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Row over Otunnu stops Liberia leader's visit to Uganda

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by ByaseL, Oct 29, 2009.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Oct 29, 2009
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    [​IMG]Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declined two government invitations to Kampala in just one month largely to avoid explaining her role in convincing her former UN colleague, Olara Otunnu, to return to Uganda and launch his bid for the presidency, The Observer has learnt.

    Government first invited the Liberian leader, the first and only elected female president in Africa, for the National Prayer Breakfast and Independence Day celebrations early this month, and later, for the African Union (AU) summit on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, but Sirleaf skipped the three events.

    Though President Museveni attributed her first conspicuous absence to a “miscommunication” problem that led to a “mix up of dates”, our sources say the no-show was deliberate. Invited again for the AU summit last week, Sirleaf again cancelled her visit at the last minute. Indeed Kampala continued to announce that she would grace the occasion until Tuesday, three days to the event, when the government confirmed that she would not attend.

    Government didn’t explain why she had skipped the event that many African leaders snubbed too. Out of more than 40 heads of state invited, only five—from Zimbabwe, Somalia, Zambia, Western Sahara, and the host Uganda—attended.

    According to our sources, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the urging of two FDC strong women, convinced her former colleague at the UN, Olara Otunnu, to return to Ugandan politics, a move experts say didn’t go down well with Museveni. The Observer has learnt that Museveni had wanted to use the opportunity presented by her visit to discuss with Sirleaf what her intentions were in urging Otunnu to return home.

    The same Liberian president was also scheduled to grace the Independence Day celebrations, but she chose to stay away, making Uganda’s 47th anniversary celebration the first of its kind in recent years without the presence of a single foreign head of state. President Sirleaf is currently under immense pressure at home to resign as the Liberian peace and reconciliation tribunal investigates her role in the civil war led by former President, Charles Taylor, in whose government she served.

    At the centre of the ‘bad blood’ between Museveni and the Liberian leader are two influential FDC stalwarts who recruited Johnson into their Otunnu project, according to reliable sources. The two women, Anne Mugisha, the FDC Deputy Secretary for International and Regional Affairs, and Winnie Byanyima, wife to FDC strongman, Dr. Kizza Besigye, reportedly pushed for Otunnu’s return to give new momentum to efforts to oust Museveni.

    But a fearful Otunnu was quick to point out to the two women that he lacked support since he had been away from home for 23 years, our sources said. To convince Otunnu, the two women reportedly resolved to bring the Liberian president on board. Since she had worked with Otunnu at the United Nations, Sirleaf would easily convince him to take another shot at politics in Uganda.

    This hair raising account of three women and one man, according to one of our sources, saw Mugisha, who is regarded as a good mobiliser, together with Byanyima, sweet-talk Otunnu to come back to Uganda and bolster the opposition’s Inter-Party Co-operation (IPC).