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The East African : March 10th 2014
10 SUCCESSION DEBATE The EastAfrican NEWS MARCH 8-14,2014 Will PM Mbabazi su≥vive the sto≥m? By BARBARA AMONG The EastAfrican LAST WEEK’S “suspension” of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as secretary-general of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has laid bare determination to stop any opposition to President Yoweri Museveni’s candidature in the 2016 elections. Mr Mbabazi now faces President Museveni (left) speaks with NRM officials during a recent party meeting. Picture: File Museveni moves to forestall imminent fallout within NRM The p≥esident met with P≥ime Ministe≥ Amama Mbabazi amid divisions, which have th≥eatened to split the ≥uling pa≥ty By BARBARA AMONG Special Correspondent D ays after turning the guns on his longtime ally, friend and ruling party secretary-general Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, President Yoweri Museveni was moving to manage the possible fallout that has shaken the National Resistance Movement party. In signs that he had em- barked on a delicate balancing act, President Museveni held a long afternoon meeting with Mr Mbabazi on Thursday, during which they were believed to have discussed the likely consequences of the highly publicised fallout within the party. The meeting took place at State House Entebbe. It was just the two of them and according to latest information on Friday, was aimed at finding a compromise ahead of a crucial meeting of the Central Executive Committee meeting on Friday. In a statement sent to me- dia houses on Friday morning, President Museveni denied that the party caucus meeting at State House on Tuesday had relieved Mr Mbabazi of his post as secretary-general. However, the president confirmed that Richard Todwong would help run the SG’s day-to-day party tasks. For Museveni, who needs to rein in ambitious members and maintain party loyalty ahead of the 2016 elections, the events of the week threatened to polarise supporters. “In any case the NRM Cau- Parliamentary cus did not pass formal resolutions. Therefore, the NRM supporters are requested to stay calm and continue with their normal work. The March 5 meeting Matters came to a head when Mr Mbabazi was stripped of his duties as secretary-general during a March 5 meeting, showing that President Museveni was not ready to tolerate opposition from within. “This was bound to hap- pen; it was just a matter of time. This is President Museveni’s character. I saw it coming and I told Mr Mbabazi this in the last parliament, I hope he remembers it,” said veteran politician Livingstone Okello Okello. Mr Mbabazi is considered the president’s right hand leadership, under my oversight, is handling all the issues caused by the rumours,” President Museveni said in the statement. According to insiders, at the centre of the struggle is the bid for control of the NRM’s top positions amid growing internal discontent that had degenerated into intolerance of anybody who dared to challenge the status quo. At the Tuesday caucus, ap- parently Mr Mbabazi faced accusations that bordered on subversion against President Museveni. According to reports, Pres- ident Museveni confronted his premier with intelligence reports indicating that the latter planned to contest the presidency. The reports indicated that people around Mr Mbabazi had been using the party structures to mobilise support to overthrow President Museveni. POSITIONS Mr Mbabazi has over the years held sensitive positions, from that of spy chief as head of the external security organisation, to State minister for defence, Attorney General, and minister for security, NRM secretary general and now prime minister. His wife Jacqueline chairs the NRM Women’s League. man and has worked with him since the 1970s. He was the president’s personal assistant at the time Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979. Mr Mbabazi has mirrored the president in every aspect and this, analysts say, could have been his biggest opportunity to further his political career but also a path to his downfall since he failed to exploit it. Though seen as one of the most effective and efficient public administrators in Uganda to date, Mr Mbabazi’s steadfast loyalty to President Museveni has alienated him from many people, leaving him vulnerable to and dependent on President Museveni. Museveni’s support His perceived strength, politicians and analysts conclude, is therefore derived from President Museveni, who has now put out all war to cripple him. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Picture: File possible expulsion from the NRM in the wake of a police crackdown on youth who were collecting signatures from party members to push for a delegates conference to endorse him as the presidential flag bearer. Police said they arrested the youth because they did not have authority from party leadership to collect the signatures. Analysts say Mr Mbabazi has the option of resigning as leader of government business to avoid humiliation when he is forced to face the party’s disciplinary committee. “The network he has built over the years is enough to help him win the party leadership,” said former legislator Aggrey Awori. Having worked as Presi- dent Museveni’s close ally in charge of the country’s security apparatus, Mr Mbabazi is believed to have built a strong network, which he is likely to activate to support his presidential ambitions. Together with his wife, Mr Mbabazi managed state-owned army ammunition manufacturing firm for years. Over the years, Mr Mbababzi has built external networks, which could come in handy should he decide to challenge President Museveni in the State House race. It was understood that Mr Mbabazi’s opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, despite intelligence reports indicating it would bring huge political gain to NRM, deepened the rift between him and President Museveni. His woes, sources within the party say, were sparked by his admission to the European Union head of delegation that he would contest for the Presidency if the party chose him. “He admitted to the EU ambassador when he asked him last year. That was suicidal,” said Mr Awori. A confrontation with President Museveni, will however be to his disadvantage, Mr Awori added. “The pillar on which the state stands is under the control of President Museveni and this gives him a huge advantage over Mr Mbabazi. He controls the military, the resources and got the network,” said veteran politician Okello Okello. With a vote of no confi- dence in him already in the offing by the majority NRM MPs in parliament, pundits predict that he will face ridicule in parliament from the opposition and the best option would be to resign. “I don’t see any MP sup- porting him now, because they will be crushed and no serious politician will do that. If they could vote him out as party secretary general, can they stand with him?” asked Mr Awori. What makes Mbabazi more vulnerable, pundits say, is the lack of a political constituency. Over the years, it has become common for President Museveni to defend Mr Mbabazi in cases of both corruption allegations and political survival. Political and economic researcher at Makerere University Golooba Mutebi points out that any resistance from Mbabazi’s supporters would be dealt with the same way he handled vocal MPs in his party, who are currently battling it in court to regain their seats.
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