Serumkuuma: The war is because I think Mao is closer to declaring a crossover
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | For more than a week now, there has been a cyber-war between the President General of the Democratic Party (DP) Nobert Mao and supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP).
It all started early this month when the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah was flown to Seattle, Washington for treatment and soon, Ugandans there protested accusing him of being part of a government that has failed to provide decent healthcare to Ugandans.
Mao then tweeted that “some petty radicals” were saying that the Seattle demos were not about Oulanyah but about the curbing government waste on medical treatment of VIPs abroad. “The demonstrators donned red dresses” and hence, Mao said they were members of the NUP.
Mao says that he doesn’t mind citizens demonstrating against the abuse of public resources but that demonstrating outside a Seattle hospital was the wrong address since Oulanyah did not authorize the expenditure but rather the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.
Mao’s opinion was met by criticism from people who accused him of being a regime apologist.
“The sad thing in this matter is u people benefitting appear to be advocating for treatment abroad. Demonstrators are advocating for good hospitals to be built back home instead of using public purse for hotels. Instead of picking fights against youth leaders, embrace the message” commented a Twitter user.
The exchange continued, and two days later on the 19th, Mao whose writings had generated traffic on his twitter handle with both positive and negative comments coming in, made yet another controversial statement.
“The same people who threw parties to celebrate the death of Gen. Paul Lokech are the same ones wishing Speaker Jacob Oulanyah dead. Their likes refused Milton Obote’s dead body passage through Luwero to Akokoro for burial! They betrayed Ben Kiwanuka. There is no truth in them,” tweeted Mao in a statement interpreted as tribalistic by several tweeps and others members of the opposition. He was further accused of being an agent of the NRM and not serving the interest of the opposition.
Having received massive criticism from tweeps thought to be supporters of NUP, Mao started making direct attacks at the NUP describing the party as a “Kiwani”. Kiwani is a slang adopted from the song of Robert Kyagulanyi the president of the NUP and is used to mean a lie or con activity. Mao alleged that NUP was established by a shadow state and hence had state backing.
He then published documents of the registration of NUP, when they changed from National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party- NURP to NUP. Among the documents published was the 2019 NUP certificate of registration, a piece of information he said was unknown to many who thought NUP was formed in 2020. To Mao, this further exposed how NUP was a project strategically started earlier by the shadow state.
He further alleged that NUP had two constitutions and flagged one which gave the party president a lot more powers. Mao promised to publish details of the two constitutions to expose the “Kiwani” party.
He vowed not to let his guns down in a war he says shall last for two years, with him as a “one man’s army” fighting for the rights of a larger population. He tweeted that this war was between “the lumpen elites that have bastardized political discourse and made it too toxic and the enlightened elites; it is not a personal cause.”
He likened himself to a bailiff mandated to evict the “lumpens” and hand back vacant possession of the political space to sane people.
Responding to Mao, Joel Sennyonyi, the Spokesperson of the NUP says Mao seems to be excited after the first son Muhoozi Kainerugaba showered him with praises on Twitter, describing him as one opposition politician with presidential skills.
Sennyonyi, during a talk show, denied that the NUP has two constitutions, saying they inherited one constitution from NURP and filed the same with the Electoral Commission.
But what does the fight between Mao and NUP mean to the status of opposition in Uganda, what is each side’s motive, and to whose benefit is the quarrel?
Yusuf Serunkuma, a political theorist says that both Mao and NUP are right in their allegations against each other.
“But the war exists because I think Mao is closer to declaring a crossover,” Serumkuuma says.
“Like all products on the market or even organic products like mangoes, opposition politics has a shelf life and expiry date. But while some items or mangoes would be expired, they are expired on the inside, and dangerous for consumption. Some shelf lives are longer while others tend to be short.”
On his side, Dr. Robert Ojiambo, a political scientist from Kyambogo University says the fight is born out of petty politics where people fight to get small power. He likened Mao and the NUP to prisoners fighting for power in their prison cells.
He explains that NUP seems to have inherited a fight Mao has had with former members of the DP who left for NUP, and while he thought they could fail there, they are succeeding. Additionally, he says that the NUP has replaced DP in the dominance of Buganda, having amassed more support during the recent 2021 general elections.
“There has been chest thumping by NUP on how they beat Mao and depicting Mao as a dictator who has failed DP,” explained Ojiambo, as one factor that has led to the fight.
Ojiambo says that all parties should be working on mobilization instead of enhancing their efforts when nearing the election period.
He says the fight portrays them as a people focused on non-issues rather than the real challenges like torture and increased fuel prices that are biting hard on the populace. He says the fight is to the advantage of the ruling party. Mao and NUP shall end us weak, he added.
The Executive Director at Center for Constitutional Governance-CCG Sarah Bireete describes the fight as a useless quarrel that Mao and NUP are engaged in with no benefit.
She challenges that if Mao thinks that NUP has faults and problems, he should make the DP better and demonstrate better leadership to attract NUP members.
“You cannot use media drama as a method of mobilization or demobilization. Political parties should compete in terms of ideas and agenda, and if your party is better prepared and better run, leave it to the citizens to Judge which party is better and which party is not. But don’t be a judge when you’re also heading a party where you need to attract membership and support!” says Bireete who believes that ‘grasshopper fighting’ in the opposition is unnecessary.