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Mbabazi’s long and winding journey in search of State House

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Mbabazi seem to be pondering on how to get to State House.
Mbabazi seem to be pondering on how to get to State House.

Recent political events in Uganda are quite interesting, more so in the ruling National Resistance Movement. In February 2014, during a retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi, Northern Youth Member of Parliament Evelyn Anite, on her knees, dropped the bombshell: Yoweri Museveni should be the NRM presidential flag bearer in the forthcoming elections in 2016.

There was thunderous applause by a large section of the attendees but one man was not very amused. And, as many fell over themselves to support the ‘sole candidate’ petition, Amama Mbabazi, a longtime ally and confidant of Museveni seemed like he was not in support of the move. In fact, reports indicate he ‘reluctantly signed the petition’, coming in at over number 200 of the party members in attendance, a seemingly late endorsement from a party Secretary General, some observed. It is not clear when the ‘cracks’ in the ruling party began but what is now known is that the Kyankwanzi retreat brought to the fore a rift between the two men, Museveni and Mbabazi.

KYANKWANZI

Kyankwanzi is a historical place for the NRM and in future some people party loyalists and other citizens might remember it as the place that destroyed the party that started it as a training centre for its Cadres.

For those with good memory, during the 2003 retreat in Kyankwanzi, someone suggested that two-five-year presidential term limits be dropped and in effect that Museveni go for the third term, contesting for the presidency. Still there was thunderous applause but some party members did not support the idea. Ministers Eriya Kategaya, Miria Matembe, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali and Sarah Kiyingi were later to fall out of grace with Museveni and in the ensuing period lost their ministerial appointments.

Then fast forward to February 2014; lone star Amama Mbabazi dilly-dallies to append his signature on the Anite Petition, and the music kicks off in earnest.

And, as the jostling for presidential candidate intensifies, first, the country is informed of a ‘pro-Mbabazi youth group’ led by Adam Luzindana, and this sets off a continuous hide-and-seek game with the police.

Then in tow another group springs up, the ‘pro-Museveni youth’ and this one demands that party Secretary General Amama Mbabazi be disciplined for flouting party decisions. It is also at this time of the melee that Mbabazi’s wife Jacqueline and her sister Hope Mwesigye Ruhindi join the fray, charging that Mbabazi has a right to contest for any office in the country.

All this time a meek Mbabazi keeps all 52 cards close to his chest, not giving any hint as to his next political move. But Museveni picks his pack of cards and in earnest puts an Ace on the table, calling for a series of meetings including two of NRM National Executive Council (NEC) and one of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) at State House in Entebbe. During the first NEC meeting pro-Museveni loyalists including Anite bay for Mbabazi’s head even as the party chairman tries to call for restraint. Mbabazi protests the behaviour and leaves the meeting impromptu, seemingly being haunted by the ghosts of ‘queue-jumping’.

At the second NEC meeting Mbabazi does not show up but at a later date comes in to attend CEC, the highest party organ where he belonged by virtue of being the NRM Secretary General.

JUMPING THE ‘NOTORIUS NRM QUEUE’

Mbabazi will be remembered for many things, both good and bad in the NRM. But perhaps the most outstanding thing is his criticism of Dr Warren Kizza Besigye’s dossier of 1999, which had sought to rattle the obtaining status quo in the NRM and country at large and, later the doctor’s declaration that he would contest for the presidency in 2001.

Then, Mbabazi told the country that in so doing Dr Besigye had ‘jumped the queue’, in apparent reference to an ambiguous setting where succession of NRM party leadership had purportedly been determined, probably on account of one’s seniority or contribution.

And, recently, after announcing his intentions to stand for NRM chairmanship and the presidency, Mbabazi is being treated to the same medicine by party spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut, who told him that he too was ‘jumping the queue’.

“Amama Mbabazi is, therefore, jumping the queue on procedure for accessing leadership within the NRM,” Ms Karooro Okurut was quoted as saying.

PARLIAMENT                             

A Mukiga from Kanungu district in the greater Kigezi region, Amama Mbabazi is one of the longest-serving legislators in post-1986 Uganda, having served in the National Resistance Council (NRC), the pseudo legislative arm of the NRM/A government, and later in the Parliament of Uganda as the Kinkizi West Member of Parliament.

SUPER MINISTER

Born in 1949, Mr Mbabazi has held several high profile offices in post-1986 Uganda, rising to the position of Prime Minister, a post he held for three years, from 2011 to September 2014, when he was fired in a ‘one-man’ cabinet reshuffle.

Earlier, Mbabazi had served as the first Director General of the External Security Organisation (ESO), before having stints at several ministries including Foreign Affairs (State for Regional Cooperation); Justice as Attorney General; Presidency; Defence (first full Minister) and then at the Security Ministry. It was at the time he was at Defence that he was code-named ‘Super Minister’ in apparent reference of his closeness to president Museveni.

NAMBOOLE CONFERENCE

In 2010, during the National Delegates Conference in Namboole Stadium, Mbabazi contested with former Vice President Prof Gilbert Bukenya Balibaseeka and then Minister of Trade Severino Kahinda Otafiire for the post of NRM Secretary General. Mbabazi emerged victor, but this was not before Otafiire accusing him before Museveni, the NRM chairman, of rigging. At the conference it was also resolved that the SG becomes a full employee of the Secretariat, and that the holder of such office holds no other job or if any then the docket of Minister Without Portfolio. Mbabazi ignored this resolution and continued as SG till his ouster in the December 2014 National Delegates Conference, a development some have described as the ‘final nail’ in Mbabazi’s clout as a top NRM honcho.

POLITICAL ACTIVISM

Apparently, Museveni, 71, and Mbabazi, 66, became political activists while Mbabazi was at Makerere pursuing his degree in law while Museveni was actively recruiting for Front for National Salvation (FRONASA. Given the difference in age, it is not clear how the two forged an alliance that would, 13 years later see them capture State power in January, 1986. But according to information available, the two first met in or about 1973, after the formation of FRONASA a politico-military organization that engaged the regimes of Field Marshal Iddi Amin Dada (1971-1978) and Apollo Milton Obote (1980-1985).

Mr Museveni has, at one point or the other been fighting while his close ally Mbabazi, under the ‘NRM External Wing’ was conducting missions to recruit fighters and mobilise resources for FRONASA and its successor, the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A).

MBABAZI THE HUSBAND, FATHER

Amama Mbabazis’ political journey cannot be told without mention of Jacqueline, his wife of close to 40 years and one who has stood by him during his current political tribulations.

As her husband enjoyed the limelight in politics, Ms Mbabazi was also enjoying perks in the corporate world, first as the Commissioner for Customs in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and then later as the Director General of the Nakasongola-based Luwero Industries, a financial arm started by the NRM government, that has interests in farming and deals in military hardware.

The couple is blessed with six children among them Rachel Mbabazi, fiery political activist Lenina Mbabazi, Mao Mbabazi and Marx Mbabazi. And, as if to prove his political credentials, he named his three last children in recognition of former Soviet leader Lenin; former Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung and Karl Marx, the Leninist ideologue.

THE PRESIDENTIAL BID

On June 14 Mr Mbabazi surprised many people when he announced his intention to contest for both the NRM chairmanship and the Ugandan presidency.

In typical Mbabazi flamboyance, the announcement was made via You Tube, with his supporters now dubbing him the ‘digital president’. Apparently, media reports indicate that the Man from Kanungu has gotten a nod from the Electoral Commission (EC), to peddle his presidential ambitions across the country.

Should Mbabazi win the 2016 elections, he will become independent Uganda’s 9th President, holding the reins of a country that has not seen a non-violent transfer of power since 1962.

Such is the political life of John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a man born 66 years ago in one of the remote villages of then Kigezi region.

Scandals

His name has heavily featured in many scandals right from the Teamangalo land scandal where it is rumoured he muzzled the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to buy his land at an exorbitant price, there was an inquiry by Parliament but nothing much came out of it as Mr Museveni came to defend his blue eyed boy.

Other scandals include the Chogm procurement of security equipments where it is alleged he had a hand and the Oil scandal and the Arab investor’s money in National Bank of Commerce.

 

 

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