Mao is a Ugandan politician and lawyer, who has been a politician from his student days at Makerere University. He has been president of the Democratic Party since 2010, the oldest party in the country, formed in 1954.
Mao, who was born on March 12, 1967 to an Acholi father and Munyankole mother, attended Mwiri Primary School, in Jinja, and briefly went to Wairaka College, in Jinja district, before attending Namilyango College in Mukono district. He went to Makerere University between 1988 until 1991, graduating with a law degree. He served as the president of the Makerere University Students Guild between 1990 and 1991. He went on to obtain the Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre in 1992. In 2003, Mao was admitted to Yale University, under the university’s World Fellows Program, where he spent one year at the New Haven, Connecticut campus.
From 1992 until 1994, Norbert Mao worked as an Associate Attorney with Kabugo and Co. Advocates, a Kampala-based law firm. Between 1994 and 1996, he worked as Legal Counsel of the Legal Aid Project of the Uganda Law Society, in their Gulu office. In 1996, he was elected Member of Parliament representing Gulu Municipality. He left parliamentary politics in 2006 and was elected chairman Gulu district, where he served up to 2011.
Mao has been outspoken opposition politician, both in Parliament and local politics. He rose at a time when the region was embroiled in a war orchestrated by Joseph Kony, which ravaged the region for over two decades. He was instrumental in trying to bridge the gap between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the government by lobbying for the passing of a general amnesty law. This was aimed at bringing a peaceful solution to the war that had pushed more than a million people in displaced people’s camps.
He was elected as president of the Democratic Party on February, 20, 2010, which propelled him to running for president in the presidential elections of 2011. However, just before the general elections, the party faced challenges, which led to a split and deep polarization. He attracted only a small share of the vote. Mao and presidential candidates; Kizza Besigye and Olara Otunu contested the election results in spite of its early approval by international observers and the US as largely free and fair.
He has been involved in efforts to try to reconcile the party that got divided months before the 2011 elections.