The humiliating defeat of Thomas Kategere, the NRM candidate in the Kamuli LC-V by-elections, was the latest in a string of electoral letdowns for the ruling NRM since the 2011 elections. And the party chairman, President Museveni, is not letting it pass quietly.
Last weekend, President Museveni let his anger be known during a meeting with senior NRM leaders from all regions. He said he felt betrayed by the lack of support for the NRM candidate mainly from senior party officials. He accused some of backstabbing him.
Museveni last Saturday convened the NRM's highest organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), at Nakasero State Lodge, to debate the maelstrom facing the party.
In the Kamuli LC-V elections, FDC's Salaamu Musumba polled 49,356 votes (67.6%) to resoundingly defeat Thomas Kategere who garnered 21,239 votes (29.1%).
Though the president had earlier pinned the blame on the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, largely for her alleged quiet support for Musumba, in his absence she was surprisingly asked, alongside NRM vice-chairperson (Eastern), Capt Mike Mukula, to probe the electoral defeat in Kamuli.
This decision was taken after Museveni had left for Rakai to attend the World Aids day event and the NRM Vice Chairman, Moses Kigongo, was in the chair. Shortly after the president left, there was heated debate.
According to a highly-placed source, none of the speakers was more vocal than Capt Francis Babu, a former minister who represents Kampala on the CEC. He wondered why the president summons the ruling party organ only during a time of crisis.
"Why does he come after the defeat to consult us? He already said that he has his election experts like Richard Todwong [minister without portfolio] who can deliver the results. We are tired of being involved at the post-mortem stage," Babu reportedly said.
Babu's fiery response perhaps emboldened his colleagues who would later be swayed to select Kadaga to investigate the defeat in an area that heavily votes for NRM.
Before Museveni left the meeting, a source told The Observer, he had angrily told members of his frustration that even after visiting Kamuli district and getting assurances from Kadaga and Moses Kizige, the former Bugabula North MP, among others, that they would support the NRM flagbearer, they had not backed Kategere.
It was reported that a few days after meeting Museveni, Kizige, who is a senior presidential advisor (special duties), met NRM sub-county chiefs and asked them to back his erstwhile political foe, Musumba.
"We have known these things. You go out and do different things. Am I stupid? Do you think I am mad?" the president angrily said.
Turning his guns to Kadaga, the NRM's second vice-chairperson, Museveni reportedly said: "The speaker is ever busy. Whenever I call her, she does not pick her call, sometimes the phone is busy, sometimes she is out of the country."
In an interview with The Observer last week, the minister of state for Regional Cooperation, Asuman Kiyingi, alleged that Kadaga had contributed money to Musumba's campaign. We could not independently verify Kiyingi's claim as neither Musumba nor Kadaga could be reached by phone.
"You can quote me on this," Kiyingi said, adding that many of Kadaga's mobilisers had canvassed votes for Musumba.
At the State Lodge meeting, Kadaga urged the party to look at the losses holistically without isolating Kamuli if NRM hopes to find an antidote to its dismal performance in recent by-elections. "We should look at the entire picture of the recent by-election losses and not treat Kamuli in isolation," argued Kadaga.
The ruling party has so far lost by-elections in areas where they had previously won, like in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality, Jinja East and Bukoto South.