The Democratic Party was founded by seven revolutionary Catholics to fight for Uganda’s Independence and national unity.
They were the products of the famous Catholic schools: Namilyango College, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, St. Henry’s College Kitovu and St. Peter’s Secondary School Nsambya.
They were Joseph Kasolo who was the founding President General, Joseph Kasule, founding Secretary General, S.B Kibuuka, A.B Serubiri, L.M Tyaba, M. Kiddu and Alphonse Ntale. The Democratic Party was founded on October 6, 1954 at Rubaga, a Kampala city suburb. The party is the second oldest political party in Africa after the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa which was founded by Albert Luthuli and others in 1912.
Currently DP has 15 members of Parliament who include the fiery “iron lady” Betty Nambooze who represents Mukono Municipality and the preacher of “truth and justice” Mohammed Muwanga Kivumbi of Butambala County.
The strongest base of the Democratic Party right now is Buganda. This is where it was founded. However, the party under Nobert Mao from Acholiland, embarked on a vigorous and aggressive campaign to regain grassroots support and membership in Parliament in Ankole, Kigezi, Acholi, West Nile Madi, Busoga, Busia, Bugisu and other areas of Eastern Uganda. In the olden days; at the time of Uganda’s Independence, those were the areas were the Democratic Party was very strong, where DP got many Members of Parliament.
In 1961, the Democratic Party won overwhelmingly outside Buganda and Ben Kiwanuka who was the leader of DP at that time, formed the internal self-government and became the first Prime Minister of Uganda.
The situation only changed in 1962 after the approval of the Independence Constitution in London and Buganda kingdom’s decision to enter directly into the party politics of Uganda. Milton Obote then shrewdly worked with Buganda and his party; the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), acquired a majority in Parliament because of the 21 Buganda MPS who were nominated by the Buganda Lukiiko. In 1966, Obote outlawed political parties and arrested DP leader Benedicto Kiwanuka.
When Obote was overthrown in 1971 by Idi Amin, Benedicto Kiwanuka accepted a ministerial post in the new government. He was eventually murdered by Amin's agents. All political parties were banned in Uganda during Idi Amin's rule.
The Democratic Party emerged again after Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979. The absence of the Kabaka Yekka party now made the Democratic Party the main political force in Buganda and Southern Uganda, while the UPC consolidated its support in the north.
The new leader Paul Ssemogerere provided a significant challenge to the UPC led once again by Milton Obote in the 1980 elections. These elections are widely believed to have been rigged by the Military Junta that ruled Uganda after Idi Amin in favour of Milton Obote and the UPC.
There was pressure on the Democratic Party to reject the result, but the leadership decided to take their seats in parliament much to the disappointment of their supporters. However one of Democratic Party's younger leaders Andrew Kayiira did take up arms to fight the new government, joining an organisation called Uganda Freedom Movement.
When Yoweri Museveni took over power in 1986, the party activities were suspended and most of the party officials joined the new National Resistance Movement to form a national government. DP leaders such as Kisamba Mugerwa, Maria Mutagamba and Paul Ssemwogerere were in Museveni’s cabinet.
However, in 1996, Ssemwogerere resigned his cabinet position to challenge Museveni in the presidential elections. He got only 23.6% of the vote against Museveni’s 74.3%.
After the 2005 referendum that allowed parties to operate freely, DP started mobilizing again and took part in the 2006 general elections. However, it leader John Ssebana Kizito got only 1.59% of the vote.