Chris Obore Kampala He may be 57 years old and still single but UPCs presidential hopeful Olara Otunnu said yesterday he cherishes marriage and still hopes to find a partner. I am not married. I came very close to getting married but it didnt happen and I regret that, he told Daily Monitor by telephone from Gulu District where he addressed a rally yesterday Dr Otunnu said he had received reports that state intelligence machinery was planning a character assassination campaign against him. The state propaganda, he said, involved exploiting his bachelor status to portray him as unfit to lead especially in a society like Uganda where ones marital status plays a significant role in convincing largely conservative and traditionalist voters. But Dr Otunnu said yesterday its not too late for it [marriage] to happen. In me hope springs eternal. He, however, was noncommittal on whether he would pick a Ugandan woman or one from his vast international connections. I have no prescription of the wife but I am hopeful and I keep looking forward to it, he said, adding that he misses marital bliss because I know marriage is a wonderful thing. Dr Otunnu, who emphasised that he has been at the receiving end of state machinations even when he still worked at the UN, said it arose from the fact that he has been steadfast in exposing shortfalls in President Musevenis regime. Not only has the government been putting a series of lies but they are now preparing a package of sordid material about my life. For these fellows, there is no bound of decency, he said. Daily Monitor could not verify these claims of a state-engineered smear campaign against Otunnu. Dr Otunnu said he holds nothing against marriage and that even though I have not been married, I brought up my young siblings. I am a single parent who brought up two generations of children from within my family, he said. Smear campaigns are not new in Ugandas recent political history. At the peak of the 2001 presidential campaigns, FDC president Kizza was labelled as having HIV/Aids. He was later accused of rape, a case that was dismissed by the High Court. At Kaunda Grounds in Gulu yesterday, Dr Otunnu said he was ready for President Musevenis government and announced the battle had begun. Who is Museveni? His mother produced him like I was. He cannot intimidate me, the former UN diplomat said in his first direct comment against Mr Museveni since he returned to the country last week after decades in exile. Those of you who fear and feel threatened by Mr Museveni should go back to your mothers wombs, he said drawing prolonged laughter from the crowd. In his 12-minute speech, Dr Otunnu asked his supporters to remain courageous and revealed that any attempt by the government to deploy dirty tricks against him would be like throwing fish in water. But the audience was not all-convinced. Dr Otunnu was tasked to explain why he did not utilise his diplomatic immunity while with the UN to visit northern Uganda like he did with other countries. He was also questioned about his alleged role in the 1985 coup that permanently dislodged former President Milton Obote. The diplomat did not directly answer the questions but blamed his over two-decade exile on President Museveni.