By Morris DC Komakech
JPAM’s candidacy is a personal affront to Museveni and threatens the power of many
The headline section in every Daily in Uganda has for some time been dedicated to the ongoing contest between President Yoweri Museveni and his long-time confidant, and former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi (JPAM). The declaration of JPAM on Monday June 15, via YouTube video, that he is aspiring to challenge Museveni to be the chairman of NRM and its flag-bearer in the 2016 presidential election should be seen in a positive light since it exposes the undemocratic values that anti-NRMO campaigners previously identified.
JPAM’s candidacy has injected shock waves through the core of the establishment since President Museveni is yet to face a challenge by his very closest insider. After this contest, NRM will not be the same. For now, it is like a pancake being ripped through by its bakers. If President Museveni was the face of the NRMO, JPAM was its very manifestation – the active ingredient that that people felt about NRMO. JPAM’s candidacy therefore, is something personal to many in the establishment who now realise that their guaranteed privileges and power are genuinely threatened.
In the coming days, few stern actions will salvage the integrity of the NRMO; one of it is to expel JPAM and his entire “clique” out of the NRMO. By so doing, President Museveni will strive to isolate JPAM and amputate his tentacles within the NRMO enclave to consolidate his sole command within Party ranks. Naturally, with the trying moments, “Peters” will deny JPAM more than thrice in the coming months; some will be acting with an absolute obscurantism to secure their places on the high table and in the yellow bus.
The second and most strenuous will be for the establishment to clamp down on the sources of income that is fueling JPAM. Never in the history of Uganda has any Presidential candidate hired 500 lawyers. Lawyers don not come cheap, even if they were on a retainer basis. JPAM’s money will be a subject of scrutiny since the NRM Youth Chairperson, Denis Namara has already hinted on it.
The third stage of the JPAM onslaught will be to try to identify and isolate JPAM from external influences. It is guaranteed that money will be spent in London, Washington DC, and The Hague, or even Beijing, to try to stave off a potential policy shift or empathy in favour of JPAM. Lobbyists at these foreign capitals do not come cheap either. Sadly, the cost of a JPAM candidacy will have to be loaded on the taxpayers.
The fourth stage, or an anticlimax will be a propaganda onslaught on JPAM at home. Here, the NRMO publicists will try to embark on portraying JPAM variedly as a dangerously ungrateful person who is monstrous and disruptive; power hungry etc. We already saw these strategies employed on Col. Kizza Besigye in 2001.
However, the anti-JPAM will find it onerous to develop an effective propaganda that does not drag their President into the same greasy sink. After 40 years of symbiotic relationship, it is hard to distinguish between Museveni and JPAM. As such, it will be tremendously hard to pin JPAM on the cross of political impurities without nailing Mr. Museveni along.
In fact, with a good PR strategy, Team JPAM could ride off unscathed from a media onslaught. In fact they could benefit even more from an offensive. Recall that while JPAM was actively serving the interests of his master, JPAM’s image was cultivated as “Mr. Clean”, “Not a businessman” etc. When the public cried foul of the highly corrupted tendencies that followed JPAM everywhere he was posted, the President gave him a clean bill and promotions.
The downside of this political storm is that the Opposition has been sidelined and denied media attention. They will have to wait for a little longer for the storm to settle. But even then, there is urgency for the Democratic Alliance to galvanize the spaces that is being created by the rift in the NRM. They have the opportunity to demonstrate and reiterate that indeed, change away from JPAM or Museveni is now inevitable.
Morris Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada. Can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org