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On Mao’s Twitter war

Nobert Mao

How the radical extremism of NUP is the best recruiting ground for Museveni

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The current Twitter war by Nobert Mao against the radical extremists of NUP is a manifestation of the major pitfalls that have bedeviled the opposition in Uganda. Slowly, these radicals are pushing Mao directly into President Yoweri Museveni’s embrace. This is because NRM, in spite of its one million and one authoritarian tendencies, has demonstrated it is a very accommodating political organisation. Mao will, ultimately, join a long list of opposition heavyweights that have realised, to their painful disappointment, that the forces that have organised to fight and remove Museveni are equally the most politically intolerant.

Uganda’s opposition has increasingly been taken hostage by an extremely intolerant faction, initially reflected in Defiance led by Dr. Kizza Besigye. This later metamorphosised into NUP under Bobi Wine. This group demands that everyone who is critical of Museveni should declare the president a devil who has ruined the country. Any slight deviation from this extreme position means you have been “compromised.” The more virulent this group has become, the more enlightened dissenters have quit the opposition and fallen into Museveni’s arms or gone silent. Subjectively the bitterest critics of the president, this radical extremist faction of the opposition is objectively Museveni’s best ally.

NUP has many leaders who are open minded and tolerant of divergent views. But they have been cowed into silence or submission by this radical extremist group. Many of them are now MPs. They know that their political bread is buttered by support from these radicals. Hence, they position themselves as radicals in order to keep the party’s base behind them. Were this cult to exist in the rich countries of Western Europe and North America, it would be despised. But given that Uganda is in Africa, and anyone who shouts “tyranny” at an incumbent government is believed, NUP ironically finds a lot of sympathy in Western liberal circles.

NUP is destined to follow the same path that Defiance drove FDC to –stunted growth. FDC began as a liberal-democratic organisation. Its founding leaders included many liberal minded people drawn from all parts of Uganda. But with time, and one by one, most of its founding fathers and mothers walked away. Besigye would like to delude himself into the belief that Museveni bought them off and that he is the only man with principles to continue the struggle. Yet the truth is that people found the intolerance inside FDC suffocating. Most of them retired from politics, those who wanted to remain politically active went back to NRM. The noble Mugisha Muntu formed a new party.

Ironically, Besigye is a moderate person by character and I suspect so is Bobi Wine. However, both men have adopted positions that are extreme. This way, they are “strategic radical extremists” i.e., they have calculated that the only way to be a leader of the opposition in Uganda is to appeal to its most radical faction – that is the base of the opposition. Yet while this position is able to rally passion and enthusiasm to the cause, it also tends to alienate the vast majority of Ugandans. This includes independents and frustrated Museveni lovers who do not agree with the radical extremist positions of this particular faction of the opposition.

The more important issue is that this faction of the opposition, while claiming to fight for expanding democratic space, is inherently against liberal democratic values. At the heart of liberal democratic politics lies tolerance of divergent views, negotiation over differences of opinion, and compromise with those you do not agree. Consequently, any government that comes to power through negotiation and compromise will most likely rule through negotiation and compromise – because that is its modus operandi. Any group that rejects negotiation and compromise as a basis for seeking power will certainly rule by crushing opponents.

Turn your gaze to NUP and its anti-democratic character will become evident. They see negotiations as selling out, compromise as betrayal. To them those with whom they disagree are enemies to destroy not opponents to defeat. Their most visible characteristics are in their political approach on social media. Anyone who disagrees with them is subjected to cyber bullying, character assassination, blackmail, false accusations, slander and much worse. Mao, by simply suggesting that there should be dialogue has become their latest victim, hence his one-man war against them. Mao is not the first and will not be the last to fight them.

Again, take a look at NRM and you will see why, in spite of its many weaknesses, it remains a more attractive option for the politically active. Its own spokesperson, Ofowno Opondo, who is also the head of the government media center, is often on public media criticising some of its positions. One of NRM’s MPs, Theodore Sekikubo, sounds like an opposition politician when on television. Many other NRM MPs are just as vocal in their criticism of their own party and the government over which it presides. In parliament NRM MPs on parliamentary committees are more critical of the executive than opposition MPs. These realities are not lost on many politicians.

Even the rabid Stella Nyanzi discovered to her chagrin that the criticism of her by fellow opposition activists, when she failed to toe the radical extremist line, was more vitriolic than from the NRM. Beti Kamya left the opposition because they could not accommodate her independence of mind. I meet many former opposition activists frustrated by this intolerance. The reason many politicians representing urban voters cling to the opposition and position themselves as radical extremists is because, to win in places like Kampala and Wakiso, one needs to pander to this base.

Of course, this opportunism is a characteristic feature of democratic politics. As we can see from the USA, republic politicians are hostage of their radical extremist base that supports former president Donald Trump. Most of them disapprove of his conduct and policies but dare not criticise him in public for fear of being punished by voters during party primaries. Yet Uganda needs a leader in the opposition who will articulate a vision that will galvanise the vast majority to get involved in electoral politics.

The radical extremists of NUP believe they should keep loyalty through blackmail. When anyone says anything positive about government, they accuse them of having been bought. This tactic has stopped many independent minded Ugandans from critiquing the cult of intolerance that is holding the opposition hostage. But it has also made the opposition unattractive to many people who could provide it leadership and organisation.



  1. Basammula Ekkere

    When Andrew Mwenda says that Norbert Mao is in essence being driven closer ​to Museveni because of the intolerance of the “extremists” especially in NUP, that is pure poppycock. Mwenda has no evidence that whoever attacks Mao on social media is a member or even a supporter of NUP.
    Whenever Mao promises to reveal the dirt he has unearthed about NUP, he comes up with stuff that has been in the public domain for quite sometime. All he does is to put a bit of spin to it and hopes that it will somehow discredit NUP. Now Mao is no ordinary opposition politician, he is the leader of DP, the oldest political party in Uganda which led the country from 1st March 1961 to 15th April 1962.
    Instead of working towards revamping his party which is losing political ground, Mao has chosen to lash out at NUP on twitter on a very regular basis and this has earned him ridicule from various quarters, even from those who do not subscribe to NUP. In fact many people are at a loss as to what is motivating Mao’s sudden sustained attacks on NUP. It is quite possible that all of this is designed to prepare the public for his eventual crossover to the NRM, where the grass is greener for him.

    • Thanks…. you make a lot of sense. Mwenda expressed a personal vendetta against Kizza Besigye… the one wolf war that Mao has wedged is not against FDC. Besigye has long left the official leadership of the FDC… it’s therefore unfair for mwenda to continuously harass Besigye. Mwenda has previously attributed the dismal performance of the FDC to radicalism. But over time his assertion has been disapproved…in 2016, jpam joined the opposition and contested for presidency..Amama mbabazi is considered to be a smooth operator…he doesn’t rant… how come that his candidacy failed to sway the moderate vote? In 2021, his favourite candidate Gregory Mugisha Muntu formed a new parry and contested…. how come that his moderate personality failed to sway the opposition vote? I am swayed not to trust Mwendas analysis.
      Turning to the present rants of the current DP leader, it’s an indication of a person who has lost all hope… By attacking NUP, Mao is relatable to the biblical story of a woman who had stolen a baby and when asked whether the baby should be cut into pieces, she readily accepted. Mao is expressing an attitude of being a bad loser…. it’s either his or they all lose out.

  2. 1-Mwenda shoots himself in the mouth; “Were this cult (NUP) to exist in the rich countries of Western Europe and North America, it would be despised.” Examples such as British National Party and Radical ‘Trumpism’ etc counter his claim. 2)-Mwenda careless or shallow analysis about what attracts voters is revealing, even to starters about Uganda’s presidential elections . I won’t go into details as Rajab Kakyama has highlighted some of the issues among others. 3) The johnnie’s come lately’s into “NRM plunder” get overly excited: See how Among is running the parliament, Owiny-Dollo is running Justice. Possibly Mao also getting excited, just like Mwenda started? Who knows? Well, people have different aspirations in life but that not blind their analysis/judgement in a glaring face of facts. By so doing, we fail us as a country.

  3. Again, you have it wrong Andrew.

    No credible challenger to Museveni can remain liberal minded because Museveni has set the bar such that the only road to state house is through a pyre. The abuse his credible challengers are subjected to by the state apparatus would transform even a cardinal into a street fighter. Accordingly, it is a miracle that these challengers continue on under such inhuman circumstances.

    Mugisha Muntu remains noble only because he is not a credible challenger to Museveni.

    The credible challengers have benefited the Uganda populous in two important aspects, namely (1) Museveni abuses human rights and (2) broke the myth that Ugandan leaders from the north are human rights abusers and that leaders from the south are compassionate or benevolent.

  4. If you bothered to look for the founding fathers of the National Resistance movement, you will realise that in the Movement party is the radical elements that are more in charge of its activities. The youth and other opposition elements are more of reflection of the degeneration of the political superstructure the is founded on lies and violence..Given choice, the well to do Ugandans will side with the government not out of conviction but rather the convenience of having your place at the gravy train.
    At his age Mao knows his punny blows at the Ruling party are insignificant but the angry youth have different aspirations.Those media fights won’t earn him anything because these young people choose what to believe and am sure to them a blogger like the famous Lumbuye appeals to their intellect than the skewed logic Mao throws at them.

  5. Shame on the cyber bully who cannot face the person he is bullying but runs to the headmaster to report his victim as the aggressor. Tolerance to the bully always fuels the vice.

  6. Mwenda uses his paper for usual propaganda biased towards his masters M7 Tibahaburwa and Muhozi Tibahaburwa.

    1- Mao can decide to join NRM. He will not be the first or last opposition leader to do that. Semwogerere sold DP’s soul in 1980s/1990s to become a minister ; Joash Mayanja Nkangi sold CP’s soul to be become a minister Obote’s son sold his father’s independence Party for his wife to be a minister ; Betty Kamya deceived everyone that she was a great federalist but when a ministerial post came calling, she lost her brain and now denies and curses Federalism ; we have not yet talked about Kasule Lumumba; Jacob Oulanya ; Jackson Kafuzi etc…. Uganda has unprincipled Politicians and M7 knows and exploits that. Just as it has unprincipled journalists [ you know what I mean Comrade Mwenda]

    2- Then he goes on his tired excuse that he does not support any opposition party in Uganda because Kiiza Besigye is radical and uncompromising and has now included Kyagulanyi. WOOOW Mwenda – we appreciate you being so principled [not] . Which party has burried over 100 innocent unarmed women and children in Kasese under pretext of they were part of a rebellion ? which party presided over killing of over 54 people on Kampala streets in Nov 2020 ; not mentioning Mukura train tragedy in the 1980s ; tortures ; arrest and incarceration ; the squeezing of political space ; the harassment of journalists …. [ the list goes on of all abuses not mentioning corruption. So Mwenda would rather support and lie about a government that has done and continues to do all the mentioned things but on “principle” will not support the opposition parties that talks against them . You and your masters are so cynical about Uganda and her people.
    Why dont you come out and tell people the truth – that you support NRM because you and your whole family have benefited a lot . Your sister is a minister ; your brother is a Major General in UPDF ; Your brother- in- law is the head of the National Forests. And you are the drinking buddy of Muhozi Tibahaburwa who you are fronting to succeed his father so that the looting and mismanagement of Uganda’s resources may continue. ALLUTA CONTINUA Ndugu Mwenda

    The sad thing is Mwenda of 1990s and early 2000s will not recognise the current Mwenda. Then he was a hated by NRM and harassed because he stood for the truth. Now he is a darling of the party that has raped and continues to rape Uganda. Then he knew what he was about. Now he is confused after being bought ……
    of young opposition men and women

  7. It is surprising that for some mysterious reasons, Andrew is blinded to Mr. Museveni and NRM intolerance sic extremism. Going to the bush in 1981 and causing a 25-year mayhem/bloodbath was the climax of Mr. Museveni/NRM intolerance and extremism.

    Hello Andrew Mwenda! Abducting, arbitrary arrests, torture, detention without trial, malicious prosecution, extrajudicial murders, raids on CSO offices etc. are not symptoms of intolerance or extremist, but the climax of intolerance and extremism.

    In other words, 36 years and counting; if it is not intolerance and extremism what is Mr. Museveni/NRA/M resisting?

    To corrupt is to destroy or break something. If it is not destruction, in the political history of this country and after 36 years of armed stranglehold onto power; who can still deny that Mr. M7’s administration is the most corrupt, therefore destructive?

    In 36 years, who e.g. destroyed the Uganda Railways. Who corrupted and destroyed the quality of social services: in Education and Health and social security?

  8. Mao was one of the decent guys that i admired as a student leader and in parliament then. Very vibrant and articulate. I expected him to hv wisened up given the age now but alas!
    On tue contrary he has turned out to be a comedian of late which is very annoying and frustrating to his admirers.
    U cant fight with ghetto boys and u think ull win. Never.
    Why not put his energies in rebuilding his party instead?

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