12 February 2014

Uganda: Mbabazi Warns of NRM Collapse

Photo: United States DoD
Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (file photo).

The NRM caucus meeting at Kyankwanzi yesterday debated and passed a resolution calling on the party chairman to stand unopposed in the 2016 elections.

One hundred and ninety members signed onto the document urging President Museveni to extend his rule to at least 35 years (2016-2021). But one prominent signature was conspicuously missing - that of Amama Mbabazi, the secretary general and Prime Minister.

The resolution, moved by Evelyn Anite, Northern Youth MP, appears to have achieved its primary aim - to kill off Amama Mbabazi's undeclared presidential bid.

Ever since the opening days of the retreat, the prime minister has been on the defensive as pro-Museveni MPs sought to end his undeclared dream of succeeding Museveni once and for all.

Mbabazi was twice confronted with questions about his alleged presidential ambitions--and twice in front of President Museveni, he accused the members of relying on rumours but never categorically denied eyeing the presidency.

Sounding philosophical, Mbabazi at one time cautioned that the ruling party risked collapse, like some African regimes in the past, if it continued to depend on informal channels of intelligence gathering. Mbabazi said it was better for the regime to rely on known intelligence organisations as opposed to information peddlers who might have ulterior motives.

According to our source, Col Fred Mwesigye (Nyabushozi) and Bright Rwamirama (Isingiro North) had separately put Mbabazi to task to clarify claims that he is weighing a presidential run. Their remarks were amplified by President Museveni who spoke of lack of cohesion and existence cliques in NRM.

Mbabazi's speech at the weekend appeared to be a response to President Museveni's opening day remarks on Friday. Museveni had said that some NRM leaders were undermining the party's cohesion through formation of cliques.

The president warned that "patriotic forces will, undoubtedly, resist and defeat any scheme, designed to distract us from the cause of the Ugandan people based on the four principles: patriotism, pan-Africanism, social-economic transformation and democracy."

Our sources indicate that during a discussion on Saturday, Museveni clarified on his remarks, saying he had clandestinely followed the activities of some senior NRM leaders. He added that their schemes must stop.

"I am still studying this through my intelligence and when the investigation is complete I will take appropriate action," Museveni reportedly said.

The president was understood to be referring to the undeclared presidential ambitions of not only Mbabazi but also speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga. As if addressing Museveni's comments directly, when it was Mbabazi's turn, he said:

"I only ask you to be sober as you consider these rumours because if you do not, they will kill the party." Mbabazi added that the Museveni he knows would have come to him in case he had heard such rumours.

He then made reference to Ethiopia's leadership under Mengistu Haile Mariam, saying the regime collapsed the moment he discarded official channels of information.

"I am a determined person. If I believe that something is correct, I pursue it to its logical conclusion," a source quoted Mbabazi as saying in his defence.

However, Museveni did not respond to Mbabazi's speech which generated quite some excitement among the MPs. The matter had been put to rest after that, until yesterday when youth MPs Evelyn Anite and Peter Ogwang, who had all along been gathering signatures for their resolution, resurrected it.

If their move was meant to isolate MPs perceived to support Kadaga or Mbabazi, it succeeded because by the end of the day, 190 had signed in support of it. A source said many MPs were taken by surprise and simply couldn't be seen to be opposed to Museveni.

A triumphant Anite sent a press statement by email last evening, saying that many MPs had spoken passionately in support of the resolution.

"Notable among those who spoke passionately in support was Gen Moses Ali, Musa Ecweru, Fred Ruhindi, John Ssimbwa, Emmanuel Dombo, Peter Ogwang and Annette Akwenyo, among many others," Anite wrote.

"As the mover of the motion, I feel humbled and pleased with colleagues for wholeheartedly supporting the motion," she added.

During the debate, several ministers and MPs, keen to be seen to be behind the president, spoke out in support. We have been told that some members, who were not aware Anite would present names of signatories, panicked and started sending her chits to be included.

As a result, when she stood up, Anite reportedly had 175 names but by the time she sat down, the number had swollen to 190, with virtually everyone in support, except, rather conspicuously, Amama Mbabazi.

While the resolution is not binding, its political significance can't be underestimated.

Anite was quoted in Daily Monitor yesterday as saying the signed document "will guide the National Delegates' Conference which will endorse the President as our flag-bearer."

That view was echoed by minister without Portfolio, Richard Todwong, who told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre yesterday that other party organs would have to endorse the resolution.

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