13 December 2012

Uganda: NRM May Pay Besigye to Run Against Museveni


So the NRM - and by extension, President Museveni ? gave Leader of Opposition Nathan Nandala Mafabi money in the just - concluded FDC party president elections so that he can stop Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, according to some sections of the press! This, apparently, is the prevalent view among many FDC MPs who did not support Mafabi in his presidency bid but instead supported Muntu. Aruu county MP Odonga Otto publicly said so at Muntu's rally in Lubaga in the closing days of the race.

These MPs, some of whom have, for many years, been suspected of links to Museveni or senior NRM leaders, are probably speaking from the 'inside.' Even then, I cannot stop wondering why on earth Museveni would finance the campaign of an opposition leader he has fought so hard to break.

He deployed a whole military battalion in the 2011 general elections in Sironko to ensure that Mafabi is defeated, making the elections there the bloodiest. Still, the people of Sironko confronted guns with bare hands and fought off the army, ensuring Mafabi and other FDC candidates were not rigged out.

Earlier, Museveni had fought Mafabi to prevent him from becoming chairman of the hitherto mismanaged Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) but again he won, going on to turn around the union in two years and giving peasant farmers a real taste of their sweat by building prices of Arabica coffee beans from about Shs 1,000 up to Shs 10,000 per kilogramme!

This alarmed Museveni's NRM government which moved to suspend the board of BCU on allegations of mismanagement which do not add up at all. During this year's State of the Nation address, President Museveni deliriously mentioned Mafabi and Kizza Besigye's names more times than the number of MPs on the opposition bench!

So, why would Museveni suddenly bury the hatchet and put money at the disposal of one of his chief political opponents - with or without his knowledge - as is being said by Mafabi's political opponents in FDC and elsewhere?

According to peddlers of this theory, it is because there are no permanent political friends or enemies; only permanent interests, so Museveni's biggest fear was his former army commander, Mugisha Muntu assuming the presidency of FDC so he had to do everything to prevent him from emerging as leader of the biggest opposition party because come 2016, he [Museveni] would have no chance!

With Mafabi and Besigye, he knew what to do. But with Muntu who is a gentleman, humble and left a rotten army with clean hands, it would be an entirely different ballgame! He cannot deploy soldiers and riot police at Muntu because they will end up saluting him instead of rolling him in the mud, in the road drains or throwing him onto the back of a police pickup.

If somehow his [Museveni's] son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who heads the army within the army (Special Forces Command), should manage to arrest a surging Muntu, he cannot count on his NRM remaining 'united' as that is the time all fence-sitters in NRM will fall on the other side , leaving Museveni and his son holding the can!

Now that Mugisha Muntu was elected president of the biggest opposition party, circumstances of his win notwithstanding, Museveni and his NRM's nightmare is not yet over. So if we logically follow the perspective of those telling us that Mafabi was funded by Museveni to stop Muntu, then we can surmise that Museveni will pull all the stops come 2015 when the party holds elections for its flag bearer ahead of the 2016 general elections because after this, he will be finished!

I am, therefore, expecting to read stories in some of the leading media about how Museveni has put money in Besigye and Mafabi's campaigns - with or without their consent - because for Museveni it will be a zero-sum game.

It is like given a choice between God's wrath and his former army commander, he [Museveni] would rather he faced the former because there he may have a chance, not with the latter.

For many Ugandans who have opposed Museveni and are craving for change, and looked at FDC as the vehicle for that change, this is all very confusing; that one of Museveni's most avowed political enemies is now his consummate bedmate and one of his former loyal and close allies who says nothing against him is now the biggest threat to the regime - albeit in a manner that is not very clear and largely built on assumptions.

Former NRA guerrillas, including Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire, have in the past confessed that they [rebels] used to impersonate government forces by wearing UNLA uniforms and unleashing terror against civilians so as to turn them against the government and also damage the image of the government forces.

Are we seeing the entry of the old guerrilla tactics into opposition party politics and if so, does Museveni, the master of guerrilla tactics, have anything to fear from this? Or is someone fooling someone here?

The author is a political and social critic. He is a former editor of Sunday Monitor and The Independent.

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