But what is a party without its faithful?
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | What would the Democratic Party (DP) National Delegates Conference held in Gulu on Sept. 19-20 have been like if its powerful members; those who oppose party president Norbert Mao, had attended?
It’s an interesting question but it is almost pointless now because Mao’s opponents missed their only chance in five years to oust him from the party’s top position. Fate and strategy appear to have favoured the stocky, silver-tongued politician from northern who got re-elected for his third five-year term.
Until recently, the gang within DP that opposed Mao appeared strong. It included Betty Nambooze Bakireke (MP Mukono municipality), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West), Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala), Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East), Mathias Mpuuga (MasakaMmunicipality), Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and many more; including non-MPs like Sulaiman Kidandala, Lulume Bayiga, Samuel Kakande, and Michael Mabikke. But after the Gulu delegates conference, they must be wondering how Mao slipped passed them – again.
Mao’s opponents had for months been clamouring for the delegates’ conference to be held. Under pressure, on March 10 Mao announced that the conference would be held in May. He added however that those fighting him would not get invitation cards.
“The party Central Executive Committee will crack the whip on all undisciplined members,” he said.
But then the coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease erupted in China and President Yoweri Museveni ordered a total lockdown of the country.
The lockdown was perfect for putting a freeze on all political activity and Mao possibly felt some relief from the pressure being mounted by his opponents. But not for long because by May, the lockdown started being eased and soon political activity resumed. Mao decided to act fast. Still, organising the delegates’ conference proved to be a rough ride.
On Aug.04 Mao announced that the party would hold the delegates conference in 22 different locations across the country simultaneously in adherence to the Ministry of Health guidelines on Covid-19. Then on Aug.26 Mao announced that it would be held on Sept.12. Finally it happened on Sept.19-20 and, as had been his wish, none of Mao’s challengers attended. It was the perfect gift for Mao. But how did it happen?
Mao opponents trapped
It appears that, away from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, Mao’s opponents locked themselves in a self-made trap when, in July, they announced they would support and run on the flag of the National Unity Platform (NUP) led by current hot-ticked presidential hopeful, Robert Ssenfuma Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
The miscalculation which would lock Mao’s opponents out of DP and guarantee him a clear win was hatched in March when the other leaders attempted to push Mao and he refused to endorse Bobi Wine as their joint candidate. Mao had already declared intention to run for president in 2021.
At this time, the gang announced they were breaking away from Mao. The gang soon after held what they called a National Council meeting and allocated themselves positions in the party. The Wakiso LC 5 Chairperson, Matia Lwanga Bwanika, was named National Chairperson, Medard Lubega Sseggona, Secretary General, Babirye Mary Kabanda, National Treasurer, Patrick Katuramu, Deputy Treasurer, Rachael Kagoya, Deputy Women leader and Alex Kiwanuka, representative Busoga region.
The group purported to be acting under an order from the Civil Division of High Court. But Mao sued them arguing that the group’s lawyer, Samuel Muyizzi was not instructed by the party to enter any consent on its behalf. He said the party leadership opposed the consent entered. The court on June 15 ruled that what the rival DP faction did was illegal and quashed its outcome. The court said the group had hijacked the party powers for their own benefit.
Around the same time, the High Court in Kampala dismissed a case in which a cross-section of party members had sued Mao. The court ruled that they had sued a non-existent party dubbed ‘Democratic Party Uganda’.
Following these court wins, Mao reacted quickly to ensure that his detractors remained locked out of DP. On Aug.04 he announced that the DP-block was “dead”.
The block was hatched as a carry-all reconciliation pact between the various factions and ambitions of DP leaders and Mao. It comprised the three political parties; mainstream DP, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Michael Mabikke, and the People’s Development Party (PPP) of Abed Bwanika and a pressure group; the Truth and Justice of Lubega Mukaaku.
With his opponents perfectly blocked, on Aug.26, Mao announced that the long awaited DP National Delegates Conference was now on, in Gulu on Sept. 12. The date later changed. But Mao’s strategy did not. He was not going to let an opportunity to get re-elected without a hassle go to waste.