Ugandan presidential candidates yesterday halted campaigns to join in welcoming Pope Francis who jets into the country Friday evening, filling the Pontiff’s plate with a list of personal and political wishes.
President Yoweri Museveni, who is running to extend his tenure to 35 years, said he will ask the Holy Father to promote Uganda’s tourism internationally and bless “political martyrs” – euphemism for individuals killed in the country’s liberation struggles.
“What I need from the Pope is publicity for our tourism. Some people do not know Uganda is a land of martyrs. I am going to ask him [Pope Francis] to bless the political martyrs as well,” President Museveni said. The president and Pope Francis are to meet at State House, Entebbe, shortly after the latter’s expected arrival at 4:50 pm Friday.
The FDC presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, said: “I hope that Pope Francis will indeed use this visit to pray for our country, but also to directly engage with the rulers about the [need] to have justice.”
The Pope’s visit comes in the third week of campaigns in Uganda for election of a president on February 18, 2016. Uganda is at “a critical time when we have a lot of uncertainty because of the 30-year rule of Mr Museveni,” Dr Besigye, a former personal physician to the president, said.
The Opposition leader in a message intended for the Pope, added: “He has distinguished himself by his humility and his quest to aance causes of peace and dialogue where there is conflict.”He said the papal visit in the middle of the election campaign should offer Ugandans an opportunity to reflect on the things the global leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide is most passionate about social justice, service to the poor and underprivileged, peace, care for nature and equality.
In Gulu, Go Forward presidential candidate, Mr Amama Mbabazi, said he will attend the Pontiff’s main Mass on Saturday irrespective of whether or not he gets an official invite. Mr Mbabazi is a former prime minister.
Lira Diocesan Bishop Joseph Franzelli, head of communication for the papal visit organising committee, on Wednesday said all Opposition leaders had been invited.
Mr Mbabazi yesterday said: “I think the invitation is public, I will go and join the masses. We have, therefore, put on hold our campaign in order to receive the Pope, we the leadership and our supporters all to go and show how delighted they are.”Reported by Yasiin Mugerwa, Eriasa Sserunjogi, Isaac Imaka, John Okot, Steven Arion, Julius Ocungi Nelson Wesonga
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW