By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi
Mbabazi, Otunnu walk on minefield as Besigye exit tests FDC
Senior NRM members are pushing to replace Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as secretary general, The Independent has learnt in the latest signal that the upheavals that rocked the party last year seem poised to continaue.
A member of the NRM’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), the executive organ of the party, has told The Independent that they have written to President Yoweri Museveni to summon the organ to discuss ‘urgent’ party issues. The CEC member says they need to discuss the roadmap to elect a new secretary general, as “it was already resolved that Hon. Mbabazi leaves the job since he is too busy as prime minister”.
The official says the party needs to end “internal bickering”, which he says is largely to be blamed on Mbabazi, and embark on countrywide mobilisation. This, he says, can only be achieved by “a fulltime and committed” secretary general.
Mbabazi was at the centre of the controversy that rocked the ruling party last year. President Yoweri Museveni, who is accused of always siding with Mbabazi, could have hoped to give him a firmer stranglehold over the party and government by elevating him to prime minister in May 2011, but the position is proving to be a golden cup of poison.
As Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Mbabazi has seemed incapable of controlling his party’s majority MPs. They have consistently gone against their party’s position and on October 11, resolved that Mbabazi and two other ministers step aside as investigations into allegations of bribery against the trio are investigated.
Mbabazi’s star took another beating when he appeared incapable of replicating even a semblance of the influence he wielded over former Speaker Edward Ssekandi with current Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
Towards the close of the oil debate, where it was resolved that the prime minister and two other ministers named in the bribery allegations step aside to pave way for investigations, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga dismissed Prime minister Amama Mbabazi’s complaints of the government side was not being given sufficient time to give its side of the story.
Since then Kadaga has said Mbabazi, who has been in legislative business since 1986, didn’t regularly attend parliament before assuming his current assignment as leader of government business needs to learn parliamentary procedure but is unwilling.
Kadaga has since alleged that Mbabazi, through some Busoga ministers like Asuman Kiyingi (State for Foreign Affairs [Regional Affairs]) and Daudi Migereko (Lands, Housing and Urban Development), is trying to undermine her political base in Busoga.
So when a section of Basoga attempted in mid December 2011 to have Prince Edward Columbus Wambuzi assume duties of the Kyabazinga of Busoga, some saw it as a continuation of NRM politics, pitting Kadaga against Mbabazi.
NRM insiders familiar with Busoga politics have told The Independent that the plot to install Wambuzi was instigated by Mbabazi’s backers in Busoga as an attempt to stem Kadaga’s influence. Kadaga, who is the woman representative for Kamuli district, backs Gabula for the post of Kyabazinga.
The challenges in DP look set to spill into the New Year, with Norbert Mao struggling to have a stranglehold on party issues. Mao’s rival faction has a pending petition in the Constitutional Court seeking to annul Mao’s leadership of the party. They argue that the delegates conference that elected Mao was found by the High Court to have been convened by a secretary general, Mathias Nsubuga, who was in office illegally. The petition is set to be heard in the first quarter of 2012.
NRM’s internal wars are likely to be fought out mostly in parliament, where a largely NRM group will continue to press their case and possibly raise a censure motion against Mbabazi over alleged corruption and refusal to step aside to pave way for investigations. But Mbabazi and President Museveni will also face pressure from outside the house.
The economic crisis, which experts don’t expect to end soon, also looks set to compound the ruling party’s woes. Protests could continue as a result, further denting the NRM’s support.
Augustine Ruzindana, FDC’s assistant secretary general in charge of research and policy, doesn’t expect the government to come up with a concrete plan to address economic difficulties. As a result, Ruzindana predicts, “repression will increase because the government isn’t getting any stronger among the people and it has demonstrated that its reaction to challenge is repression.”
Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s fiercest challenger in the last three elections and founding president of FDC, has declared his intention to step down as party president in 2012, a move that is set to lead to fierce competition for the chair.
Augustine Ruzindana, FDC’s assistant secretary general in charge of research and policy, says FDC’s National Council (NC) will meet in the first quarter of 2012 to decide on the roadmap to the delegates conference that will elect Besigye’s successor. The delegates conference will be the culmination of grassroots elections which are already ongoing, with twelve districts covered so far. The NC will also decide on how much campaign time the candidates for the party presidency will have.
As Besigye quits the party’s leadership, interest will shift to how he carves out a new role for himself, even though he has already laid down pointers. “I will definitely continue to participate in any popular activities aimed at causing change in our country,” Besigye said.
Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) President Olara Otunnu is engulfed in the political battle of his life, with virtually everyone who enthusiastically organised his return from exile in 2009 currently against him.
Only in December 2011, Otunnu sacked almost his entire core team, including Secretary General John Odit who had occupied the office for only eight months, Secretary for Mobilisation and Policy David Pulkol, National Chairman Maj. Edward Rurangaranga and Deputy Party Spokesperson Moses Nuwagaba.
The latest fallout in UPC is about money. Nuwagaba says, “That former UN diplomat you see has never fundraised even a coin for the party. But he is always asking for money to meet this Bishop, attend a burial, and the like.”
Nuwagaba says that at one point, Otunnu raised a circular directing that any expenditure exceeding Shs 100,000 had to be sanctioned by him or his vice president, Joseph Bbosa.
Bbosa told The Independent that ‘the circular was lifted’, which he said enabled the “lifting of Shs 98 million donated by the Deepening Democracy Programme (DDP)” from the UPC account. Nuwagaba says the money had been fundraised by a team led by former Secretary General Odit but Otunnu didn’t want them to use it for “grassroots mobilisation”, which he says led to the disagreement.
We have learnt that Otunnu was particularly angered that Odit and Pulkol used the DDP money without involving him at any stage, only to learn that it had been finished. Sources close to Otunnu say the party leader got concerned that the Pulkol-Odit faction was bent on building their own power center, probably with the intention of taking over party leadership.
In an earlier interview with this reporter, Otunnu disclosed his disquiet about the “culture of handling money in this country”. “Someone uses party money for personal business and they tell you ‘this is how it is done in this country’,” Otunnu said, adding, “I am a methodical person who demands that things are done in a certain order”.
Going into 2012, Otunnu’s deputy, Bbosa, says the party “must be run on systems, processes and procedures”, which he says those who fallout with the leadership do so because of failure to adhere to the laid down system.
Lira Municipality MP James Akena is accused of leading a faction fighting to dislodge Olara Otunnu from UPC’s leadership. The son of the late Milton Obote, founder of UPC and two-time president of Uganda, Akena hit headlines when he almost punched Otunnu during a press conference at UPC’s headquarters on Uganda House in Kampala.
Former UPC Deputy spokesperson Moses Nuwagaba, says he is happy about being sacked because “it will give me more time to kick out Otunnu”. Nuwagaba, who now speaks for the anti-Otunnu faction, says “there is no way he can survive”. He claims his faction has collected 400 signatures out of the 600 members of the National Council. Nuwagaba says they need only one-third of the members of the National Council (200) to sign a petition to call a sitting of the National Council which they hope will suspend Otunnu pending the sitting of the Delegates Conference, which is the supreme organ of the party. He accuses his former boss of abusing party finances and describes him as “too mean to lead, takes long to understand and cannot be advised”.
Prof. Edward Kakonge, a UPC veteran was recalled out of retirement and appointed national chairman by Otunnu in a move meant to foster reconciliation within the party. Kakonge replaced Maj. Rurangaranga while the chairperson of UPC’s parliamentary caucus, Fr. Jacinto Ogwal took over as secretary general from Odit after a one David Baliraine, who was earlier secretary for workers, declined to take up the post.
Muntu, Mafabi, Byanyima
The race to replace Kizza Besigye as FDC party President is likely to draw in former Army Commander Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, who has twice challenged Besigye for party positions. Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi has also made no secret of his intention to fill the position, and so have MPs Abdu Katuntu, Kassiano Wadri and Reagan Okumu.
The race could also draw in a host of women, with Besigye’s wife Winnie Byanyima, who is currently a director at the United Nations Development Programme based in New York, thought to be interested. Others are FDC Deputy President for Eastern Uganda Salamu Musumba and possibly FDC mobiliser Anne Mugisha.