty of Education for a Diploma in Education (Dip. Ed. EA; 1959) Ssemogerere continued to pursue academics even as he practiced politics and by 1979, he had obtained a PhD in Public Administration for a New York University.

He took over leadership of the DP in 1972 while parties were under proscription by the military government, and officially became its president general after the fall of Idi Amin in 1979. Ssemogerere contested for president in December 1980, in the disputed election that led to the Luwero bush war as many believed he had been robbed of his victory. But he did not join the armed rebellion and instead went into Parliament to lead the opposition.

After the fall of the Obote 2 government, Ssemogerere served as minister in the subsequent governments, until 1995 when he resigned in readiness to contest for presidency in the 1996 polls that were won by Yoweri Museveni.


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