By Frank Tumwebaze
When Amama Mbabazi announced his presidential bid through a YouTube rehearsed audio, slightly over a month ago, many political commentators got excited and quickly prophesied doom for the NRM — claiming his bid would split the NRM into two factions; one backing President Yoweri Museveni and the other rooting for Mbabazi.
Whereas some of us knew this was just a hollow analysis and the usual anti-NRM rhetoric, we were equally amused to see some elements in the opposition positing that NRM would crumble and they (opposition) would use this to ride to state power.
These opposition groups hoped that the Mbabazi (whom they had already engaged in some sort of alliance) factor would split and carry away a big portion of the NRM support to deliver to their alliance and thus bolster their dwindling fortunes.
Of all, leading this misplaced chorus was the FDC president, Mugisha Muntu, who was categorical in saying that the NRM would crack immediately after the December 15 delegates conference that saw a change of guard at the party secretariat with Mbabazi being replaced as secretary general.
Of course, Gen. Muntu was trying to use the political excitement that was forming in the NRM then, as the perfect diversionary tactic to help him temporarily push away the internal pressure from his party dissenting members, which had been haunting him since his election as party president.
He failed to win the approval of all his party members and cohesion among his party ranks has always become an uphill task for him to surmount.
To the dismay of Muntu and those thinking like him, the NRM instead emerged stronger. With the exception of Mbabazi, his wife, children and in-laws, no one, at least not anyone significant in the NRM, announced that they would be quitting the party because of either the sole-candidate resolution adopted in Kyankwanzi in February last year or the changes passed by the December conference.
Even contrasting Mbabazi’s experience with that of Besigye, one finds that the latter had a slightly greater impact than the former, in terms of garnering reasonable numerical strength from within the Movement.
When Dr. Kizza Besigye decamped from the NRM and later founded the Reform Agenda, which morphed into the FDC, at least he left with some colleagues from the system. People like Maj. John Kazoora, Jack Sabiiti and others followed him out of the NRM. Of course their walkout has turned futile but at least it was symbolic so to say.
For Mbabazi, however, it is evident that only his wife, daughters and sisters-in-law are with him on this. They are the only ones visible —commanding and executing the activities of his political outfit.
With the prophesied crumbling of the NRM not happening after December 15, the focus was now turned to the so-called presidential bid declaration. Mbabazi and his group in a bid to shore up support went into the “mystery” overdrive.
Together with some sections of the media, they tried to hype the expected declaration, making it look like it was something that would greatly alter Uganda’s political landscape.
Finally, June 15 came. The much rehearsed YouTube video was uploaded, Ugandan media snubbed first, a tour to the West — all hyped before Mbabazi returned to confront the political reality back home.
The bubble has finally burst. Last Friday, two contrasting moods engulfed Kampala. An Kyadondo, President Museveni, who had been endorsed by the Historicals League — the traditional political High Command of the struggle, the Women’s and Youth leagues of the party, finally appeared before the party EC to pick nomination forms. It was ecstatic as hundreds of supporters decided to turn what was a low-key event into a carnival.
On the other side of town, trying to compete for the headlines was Mbabazi at his Kololo home announcing his bid as an independent candidate. He cut such a forlorn figure. It was evident even the media present were bored.
But what do you expect when all your legal and political antics aimed at frustrating the NRM have come to naught? With his proxies, Mbabazi has challenged in court nearly each and every decision the NRM has taken since he was thrown out as secretary general. None of his litigations has born fruit. Shockingly, he even said last week that NRM primaries are illegal.
The latest court decision to deny his protégé a demand that the NRM stops the process of nominating candidates was humiliatingly thrown out. I don’t know what he will declare illegal next.
There is no doubt that Mbabazi’s announcement last Friday to go as an independent will help the NRM become even stronger. Despite his lack of clarity on whether he is quitting the party, the announcement that he will contest for presidency on another platform goes against known party rules. Clearly, his membership ceases.
Time for his double-speak is over. The antics of dismissing the party’s new registration exercise yet he and his family stealthily undertook the registration are no more. The lines are now clearly drawn. The support he claims to have in the party must now come forward and be seen. Truth though is that Mbabazi has none.
There were predictions largely by the sensationalist press of Armageddon when he was dropped as prime minister; none came to pass. Similar predictions came after he was dropped as secretary general; nothing came of it. All the prophesies about the likelihood of a fractured NRM have been exposed now and become real empty rhetoric.
The NRM will once again win. No doubt whatsoever. Actually some party members were getting frustrated by the CEC decision to keep summoning him for discussions, which he would selfishly spin as an attempt by the party to woo him or portray as his indispensability from the party, yet his exit from the NRM was anticipated. He has actually been rehearsing his exit.
Everything he has been doing, since his clandestine operations against the chairman got exposed, clearly pointed to a person who was on his way out of the main fold. His recent claims of harassment by the state, assertions that he represents good governance and the enduring ideals of the NRM are all cover-ups to justify his exit.
He, however, was smart enough to smell imminent defeat in the NRM and, therefore, jump ship. As he announced this decision, over 1,400 opposition supporters in Oyam were crossing to the NRM and professing support for President Museveni.
The following day, thousands of NRM supporters in Mbarara marched to demonstrate support for President Museveni. Even the opposition where Mbabazi was hoping to find solace seems to be isolating him. No wonder Dr. Besigye has told his supporters that Mbabazi threatens to eat into their already meager support base — and has, therefore, increased the attacks on him. For the NRM, Mbabazi’s exit offers the chance of fully coalescing around our chairman and planning how to extinguish the faltering embers of the opposition fire.
The resistance struggle shall live on and on. Aluta continua!
The writer is the Minister for the Presidency and Kampala Capital City and also MP Kibaale County in Kamwenge District