For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Aug 2nd 2015
8 BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS HIM Uganda’s Mbabazi wants to see a democratic transition of power HUMILIATION President Museveni and Amama Mbabazi during an NRM retreat in 2014. Picture: Morgan Mbabazi The fo≥me≥ p≥emie≥ has launched his bid fo≥ p≥esidency afte≥ th≥ee decades of unquestioning loyalty By DANIEL K. KALINAKI The EastAfrican F rom one window of Amama Mbabazi’s 12th floor office in Kampala’s central business district, one can see, to the north, the forlorn and weather beaten Postel Building, where he once held court in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s Secretariat, and in the Office of the Prime Minister. To the south, newer and gleaming in the hot, humid Ugandan capital, are the Chinese-built twin towers near the colonial-era Parliament building. If Mbabazi wins the presi- dential election next year, his next office might be in the twin towers. While that would be a short step away from his current office, it would be a giant leap for a man who has launched a hostile bid for the presidency after three decades of what appeared to be unquestioning loyalty. Mr Mbabazi is difficult to read or decipher. He speaks in a slow, deliberate monotone, his voice revealing little emotion as the words slide forth, one ice-cube at a time. For instance, the former prime minister signed a parliamentary caucus resolution — admittedly under duress — endorsing President Yoweri Museveni as the sole candidate of the NRM party, and vowed not to challenge his former ally if the incum- bent was on the ballot. Yet his presidential announcement in early July was, for many months, the worst kept secret in Ugandan politics. “Some look at ambition in a negative sense, that ambition is bad,” Mr Mbabazi says in an interview. “I have always said that yes, when you have ambition, you can use wrong methods to achieve your ambition but ambition itself is positive.” The president subscribes to the view, widely held within the NRM, that the latter used his former position as secretary-general to quietly build a power base within the party. Mr Mbabazi disagrees: “I think we have reached a stage and a time for change, to give Uganda something it has never had — a peaceful transition of power. My coming up now to offer myself to lead as president, is actually to lead this transition, from our generation of leadership, to the next generation.” Mr Mbabazi says his presi- dential ambitions emerged “not long ago” and are “more recent” but the discussion on transition goes back a decade, when he oversaw the country’s return to multiparty elections, a concession made more palatable to members of the no-party “Movement Sys- “Some look at ambition in a negative sense, that ambition is bad.” tem” by the sweetener of the removal of presidential term limits from the constitution. “This is something I have discussed with the president, even before I was appointed prime minister,” he says. “The next transition is of leadership itself under multipartyism; whoever wins, I know that NRM is the strong party in Uganda. Whatever the outcome of the democratic process, the outcome [should be] peaceful.” A popular story in the cor- ridors of power in Uganda speaks of a deal, apparently struck between the two men in which President Museveni would back Mr Mbabazi as his successor, in reward for three decades of loyalty. President Museveni has not publicly spoken on the matter and while Mr Mbabazi confirms reaching some kind of understanding, he is reluctant to discuss it openly. So, is President Museveni’s decision to seek a fifth elected term (and seventh overall) in disregard of some position earlier agreed upon with Mr Mbabazi? “I wouldn’t like to go into that, Daniel, because that is something we discussed; I don’t want to turn it into an issue,” he says, his voice finally betraying the slightest tinge of emotion, but in the same, practiced, careful manner. “He has every right to offer himself like I do, like any other citizen who qualifies does, so it doesn’t matter because if he thinks he has the energy and he still has something to offer Uganda then I welcome his decision to continue.” Mr Mbabazi’s next sen- By the time of the interview Mr Mbabazi had been pushed out of his post in the party, seen rules thrown up to stop his candidature, been subjected to public attacks and humiliation by party officials and employees, including having the water bills at his private residence published on social media platforms. tence, that all he wants is to have the contest “achieved through a democratic process within NRM itself” adds to the confusion and frustration many friends and foes feel about his insistence, until this week, to pursue his ambition within the ruling party. By the time of the inter- view Mr Mbabazi had been pushed out of his post in the party, seen rules thrown up to stop his candidature, been subjected to public attacks and humiliation by party officials and employees, including having the water bills at his private residence published on social media platforms. Yet, in the interview, he continued to speak of the NRM in progressive terms as a party of “reformers.” Even when it is pointed out that his complaints about the NRM are similar to those raised by Kizza Besigye 15 years ago, the former PM says he advised the retired colonel that the issues could be managed within the party, not outside it. Part of Mr Mbabazi’s reluc- tance to part ways with the NRM is obviously pragmatic for it is in its structures, littered across the country, that the former secretary general built his network of supporters. The true extent of such sup- port is hard to estimate. Privately, however, stories of Mr TURN TO PAGE 14 President Yoweri Museveni’s supporters on Kyadondo Road, in Kampala on July 31. Picture: Morgan Mbabazi The EastAfrican NEWS AUGUST 1-7,2015 Ex-PM pa≥ts ways with ≥uling pa≥ty By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent AFTER SEVERAL attempts to reconcile their opposing views, President Yoweri Museveni and his former prime minister Amama Mbabazi came to seem like a final parting of ways on July 31, effectively ending four decades of close co-operation. As President Musev- eni picked up nomination forms to express his continued interest in chairing the ruling NRM party and representing it in next year’s presidential race, Mr Mbabazi hosted reporters at his home where he declared his intention to challenge his former boss as an independent candidate. His decision was framed by the “great hostility” with which the party’s senior leadership responded the moment he made it clear he intended to seek the NRM’s chairmanship and to represent it in next year’s general elections. He said by mounting pressure on the Electoral Commission and involving the police in internal affairs of the party, and with the harassment and arrest of his supporters, the party’s leadership was frustrating his intentions. “NRM has sought to ob- struct my intentions completely. Even the rules and regulations, full of all sorts of snares and illegalities, were obviously created with my candidacy in mind,” said Mr Mabazi, who is also the former secretary general of NRM. “And so I have decided that I will not stand in NRM as a flag bearer, but I will carry on with my intentions; and when the time comes, I will be nominated as a presidential candidate for 2016 by the National Electoral Commission. I am going to start a journey. At the end of this journey, I will be the president of Uganda,” he added. According to Sabiti Makara, a political scientist at Makerere University, Mr Mbabazi’s independent candidature is a doubleedged sword. While it could help him win some supporters from the NRM and outside of it, his chances at the presidency appear slim because people generally support parties. “The belief that people follow individuals is not entirely correct. If you look at the so-called independent candidates in any election, they are strongly associated with a party even if they do not openly identify with it,” said Mr Makara. “By Mr Mbabazi failing to persuade some of NRM’s top leaders to break away with him, the party, and President Museveni in particular, will easily campaign against him as the one who is a renegade, who is seeking to break up their party,” he added. After signing his forms, President Museveni said “Historically, we worked together, and when we were done we would sit down to assess our achievements. This business of I want, I want, is not our culture of work.” Mr Makara, who re- searches elections in Uganda, said had Mr Mbabazi come out in February last year to oppose the sole candidate project when it was first presented, he would have inspired more people to break ranks with him. “For whatever reason, he decided not to. President Museveni has had enough time to soothe internal dissatisfaction and reorganise the party around himself, both its old and new membership, and has thus isolated Mr Mbabazi,” he said. On his way to pick up his nomination forms, President Museveni was accompanied by at least 10 “historical” members of the party. In contrast, Mr Mbabazi cut a solitary figure as he made his announcement.
Jul 26th 2015
Aug 9th 2015