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How Museveni nearly quit NRM

By Haggai Matsiko

Election case haunts President’s party

On Friday October 22, 2010, President Yoweri Museveni held a heated meeting at State House, Entebbe, with a little-known former aide of his, Capt. Daudi Ruhinda Maguru. Present at the meeting was Adolf Mwesige, who was then-minister in the Prime Minister’s office and NRM legal representative.

Museveni and Mwesige were upset that just days to the November 25, 2010 date set for nominations for presidential candidates in the February 2011 elections, Capt. Maguru (retired) was insisting on a case he had filed in the High Court challenging Museveni’s election as NRM chairman and party flag-bearer.

The stakes were high because Museveni risked missing the nominations if Maguru’s case was not resolved. Although this was the fourth meeting, Maguru appeared adamant.

Maguru,” Museveni said furiously at that meeting, “If you insist, I am going to run independently and see what you will do with the party.”  Museveni told Maguru that he had already instructed his assistant to pick nomination forms to run as an independent.

Maguru composed himself and counseled his former boss.

“Mzee, you don’t have to quit the party,” Maguru argued, “once you resolve these issues you will contest on a ticket of a much stronger party.”

These meeting had been going on for some time.  One of them lasted until 1:00 am. In all the trips to State House, Mwesige was the one chauffeuring Maguru and then-minister for Security, Amama Mbabazi, who was also the NRM Secretary General, had been in earlier meeting but was not in this one because of a confrontation with Capt. Maguru.

“You have to withdraw that suit,” Mbabazi had reportedly ordered Maguru in the first meeting. Annoyed by the SG’s arrogance, Maguru reportedly left the meeting threatening to go ahead with the suit for it to be judged on its merit. Our sources who are familiar with the case say Maguru felt Mbabazi was still treating him as an aide that he once was.

Maguru had been aide to Museveni, Mbabazi, when he was Minister of Security and the President’s brother, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh, when he was both a Defence Advisor and a Minister of Microfinance. Museveni sensed that Mbabazi’s presence could jeopardise the delicate negotiations and did not have him in the last meeting.

Finally, Museveni cooled down and agreed to his former bodyguard’s terms, which included holding elections for disputed party position within ten months after the 2011 elections.

Indeed three days after that meeting, on October 25, President Museveni, the NRM party entered a consent judgment at the High Court with Capt. Maguru. President Museveni agreed to the five conditions set by Maguru, including a pledge to pay him Shs70 million in costs for the suit.

Maguru and his lawyers Rwakafuzi & Co. Advocates signed on one hand and Adolph Mwesige, as the NRM Legal Committee and Ntambirweki Kandeebe as the NRM lawyer on the other. On November 25, 2010, Capt. Maguru withdrew the case from the High Court and Museveni was nominated as NRM flag-bearer the same day.

But now it has emerged that Museveni and the NRM party refused to honour the terms of the consent judgment with Capt. Maguru and countersued him instead.

The Independent has learnt from inside sources, however, something that might lead to the winding up of the NRM, at least going by a ruling that court clerks are still typing.

Apparently, our sources say, Justice Eldad Mwangutsya has thrown out a petition by NRM lawyers, which sought to quash the consent judgment that Maguru had reached with President Museveni.

The elated Maguru told The Independent: “Now that the suit by the NRM lawyers has been thrown out, we want the High Court to wind up the party. Once that is done, the NRM will cease to be a body corporate and by extension a legal government. It is a constitutional crisis but it is inevitable if we want a better organised government.”

A former Kadogo (Child soldier), Maguru was one of the many child soldiers in the National Resistance Army (NRA), having joined the rebel group in 1983 at age 17. He benefited from the army policy to send back to school the child soldiers and graduated with a law diploma in 1987 and enrolled for a degree before becoming a High Court advocate in 1998.

He would retire from the army in 2005 after attaining a Masters in Economic Policy still at Makerere University.

On April 22, 2010,  Capt, Maguru had written to President Museveni alerting him that he had already drafted his campaign manifesto and would be contesting against him as party chairman and party flag-bearer.

When he announced his candidature at the party’s national conference, senior party members laughed him off as some obscure former presidential aide looking to bask in the limelight. When he went ahead and was frustrated, he sued.

Anyone who has been following this case for the last two years will know that Justice Mwangutsya’s ruling could be just another milestone and not the end of it. But at the centre of the contention is the challenge of fulfilling the conditions that Capt. Maguru has placed on Museveni and the NRM.

In the consent judgment of November 25, 2010, Museveni agreed to setting up 10-person team to settle a dispute that had erupted over the election of Museveni as the NRM flag-bearer in the 2011 election.

Challenging the boss

When the NRM National Conference was held at Namboole on September 11-12, 2010 to elect office bearers and the party presidential flag-bearer in the 2011 election, Capt. Maguru contends he was duly nominated to contest against Museveni.

He contends, however, that instead of holding party elections, the 22-member party’s top governing body, Central Executive Committee (CEC) met behind closed doors and emerged to announce to members that it had unanimously nominated Museveni as flag bearer.

Capt. Maguru says this was illegal because the NRM flag bearer, according to the party manifesto, is supposed to be chosen by the party’s National Delegates Conference.

By adopting the CEC’s decision, Maguru argued, the NRM’s electoral commission had committed an illegality. That is why he sued Museveni and they decided to settle the matter in a consent judgment.

At stake for President Museveni and the NRM was failure to be nominated by the national Electoral Commission if Maguru’s suit went through.

The only other option was for the NRM to reconvene the party national conference and hold fresh elections. This was deemed costly and was time-barred as nominations loomed. But there was also the issue of President Museveni being challenged by a little-known former aide who had retired from the army at a rank of captain.

The outcome of such a contest appears obvious but could not be predicted with mathematical certainty. The senior party members in the CEC could not countenance it.

Capt. Maguru had picked his opportunity to shine quite well; he would be the first to stand against revolutionary leader Museveni within the NRM. Others like former Minister, Felix Okot Ogong had attempted at the 2005 party delegates conference and failed squarely.

To prevent such a situation, Museveni had directed Mwesigee to reach out to Maguru and then-Principal Judge Justice Ogoola had also asked the two parties to first consider an out of court settlement.

As part of this settlement, Museveni acknowledged that in choosing him as the party flag bearer, the constitution had not been followed and that a ten member team would be formed to right this by consensus.

The party, Museveni pledged, would devise options to put in place an electoral commission that is competent, independent and free from manipulation. Museveni would also pay Maguru and his lawyers, Rwakafuzi & Co. Advocates the Shs70 million in legal costs.

Among the five conditions of the consent judgment, Museveni also agreed to convene an extra-ordinary party National Conference at which among others a new party leadership would be elected within ten months.

The ten months ended on December 18 2011 but to date none of the conditions of the judgment has ever been fulfilled. Not even the Shs 70 million has ever been paid.

Yet, on October 27, 2010, Mwesigye on a National Resistance Movement Legal Committee headed paper wrote to the President advising him to meet the fees.

“…The purpose of this letter is to advise you that you authorise the release of the money to Capt. Maguru,” Mwesige wrote.

He would follow this letter with another one on September 01, 2011 to the president’s Principal Private Secretary about the same matter. Still, nothing came through.

Mbabazi goes to work

Instead, when on November 21, 2011, Maguru’s lawyer contacted Mbabazi notifying him about their intention to have the High Court wind up the party for failing to abide by the legal obligations of the consent judgment, Mbabazi’s legal machinery went to work.

On March 12, 2012, Denis Namara, the Chairman of the NRM’s Youth League, also a member of its Central Executive Committee took Capt. Maguru to court. But it wasn’t just Maguru he was suing. In a surprise move, Mwesige too was sued.

Namara contended that: “…the respondents (Maguru and Mwesige) filed a Consent Judgment whereby they entered into an arrangement which tantamount to a total blackmail of our party into unrealistic pre-conditions and/ or parameters that would push our party into Limbo, if they are implemented”.

Namara who wanted the High Court to nullify the Consent Judgment, was represented by Mugisha & Co. Advocate and Bakiza & Co. Advocates, and Severino Twinobusingye.

Particularly, Namara, accused Maguru of intentionally wooing Mwesige into signing the impugned consent judgment. They also accused Maguru of colluding with Mwesige knowing that the latter was not a principal signatory of the party and did not have the authority to bind the party to the judgment.

Namara’s lawyers also accused Mwesige of fraud, irregularity and misrepresentation. They argued that Mwesige signed the Consent Judgment as the chairman of the NRM Legal Committee yet there is no such organ in the party structures.

They added that Mwesige signed the Consent Judgment willfully acting in bad faith without express or tacit approval or authority of the party knowing that such approval was a pre-requisite.

They added that by committing the NRM to conditions in the judgement, Mwesige was acting willfully and knowingly with ill-intentions of bringing the party down.

The lawyers wanted Maguru and Mwesige to pay general damages and costs of the suit plus interest on losing the case.

Sources told The Independent that Mwesige was extremely upset by the party’s move. In essence President Museveni, had used him and now he was being labeled a fraudster.

How could they [lawyers] accuse him of fraud when it is President Museveni who had initiated the talks with Maguru and even participated in writing the terms of the consent judgment?

The lawyers were, no doubt, working on instructions of the NRM top leadership since Namara, as chairman of the NRM Youth League, was in the CEC that kicked out Capt. Maguru’s nomination.

His lawyers, Mugisha, Bakiza and Severino are the ones behind the NRM’s constitutional court challenging the legality of the ruling by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga that the four MPs who were expelled from the party retain their seats.

Mugisha was the lead lawyer in the case in which Severino Twinobusingye slapped against the Attorney General for challenging Amama Mbabazi in the oil saga case and was awarded Shs13 billion.

Case thrown out

The Independent has learnt that about two weeks ago, Justice Mwangutsya quashed Namara’s application.

Justice Mwangutsya reportedly argued that Namara’s lawyers cannot vilify a ruling that they benefited from.

A source familiar with the litigation and spoke to The Independent on condition of anonymity says that for Museveni to go to such lengths to block a challenger and, when cornered, agree to terms but turn around and attempt to wiggle out of them, speaks volumes.

“It sets a dangerous precedent for a party that is struggling with internal dissent over Museveni’s nearly three decade rule and transition from it,” the source said.

The case also exposes Museveni’s determination to impose his will at a time when he is seeking to expel from the party members that have been accused of going against the party rules.

This case is a test for President Museveni and how he will deal with those that seek to challenge him come fresh party polls.

Already, his former Vice President, Gilbert Bukenya has announced he would stand against Museveni. Mbabazi has also long fought potential contenders like Bukenya, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and is said to eye the party leadership.

Bukenya also declared that should he be frustrated at the party polls, he will run independently.

Maguru told The Independent that he feels more energized and plans to have the NRM and in effect Museveni’s government, wound up. Perhaps he is being too ambitious but he argues that once this happens, he will contest in the next NRM party primaries as party president and kick Museveni out of presidency.

“No amount of threats, no amount of bribes can diminish my resolve to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion,” Maguru says, “No matter how long it will take because I want to see sanity return in this country.”

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