'We didn't copy Tories,' says Uganda opposition

14th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Uganda's main opposition party Friday said the similarities between its election manifesto and the British Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto was the result of "a meeting of minds", not plagiarism.

The first sentence of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye's manifesto is nearly identical to a statement issued by the British Conservatives last year, according to versions available on their respective websites.

Besigye, challenging President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda's February 18 vote, said, "a country is at its best when the leadership cares about its people and when the sense of national purpose and vision is clear."

The Tories' 2010 manifesto begins with the claim that "a country is at its best when the bonds between people are strong and when the sense of national purpose is clear."

Similarly identical phrasing is found throughout both documents. Based on their manifestos, both parties believe "real change comes when the people are inspired and mobilised, when millions of us are fired up to play a part in the nation's future."

The vice president of Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, Salaamu Musumba, told AFP Friday "it's not plagiarism."

"It's a meeting of minds," she said. "There is a lot of ideological common ground, on issues like low taxes and smaller, more efficient government."

While taping a television debate this week, Besigye, who lost to Museveni in Uganda's 2001 and 2006 votes, insisted "taxes kill jobs," and promised to reduce Uganda's bloated cabinet if elected.

Musumba said FDC's relationship with the Conservatives began in 2005, and that Ugandan officials have traveled to Britain to observe Tory strategies on "fundraising and mobilisation from the grass roots."

Musumba also said the relationship is particularly important now, since the FDC hopes to remove a regime in power since 1986, while, in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron defeated a 13-year-old Labour government.

"Change is our hallmark," she explained.

Uganda, Musumba argued, also deserves the help.

"It was the British who messed us up," she said, referring to the colonial era. "So, if they want to help us fix things, that is OK."

© 2011 AFP

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