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The East African : Jun 21st 2015
6 MUSEVENI VS MBABAZI New poll says Uganda wants change as NRM grapples with rebel Mbabazi Pa≥ty may seek to discipline him fo≥ ‘hobnobbing with the opposition’ By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent A s the contest between President Yoweri Museveni and Amama Mbabazi, his longtime righthand man, begins to take shape, the Ugandan leader and his ruling NRM officials appear to be at sea about how best to tackle the former party secretary-general. Mr Mbabazi’s decision to run against President Museveni appears to have been informed by the results of an exclusive poll reportedly commissioned by a foreign based think tank which suggests that over 50 per cent of the respondents want a change of the top leadership both inside the NRM and the country at large. It is this, it seems, that is in- forming his game plan, since his chances at the presidency, the poll results show, are more viable through the NRM and particularly if President Museveni is not in the fray. The president has attempt- ed to present a somewhat reasoned response to Mr Mbabazi’s stated reasons for seeking the party’s chairmanship, which Museveni has held longer than he has ruled Uganda, and eventually the presidency. Analysts say that his delivery has been less impressive, as he has appeared edgy, panicky and rushed, as if he had been forced to respond. This knee-jerk reaction has left open a window for coercion, as witnessed in the arrest of Mbabazi supporters who were found celebrating his declaration to stand. Lodge complaint Mr Mbabazi is a person of interest to the party’s disciplinary committee, allegedly for hobnobbing with the opposition. His successor, secretarygeneral Kasule Lumumba, was scheduled to lodge a formal complaint against him last week. Analysts say that it is not be- yond the party to hound him out and for the regime to unleash the state machinery to curtail his movements in order to frustrate his efforts to popularise his candidacy. Yet, whatever they do, he stands to gain. “Mbabazi has been trying to expose the NRM’s core — that it is not democratic — and he says as much in his declarations. Museveni’s somewhat sober response is an attempt to play down Mbabazi’s tacit indictment of its anti-democratic tendencies,” said Dr Sabiti Makara, who researches elections and electoral democracy in Uganda. Block him “That subtle response was to avoid being predictable. Museveni is clearly bothered by Mbabazi’s insistence on remaining a member of the NRM. I think the party will try to block him through the disciplinary committee — which I wouldn’t advise. They are likely to make even more mistakes that Mbabazi will capitalise on,” added Dr Makara, an associate professor at Makerere University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. The former premier has al- ready drawn up a calendar of nationwide meetings to prepare his nomination. And, as the law requires, he filed it with the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, June 16, a day after he publicly announced his intentions. His bid in a way compares with Dr Kizza Besigye’s first in 2001. He is the second high ranking official, who has fallen out with the president and immediately sought to challenge him for his job. Dr Besigye, the former leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda’s largest opposition party, capitalised on what, in the army, is called the element of surprise. To stave off the attack, the Mbabazi has been trying to expose the NRM’s core — that it is not democratic — and he says as much in his declarations.” Dr Sabiti Makara The EastAfrican NEWS JUNE 20-26,2015 Will fo≥me≥ p≥emie≥’s past a≠ect his futu≥e? TURN FROM PAGE 5 that he has announced his bid for the top seat. Stephen Tashobya, author of a 2008 minority report that exonerated Mr Mbabazi of corruption in a Ush11 billion ($3.4 million) land deal with the National Social Security Fund, says the two reports on the scandal should be debated in the public arena. A majority report from the Committee on Commissions’ Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises accused Mr Mbabazi and former minister of finance and economic development Ezra Suruma of conflict of interest and influence peddling for their role in the transaction. Mr Mbabazi and Amos Nzeyi, a business partner, sold land to NSSF and used the money to recapitalise the National Bank of Commerce, which they both owned with Mr Suruma, who, as finance minister, was the fund’s political supervisor. Mr Tashobya’s report accused Amama Mbabazi speaks at a past World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town in 2013, while he was the prime minister. Picture: AFP establishment threw at him everything, including the kitchen sink, and, for their efforts, they ended up producing one of the ugliest presidential contests in Uganda’s history. Mr Mbabazi is a calculating man, who likes to keep everyone guessing his next move. He has been praised as highly intelligent, hardworking, and meticulous. He commands a breadth of political experience and intimate knowledge of President Museveni’s strengths and weaknesses, owing to four decades as his confidant, as well as the ins and outs of the NRM that he cofounded and built into what it is today. Analysts say it is this set of qualities makes him a far tougher challenge than Dr Besigye ever was. WHY MBABAZI IS IDEAL - POLL Amama Mbabazi presents as the most ideal candidate for both NRM chair and president. He comes ahead of Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, First Lady Janet Museveni, and even Dr Besigye, who has contested the presidency thrice and appears poised to have a fourth go at it. For anyone seeking to challenge President Museveni, the numbers are encouraging, as they put the president below the 50 + 1 per cent threshold the Constitution requires for one to win the presidency, say poll analysts. “Out of 2,142 registered voters that were polled last year, 60 per cent say they identify with the NRM. In other words, they feel close to the party. If Mbabazi were to take away even 20 per cent of this, it would put Museveni in a very complicated position,” said one poll analyst. “Mbabazi is a force to reck- on with in the NRM. That you cannot simply wish away. Museveni doesn’t know the extent of support he has inside the party. If Mbabazi is ever to leave, he will take a sizeable chunk of the membership,” said a poll analyst who requested anonymity. Assembled teams According to sources close to him, Mbabazi has reportedly assembled teams of 40 people in every sub-county in 87 districts to man his campaigns, which is less by 13 districts the target he had set himself to have organised by June 15 when he publicly declared his presidential intentions. According to the poll, 58 per cent of the respondents feel the time is ripe for the NRM to have a new leader. Apart from the party’s leadership, 54 per cent feel the time has come for Uganda to have a new president. The poll respondents were interviewed between February and March on behalf of an organisation in Zambia that describes itself as a “non-profit, independent policy research centre.” The EastAfrican could not readily establish why a Lusaka based think-tank would be interested in the Ugandan presidential race. An e-mail to the organisa- tion elicited no response. Mbabazi’s campaign team, which is rumoured to have something to do with the poll, disassociated itself from it. Sam Kutesa. Picture: File his colleagues of tampering with evidence and bending the rules, so that the two ministers were punished for a wrong they didn’t commit. Parliament adopted the minority report, after an NRM caucus meeting called by the president. “The fact that parliament de- bated these reports and adopted one doesn’t mean you cannot ask him about the issues brought forward in the majority report,” Mr Tashobya said. But Gerald Karuhanga, the Western Uganda youth MP who in 2011 accused Mr Mbabazi, alongside foreign minister Sam Kutesa and their energy counterpart Hillary Onek of taking bribes from oil companies, said he is “seriously considering supporting Mr Mbabazi, because he represents a chance for Uganda to kick out Museveni and get a peaceful transition.” Prof John Jean Barya, associ- ate professor at the Makerere University Law School, argued that Mr Mbabazi is a sinner who has repented, and such an individual would do well fighting corruption.
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