Thursday , February 22 2024
Home / COLUMNISTS / Andrew Mwenda / In admiration of Nobert Mao

In admiration of Nobert Mao

Why the cooperation agreement between NRM and DP should form the example in the evolution of our democracy

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The cooperation agreement between NRM and DP is an important political innovation in our country’s politics. Uganda needs this kind of cooperation between competing political parties. It should therefore become a model. Our country does not need the politics of winner-take-all. We have had enough of it and seen that it takes us nowhere. In fact, I have come to believe that it subverts democratic development in our specific circumstances. We need to construct a government that governs through a broad consensus of the different political forces that make our polity.

Yet ummediately the cooperation agreement between NRM and DP was publicised, opposition icon, Dr. Kizza Besigye tweeted sarcastically “congratulating” Mao for “arriving after a long journey.” Then he added, with characteristic defiance: “The struggle to end the junta (gun) rule continues and will intensify as the arena becomes clearer.”

I used to consider Besigye a moderate politician – and he was. Then in 2011/2012, Conrad Nkutu and I tried to promote dialogue between NRM and FDC and even more specifically between Besigye and President Yoweri Museveni. During the behind-the-scenes negotiations, I was impressed by Museveni’s willingness to compromise and was equally frustrated by Besigye’s intransigence.

Besigye sent Museveni seven conditions most of which were tough and all of which I delivered to Museveni. The president gave me only five conditions all of which Besigye rejected. Museveni graciously withdrew them – except one which we greatly watered down to secure Besigye’s consent. Besigye rejected even this watered-down version. Then to my surprise, the president withdrew even this watered-down version. He told me he did this in order to deny Besigye an excuse to reject dialogue. But it was clear to me that Besigye had staked nothing for the talks; it was either his way or no way. So, I defiantly insisted on him giving in and the efforts towards a nation dialogue collapsed – of course with new developments, details of which I will elaborate in another detailed article.

From that experience I came to the conclusion that Besigye is an obstacle to democratic development in Uganda. He sees compromise as capitulation, negotiations with NRM as selling out. He believes there is only one way forward for Uganda: the fall of Museveni and his (Besigye’s) usurpation of power – and through ultra-constitutional means. So, he seeks total annihilation of the opponent. I am aware that this view enjoys mass support and admiration among a significant section of opposition supporters. It is therefore possible that Besigye may have adopted it out of strategic calculations i.e. to keep the loyalty of this group.

The Besigye I knew in the early 2000s struck me as a moderate capable of compromise. However, I get the sense that over the last 22 years, he has become more radicalised, which is understandable. He has been beaten, tear-gassed, jailed tens of times and then tried for rape, treason and terrorism. His brother was killed in a CMI jail, his wife jailed, his sisters and some in laws chased to exile. Yet I have also always felt that this suffering has given him the needed political credibility, just like Nelson Mandela did in South Africa, to negotiate political reform in Uganda.

Besigye has ignored the path taken by Mandela and instead embraced the one pursued by Yasser Arafat in Palestine. He has helped nourish a large constituency who reject politics as an activity that might – and should – involve compromise. The battle cry is never to seek any common ground. This zero-sum approach to politics is very dangerous and can only lead to a autocratic government. This is because any government that comes to power without any negotiation or compromise will most likely to rule without any negotiation and compromise. And the reverse is true.

Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine seems to be walking in Besigye’s footsteps. I am inclined to believe that Bobi Wine is naturally a moderate politician. But I also think he is incapable of great courage to seek compromise. He seems beholden to the radical extremists in his inner circle supported by a large coterie of international advisors from Western countries seeking to impose their racial prejudices based on abstract theory on a complex political reality. So, they cannot see the necessity of compromise.

Mao needs to be applauded for his courage, for leading the way, for breaking this fear that to work with Museveni is detrimental to the interests of Uganda. Museveni and his NRM are a deeply entrenched reality in Uganda’s body politic. But Museveni is also a practical and pragmatic politician who is always looking out for opportunities to win over his opponents – or even to compromise them. That should not stop politicians of principle from being pragmatic, recognising that building Uganda requires some cooperation with him.

Mao has done this well by signing a formal agreement that states the parameters of cooperation and also restates the democratic principles that should guide it. It would be foolish to expect that all of a sudden Uganda will now become the leading liberal democracy in the world. In fact so many obstacles will remain; including Museveni’s penchant for beating up and jailing his opponents. But democratisation is never an event but a process and it’s progress is slow and never linear. There has to be a beginning. The problem is that Besigye makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

One can compromise with Museveni without being compromised by the president; work with Museveni without working for him and recognise his accomplishments without endorsing his failures. Besigye and those around him have exhibited inability to see this nuance and complexity. It leads me to believe that Besigye has despotic inclinations. His belief in the total annihilation of Museveni as the one and only path to Uganda’s democratization and development is dangerous.

I know most leaders of the opposition believe in dialogue. But they fear to try it, especially those in parliament, because their constituents see things the Besigye way – compromise is compromised and cooperation is cooptation. But one has to admire Besigye’s wife, Winnie Byanyima, who is a leading critic of Museveni. She often deals with the president whenever need arises. I have my own disagreements with Winnie, but I admire her courage. She has the pragmatism to recognise reality and the right intuition to see that the only way to struggle and make Uganda a better country cannot be an all-out war to defeat and destroy Museveni.



  1. In one sentence,you say Museveni is pragmatic…in another you say u
    Museveni has a penchant for beating up and jailing his opponents…And this is the man you Mwenda admires, and you expect us to follow like lost sheep. Mwenda, you are not a serious analyst worth your salt. You are a propaganda star who has no respect for your audience. Just shut up and let us find out way without the fog if your third rate analysis.

  2. Nothing about the agreement between Mao and Museveni is a “political innovation” as you put it. Museveni has previously had a similar arrangement with the DP under Paul Kawanga Ssemwogere and we all know how it ended. I agree with you on the need to govern via a broad based consensus instead of a winner takes all system. However, this is only possible in an environment where both those in power and those seeking it have almost similar access to the electorate. When one political actor view elections as a military operation where thousands are kidnapped and hundreds killed, how do you even “govern” with such an actor? Time will tell if Mao made the right choice, however, if history is anything to go by, the “cooperative agreement” will most likely end in tears.

  3. Andrew, the way you get very excited about the things you like and the excitement overrides your analysis is strange! This article reminded me of when you were eager to put $10,000 that Kagame would not temper with the constitution to continue ruling, and that even the people of Rwanda wanted to do so, he would refuse. Then another when Museveni reconciled with a number of people and you started that he most likely wanted to retire! Time will tell about Mao, but certainly he is not going to achieve anything significant other than meeting his personal needs. Mao faced individual, family, medical and financial challenges, which more than anything could have pushed him into signing this agreement with Museveni. His son, X-wife, DP party, health and many things around him were falling apart, so he was desperate and vulnerable; so Museveni inhaled him. And apart from good talking, Mao has no proven track of respect for the rule of law, most especially when he has power. See how he ruled DP!! I also recall in 2001, he bought a house in minister’s village-Ntinda. Those houses were not storied, and National housing planned and built them that way. The first thing Mao did after getting a mortgage was to build a house on top. All the neighbors were concerned and by then the engineer of national housing who was in charge of building that estate approached him and explained that the foundation was not for a storied house and they didn’t want storied houses in that place. The level of arrogance and abuse shown by Mao when he was told was the kind I had never seen anywhere. He did the same to all neighbors who approached him until they gave up. And trust Ugandans at following suite, by 2005, most people had followed and they would quote Mao as an example. Now the state is real mess of what it was supposed to be. Thanks to Mao’s initiative. He is very self centered person, but even if he were not, Museveni would not let him achieve much.

  4. 1.Coalitions between political parties is a sign of maturity and civilization.Just next door;Raila and Kibaki worked so perfectly actually; Raila participated in the demolition of slums to pave way for the construction of mega infrastructure that Kenya now boasts of.
    2. M7 is so comfortable with his government he has a team of technocrats who were all either OBs or OGs of Budo,Gayaza,Smack,Namilyango,Namagunga.When i saw Edwin Karugire a Budonian escort Mao;i cried i just knew it was a good deal.
    3.Some Ugandans are still primitive they believe that if a member of the opposition sides with government then she/he is not principled.
    4.The way children in Uganda are raised is not the same.In Buganda when you attend parties you see parents telling their children to steal food;they openly belittle other tribes in the presence of their children why are my giving this example;Every thing in Buganda is about sale,insults and theft so naturally they believe that nothing is for free.When you follow the track record of Mao he never believes in quick fixes.
    5.For us women a man to keep is the one who reads the Bible,holds your handbag and takes you out to eat a whole fish and chips.
    6.Mao would make a good president because he has the traits of courage and forgiveness which is lacking among other opposition leaders.

  5. Mr Mujuni’s piece today is more of a paid propagandist than an objective analysis!
    Paragraph seven::
    …”This is because any government that comes to power without negotiation or compromise will most likely rule without any negotiation and compromise!”!
    Mr Mwenda if this is not chewing the cud then what is it?

    How do you expect us to believe your crap that whereas Mr Tibuhaburwa came to power via blood and iron, that he can actually exit the throne via negotiation and compromise? Any 30-year-old-plus average Ugandan can not buy your hoaxes because over time Mr Tibuhaburwa has demonstrated that he nothing can stop him from pursuit of his life-presidency project!

    Witness how has tore the so-called 1995 constitution into pieces in pursuit of this project. If it required using money (2005 five million bribes to remove two 5-year term limits), or, outright violence, 2017 amendment to scrap 75-year age limit!

    So Mr Mujuni Tibuhaburwa can only and only enter such deals if he sees it can enhance his life-presidency project! And as day follows night Mr Moa like many who entered such cooperation agreements before him, will dumped after he has become dead meat!

    Finally, the more fair analysis of the Tibuhaburwa-Norbert Maortic marriage alliance is that of veteran journalist Timothy Kalyegira at the link below

    I rest my case.

  6. Mr Andrew Mujuni Mwenda, if you are not a paid Kagame/Tibuhaburwa propagandist give us “our” US $10,000 bet you staked whilst swearing that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda would never amend the Rwandan constitution to pave way for his permanent stay in office beyond the hitherto 7-year two terms provision!! You made this noble declaration soon after 2010 presidential election in Rwanda. Be fair to some idiots of my grade who don’t know the meaning of voluntary pledges such as the one you made in great admiration of your ‘buddy’ comrade Paul Kagame!!

  7. Unless he is also a wrongdoer and deceitful above all beings, I am amazed at the rate with which Andrew easily admire wrongdoers, who come together, to emasculate, manipulate, molest and exploit fellow countrymen women and children.

    Otherwise, there is no way Good and Evil can cooperate, and to whose advantage will such cooperation be or become?

  8. Bartholomew Nsubuga

    Well, this piece was supposedly meant to address the Museveni-Mao agreement, but 90% of it was about/against Kizza Besigye and 8% was about/against Bobi Wine, only 2% was allocated to the reason the piece was published! Andrew really knows how to make money from his headlines. He packages cheap sweets in chocolate wrappers. Naye mwaana gwe Andulu Mwenda, tulikusonyiwa?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *