The political party merchant
Kampala, Uganda | MUBATSI ASINJA HABATI | When I spoke to some members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) of Robert Ssentamu Kyagulangyi aka Bobi Wine about Moses Nkonge Kibalama; the man at the centre of the political storm hitting their party, one of them gave a short summary.
“That man has a great appetite for money.”
And from behind the scenes details, it appears Kibalama likes his money big.
The NUP/People Power strongman Robert Kyagulangyi denies money changed hands when Kibalama allowed him to take control of a dormant party then called National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party (NURDP).
And Kibalama initially backed him on that. But days after Kibalama who had earlier reported getting death threats went missing and the military took control of his home in Buwambo village in Wakiso District, a video of him popped up on social media.
Kibalama was now claiming the Bobi Wine group promised him a whopping $5million (Approx.Shs18 billion) for his party.
Other promises, according to Kibalama, included securing licenses for his businesses like the Export- Import Bank Uganda Ltd and Kafu City Free Trade Zone among others.
“Of course when someone turns up with an offer as good as $5m anybody would go with it. That is how we fell into the trap, it was a good promise and we hoped so, but since we had not worked with this group we did not know them until we got closer and saw for ourselves,” Kibalama says in a widely shared YouTube video.
“So when they gave us very good promises, we chose to take them on hoping for that good offer to come our way,” he says.
But he said in the video, Bobi Wine has failed to meet his end of the bargain and he now wants his party back.
It was a sharp about face from July 22, when Kibalama appeared before cameras with Bobi Wine announcing the change of party name from NURDP to the National Unity Platform (NUP) and subsequent handover of the NUP leadership to Bobi Wine.
Kibalama had reportedly led NURDP since 2004. It turns out NURDP is one of the many little known of over 40 political parties registered in Uganda.
But up to that point, very few Ugandans knew Kibalama let alone his party NURDP. Kibalama explained that he had formed NURDP to pursue his ideals of struggling for a better democratic Uganda and that he was happy to turn it over to Bobi Wine who shared the same values.
“I know Bobi Wine is one of the leaders that proclaim the values that we as a party stand for. He is the leader of the new era and I trust that he can change the government,” Kibalama said.
He said the change of party name was necessitated by the need to have a national appeal and have a shorter name; NUP.
But recent revelations from Kibalama suggest that money, not the ideals of struggling for a better democratic Uganda, could have been the key motivator for him to handover leadership of NUP to Bobi Wine.
The People Power/NUP leadership; including Bobi Wine, has come out to dismiss Kibalama’s claims.
They say, before making the claims and turning around to reclaim his political party, Kibalama and his former party secretary general had reportedly been abducted by security operatives. It is soon after his alleged abduction that Kibalama made the allegations in the video.
But the army says they are holding Kibalama for his own safety.
Responding to these allegations, Bobi Wine said Kibalama could have been compromised by the government of President Yoweri Museveni. He and his team claim that Kibalama has been working closely with the NRM. Other sources within NUP say Kibalama has “a great appetite for money” and could have struck a better deal with the NRM.
The NUP said, in a statement, that Kibalama has appeared on TV several times confirming the legality of everything they did to change party leadership. The leaders appear surprised that Kibalama is now writing affidavits in court that they never followed the law.
He is accusing the NUP leaders of illegally taking over leadership of the party without going through the rightful procedures.
The NURP party members want court to declare that it was illegal for Kibalama to hand over leadership to Kyagulanyi and also want court to issue an order to declare all changes illegal and the party returned to the rightful members.
But when he appeared in court on Sept.25 Kibalama against shifted his position. He denied selling any party to Kyagulanyi.
“I am not aware of it( the video recording). I was not selling any political party. There is no supermarket where political parties are sold. You ask them (Bobi Wine) if they bought the party,” Kibalama told court.