By Independent Team
How he will be kicked out as Secretary General, MP
Since being fired on Sept.18, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has deployed only one strategy against pressure from supporters of his boss, President Yoweri Museveni. Amama has remained silent. Even his wife, Jacqueline Mbabazi, and daughter Lenina Mbabazi who were powerful and outspoken, have become deafeningly silent.
Now it appears, the silence is starting to unsettle Mbabazi’s adversaries. Why is he so quiet, they ask? What is he planning?
Mbabazi has fuelled speculation with his repeated assertion that his plans for the future will be revealed “at the right time”.
That is partly the reason why a recent meeting between President Museveni and an influential inner circle of advisers on the Mbabazi issue, including Rujumbura MP and State House insider Jim Muhwezi, resolved that he be removed from the powerful position of NRM party secretary general.
Recently, during a closed-door NRM caucus meeting at State House on Sept.26, President Museveni reportedly re-assured his party that they should not lose sleep in case Mbabazi is removed as SG because Museveni, as party chairman, s mandated under the NRM constitution to take on the roles of SG if necessary. President Museveni appears to have been referring to Article 14.1 (h) which gives him a blanket mandate to do anything “for the good of NRM”.
That was the most public sign that Museveni is determined to remove Mbabazi from the SG position. As The Independent reported (See “NRM’s biggest war” Sept.26-Oct.2), until now, the widely held view has been that the NRM secretary general position is ring-fenced and the office holder can only be removed by the NRM National Conference which is the Electoral College and party supreme organ.
But the National Conference only meets twice in its five-year term unless there an extraordinary session summoned by the National Executive Council (NEC) which is a standing committee of the National Conference and comprises all NRM MPs, national party secretaries, and senior NRM leaders. The National Conference is convened by the party chairman, President Museveni, and is slated for later this year; possibly in December. But President Museveni is anxious to ensure that he has removed all challenges to his supremacy in the party.
The NEC meanwhile is critical in the Museveni-Mbabazi saga as it is the one that recommends to the National Conference the candidates for top party positions, including secretary general and chairman. However, because of its big size and unpredictability of outcomes, Museveni is unlikely to use it in his bid to lock out Mbabazi. Previously, when Museveni has sought to remove Mbabazi from the position of SG during the NEC meetings, he has been resoundingly defeated without need of a vote as speaker-after-speaker has backed Mbabazi. Museveni supporters have claimed NEC brims with Mbabazi appointees and others eyeing his money and patronage.
This time, Museveni has tried to ensure that Mbabazi has neither money (he closed his bank) nor patronage (he sacked him as PM). Still, word on the street is that Mbabazi has a big war-chest stacked away somewhere and that Museveni cannot be absolutely sure of allegiances in the NEC.
For this and other reasons, Museveni’s tactical base will be one of the NEC’s committees called the Central Executive Committee (CEC). The CEC is much smaller and comprises only the party National Chairperson, Yoweri Museveni, the Vice
Chairperson, Moses Kigongo, the Secretary General, Amama Mbabazi, the National Treasurer, Singh Katongole, Deputy Secretary General, Dorothy Hyuha, the Chairperson of NRM Parliamentary Caucus, David Bahati, Chairpersons of Commissions and the party’s National Secretaries. Its membership is 22 individuals and it runs the day-to-day operations of the party on behalf of NEC and is mandated to “ensure that all organs of NRM run properly”. Cleary now, the Secretary General function is not running properly because of the Museveni-Mbabazi clash and the NRM party does not have an effective deputy secretary general, as the office holder, Dorothy Hyuha, was posted to Tanzania as an ambassador.
Removing Mbabazi, however, is not going to be straight forward.
The NRM constitution provides for dismissal of a member of the party found to be in breach of the Constitution and the Code of Conduct. However, under Article 8.6 of the party constitution, such a member must be accorded a fair-hearing before dismissal.
Kigongo swings into action
To establish that Mbabazi is in breach of the party Code of Conduct, individuals privy to some of the inner discussions on the issue say, Museveni’s camp are to spring a technicality on him. And the person chosen to execute the latest ploy is none other than the NRM Vice Chairman, AL hajji Moses Kigongo.
Under the plan, Mbabazi is to be arraigned before the party National Disciplinary Committee on a battery of charges, including abuse of office. The details of the charges are being fixed but once that is reached, Mbabazi’s case is to be handled by CEC.
However, as CEC 22 senior party leaders and in typical Museveni fashion, nothing is being left to chance.
Already, behind the scenes contact has been made with most of the CEC members and the Museveni calculation is that Mbabazi has at most four votes; his, that of his wife, Jacqueline Mbabazi who is head of the NRM Women League, Dennis Namara,the NRM Youth League chairman, and another. Therefore, it almost certain that Mbabazi is to be dragged before the disciplinary committee. That is where he will stand before Kigongo, who is the chairman of the disciplinary committee.
Mbabazi, as secretary general, is a member of the NRM National Disciplinary Committee. Apart from Kigongo, the other members are NRM Deputy Secretary General Hyuha, former KCCA Minister, Beatrice Wabudeya, East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP, Mike Ssebalu, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, and EALA MP Dora Byamukama.
President Museveni has almost unanimous backing of the group with only Byamumukama’s allegiance in doubt. Byamukama has previously enjoyed Mbabazi’s patronage, especially during the 2011 EALA speakership race, and it is unclear how she will behave now. The disciplinary committee decisions must be unanimous.
The role of the Disciplinary Committee is to ensure that Mbabazi is found guilty and, as a punishment, is sentenced to a long suspension; possibly not less than three years.
Once that is done, Mbabazi will not be able to challenge Museveni for a position in the NRM party or to run for a position on the NRM ticket.
But Mbabazi can still run as an independent, join the opposition, or form his own party and be its presidential flag-bearer.
“Museveni is aware of all that,” a source at State House told The Independent, “If Mbabazi joins the opposition, then that is when the full force of the state will be applied on him.”
One of the few pointers to Mbabazi’s strategy has been his refusal to hand over the NRM party membership register. This document was compiled for the NRM party by Mbabazi’s controversial daughter, Lenina Mbabazi. But Mbabazi refused to hand it over to the party. Officially, the reason is that he is holding on to the register because he is still the secretary general and is under Article 16.7(h1) mandated by the NRM constitution to be its custodian.
However, even before tension between him and Museveni broke to the surface, top NRM party officials had become openly agitated when he refused to share the register with them. Since the tension erupted, the issue of the party’s failure to pay Nina Mbabazi Shs4 billion for compiling the register has also been mentioned as a reason for refusal to handover the register. Unofficially, it is not being handed over because the register contains detailed information about the party which is critical for mobilisation. As a result, the NRM secretariat has already set in motion plans to compile another register.
Significantly, Museveni’s camp has been monitoring Mbabazi’s public utterances for any hint of his ambitions. They have been disappointed because Mbabazi, who is a master wordsmith, has stuck snugly within the confines of the NRM and national constitution. He has said it is his right, just like any other member of NRM to seek election to any position including the presidency, and that he would contest only if elected by the NRM party, and if Museveni is not in the contest.
But Museveni’s camp is not satisfied with the equivocation. As one of them told The Independent, they want Mbabazi to go on national television and state categorically that he is not seeking to be president and to renounce all groups that claim to be running a `Mbabazi 2016’ campaign. Such groups have sporadically shown support at public rallies, football matches and on the street by wearing pro-Mbabazi T-shirts and banners.
Despite this, observers claim it is unlikely that Mbabazi can cause trouble for Museveni.
“Mbabazi is like the moon which cannot shine without light from the sun,” one of them told The Independent, “Museveni is Mbabazi’s light, without Museveni, Mbabazi cannot shine.”
Benson Karabareme, a former mobiliser for Mbabazi who has since switched to the Museveni camp also believes Mbabazi cannot cause trouble; but for a different reason.
“Mbabazi is a gentleman; he cannot come out in the open,” Kabareme says, “Mbabazi cannot get his hands dirty; he wants to remain in a suit”.
Kabareme claims that even in his Kinkizi West Constituency, the kishyegyere (the NRM voting machine) has already spat Mbabazi out. According to Kabareme, although the NRM machinery in the district has always mobilised votes for Mbabazi, it has always done so because of loyalty to the party and not Mbabazi.
“All the T-shirts, motor-cycles, and even fuel given during the campaigns have been for NRM,” he says, “Now that he is against Museveni, he cannot get support.”
A team of NRM mobilisers from Kanungu who spoke to The Independent also claims, Mbabazi is partly to blame for his unpopularity at the grassroots.
“His politics is for the elites up,” one of them said, “he does not mix with the local people.”
According to this group, Mbabazi failure for over two years to have the Mitano Bridge, which collapsed to be repaired, has become a symbol of the former prime minister’s failure as an area MP.
“It will forever be remembered that it was in Mbabazi’s regime that the bridge collapsed,” he said.
The bridge, which is the only easy route linking Kanungu district to neighbouring Rukungiri, has been impassable until recently when temporary repairs were made.
Mbabazi has tried to develop the area by setting up a radio and hotel and ensuring that the area gets electricity under the Rural Electrification Programe. But, in a bitter twist of fate, Kinkizi East MP, Chris Baryomunsi and local opposition politician James Musinguzi aka Garuga who Mbabazi hounded when he was still powerful, appear destined to reap more from this effort than Mbabazi.
The villagers now point at the numerous factories, tea plans, Garuga’s airfield, hotels, and district headquarters that are in Kinkizi East to show how more developed it is compared to Mbabazi’s area. They say more homes there have electricity than in Mbabazi’s constituency.
But the real loser in the current fall of Mbabazi might be his notorious personal assistant in the area, one Vincent Kamwesiga.
Before his woes, Mbabazi had anointed Kamwesiga to succeed him as Kinkizi West MP (as Mbabazi sought loftier positions) and because of the NRM voting machine, Kamwesiga was assured of sailing through.
But as Mbabazi is battered right and left and his influence wanes, voters are like to recall that Kamwesiga infamously allegedly shot at voters in the area during the June 26, 2001 parliamentary election when it looked likes James Garuga was taking the seat and Mbabazi brought in the military and President Museveni’s Protection Unit under Captain Ndahura to beat voters into line. One man, John Bosco Twinomuhwezi, who lost an eye in the election violence, sued Kamwesiga. As the speculation rages, one thing that remains clear is that a lot hangs on when Mbbazi will choose to speak and what he will say. As long as he stays silent, his opponents will fear the worst and plot the worst for him.