Some would regard it as a journey back home. So, when Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, the former head of the FDC Electoral Commission, announced his defection to NRM last week, the ruling party celebrated. But many opposition colleagues say they saw it coming.
Rubaramira is the executive director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda (NGEN+). On Tuesday, he travelled to President Museveni's Rwakitura home with the chairperson of Parliament's committee on Health, Dr Kenneth Omona Olusegun (Kaberamaido MP, NRM).
We have learnt that both Omona and Rubaramira had been in contact for some time until they finally secured an appointment with Museveni. But Omona would not divulge details of their interaction and how he got involved, when we spoke to him on Saturday.
"He understands the NRM ideology better than I do because he was part of the struggle," he said. Rubaramira was a little forthcoming, but only just.
"I know [Omona] as a person with a passion for the president, and someone who is also respected by the president but I have not known him for [so long]. We met to discuss about my travel to Rwakitura, and he also gave me transport to the president's home," he said.
Rubaramira's FDC colleagues got suspicious about four days to the trip, when he met John Kikonyogo, an FDC activist at Parliament. "He told me that the endless wrangles in the party had frustrated him, and because he didn't see any progress after a long struggle," Kikonyogo told us on Friday.
Rubaramira became a vocal opposition voice during the Presidential campaigns for the 2001 elections when he joined Dr Kizza Besigye's Reform Agenda, accusing Museveni of stigmatising people living positively with Aids.
Before the 2011 elections, Rubaramira announced his retirement from active politics, and sought audience with President Museveni seeking support for his NGO; NGEN+
"I approached the president and he helped me with my NGO, and as time went by, I felt that staying apart would not help us," Rubaramira told us on Saturday. Rubaramira then travelled to London to fundraise for his NGO, and then feared that Museveni could squeeze him by blocking donor funds.
"He surprised us when he made a comeback during the walk-to-work protests. When he got arrested, he never took part in the protests again," said Kyadondo East MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, something that Omona alluded to. "He was disappointed by FDC's trademark confrontational politics and also realized that if he continued with that kind of politics, many funders would run away," Omona said.
When police chief Kale Kayihura sought peace with the opposition activists, Rubaramira was tasked to be the opposition link, but colleagues became suspicious when he started asking for information that portrayed him as a spy among some opposition figures.
"One time, he went to Jeema and asked for information that was security in nature, that the Jeema leaders feared that he was spying on them," Ssemujju said. But Rubaramira called this politics of blackmail, telling us he had not been in contact with Gen Kayihura for some years.
As he sought readmission to the NRM, Rubaramira asked for Museveni's pardon for a "few things" he did in opposition. "Yes I was remorseful for a few things that happened over the years. It is not strange; it was like going back home. I was in the bush with the NRM leader for many years; yes there were a few glitches along the way, but I felt like I needed to go back home," he said.
However, Rubaramira was reticent on the issues for which he sought Museveni's pardon. "I wouldn't want to go into the details of that, because that was very personal. It was between me and the president," he said.
But Margaret Wokuri, formerly with Rubaramira in the Nandala-Mafabi camp, accused the retired major of confusing the public. "You cannot explain that defection by advancing ideological reasons because NRM has not changed. If the reason he left NRM was because of some personal differences with some and that person is no longer there, then that could be the reason for him to go back," Wokuri said.
Rubaramira denied that he quit FDC because of wrangles, but admitted that he was disappointed by the opposition's lack of a clear strategy. "I anticipated weakness in the party [FDC] with Besigye's departure and I can assure you that opposition parties including the FDC will take a long time to stand as an alternative to the movement," he said.