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Weekly Observer | Opposition Considers Mbabazi Alliance

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Posted June 8, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Inside Politics ~ 2,151 views

     

MBABAZI

Keen to destabilise the already divided top NRM leadership, opposition parties are working on a possible alliance with Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, The Observer has learnt.

Speaking last Friday, FDC President Mugisha Muntu told a public dialogue of the civil society-led campaign for free and fair elections that the opposition’s top priority was “ending Museveni’ dictatorship” to pave way for the establishment of democratic institutions in the country.

Part of the opposition’s resolve, as Maj Gen Muntu later told The Observer at Sharing Hall, Nsambya, was to work with progressive forces within the ruling NRM to end the Museveni presidency. He said opposition party leaders had agreed to deploy their youths to work alongside the pro-Mbabazi youths who are under fire from the largely pro-Museveni NRM leadership.

“We have agreed to work with democratic elements within NRM; if Mbabazi is one of those democratic elements, there is nothing to shy about, we are willing to work with him,” Muntu said.

The first contact between the opposition youths and pro-Mbabazi youths was in April after the arrest and detention of two Mbabazi youths; Willy Omodo-Omodo (NRM vice chairperson northern Uganda) and Adam Buyinza Luzindana (NRM vice chairperson for Kampala). The contact has been mainly between FDC and pro-Mbabazi youths. But Muntu said on June 6 that all other opposition parties had okayed the deployment of their youths to back the pro-Mbabazi youths.

“We need democratic institutions and a democratic country. There are democratic forces within NRM, and if they are struggling, we must work with them,” Muntu said.

The Observer has learnt that the agreement to forge an alliance with Mbabazi youths was reached after some opposition members met Mbabazi’s wife, Jacqueline. Interviewed for this story on Saturday, Ofwono Opondo, NRM’s deputy spokesman, said: “Those so-called youths are very few and can’t cause any impact. However, what NRM should do is to ensure that any efforts to undermine it are exposed.”

The Observer has also learnt of on-going talks between selected members of the opposition and Mbabazi’s associates, aimed at finding a working relationship. The meetings, held at different venues in Kampala, have discussed Mbabazi’s chances of winning the NRM chairmanship.

“The understanding so far is that Mbabazi continues with his push [for the presidency] from within NRM because he stands higher chances of winning at the delegates’ conference,” a source familiar with the meetings told us last week.

The NRM delegates’ conference to choose the party’s flag bearer is expected around August 2015.

Fears
Being the secretary general, Mbabazi is in charge of the secretariat that organizes and accredits delegates for the conference. In March, the NRM caucus resolved to assign some of the duties of the secretary general to Richard Todwong, the minister Without Portfolio in charge of Political Mobilisation. The pro-Museveni NRM group hoped to use Todwong to mobilise the party’s grassroots structures which are said to have been infiltrated by forces loyal to Mbabazi.

However, the embarrassing defeat in the Luweero Woman MP by-election last month has some leaders less convinced about the Todwong strategy.

“What matters now is what kind of people we will get at Namboole [for the delegates’ conference], we need to intensively mobilise for the formation of NRM structures such that we get reliable delegates that will not oppose Museveni’s sole candidature,” said Bukoto Mid-West MP Isaac Ssejjoba at the weekend.

Mbabazi has repeatedly said he will not run against Museveni if the president is endorsed by the party. But some in NRM are not convinced about his intentions. The implication of Mbabazi’s statement, an NRM MP argued, is that he (Mbabazi) will challenge Museveni in the NRM primaries.

“If you fail to mobilise from the village branch, you are likely to get unreliable people coming to Namboole as delegates. We need to get people who [support] the sole candidacy,” Ssejjoba said.

The pro-Mbabazi group, according to an inside source, is convinced that the premier can defeat Museveni at the delegates’ conference.

“The fears are that Museveni is likely to rig the primaries using non-delegates. There’s likely to be two lists: one generated by the secretary general and the other by the Museveni group; if this doesn’t happen, Museveni will be defeated and Mbabazi will be the next president,” the source said.

Mbabazi is also said to be banking on support in the party’s top decision-making organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), which also vets candidates for the party’s chairmanship. At least six of the nine CEC members are said to be in support of Mbabazi’s right to contest.

Talks
Mbabazi’s chances at Namboole form the basis of the ongoing talks with the opposition. His wife Jacqueline, seen as the key pillar of his presidential project, did not answer or return our calls at the weekend. Her sister Hope Mwesigye, a former Museveni minister, declined to comment.

Mwesigye has also been accused by Museveni of clandestinely mobilising politically against him. FDC sources say that so upbeat is the opposition that former FDC President Kizza Besigye and his successor Mugisha Muntu would consider backing Mbabazi for the 2016 presidential bid – although this could not be independently confirmed.

With the opposition in agreement that they should fight on a united front, the pro-Mbabazi camp wants parties to fast-track talks for a joint candidate for the 2016 elections so that they can compare notes.

“They are looking at a joint opposition voice with which they can marshal opposition support because Mbabazi is looking at a coalition government once he wins the presidency,” the source said.

Opposition talks for a joint candidate have been ongoing under the stewardship of the retired assistant bishop of Kampala, Dr Zac Niringiye.

Asked about the Mbabazi talks, Niringiye denied being part of them but said the opposition was willing to work with Mbabazi “if he repented.”

“I think we need to redefine the opposition. We are not an opposition to government but to Museveni and his dictatorship, theft, lies and distortions. Because if it were an opposition to government, then you would not be seeing the likes of Mbabazi, [former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya] jumping ship,” Niringiye said. “I keep referring to the Bible, and it preaches repentance; we have said if Mbabazi has repented for being part of the thieving mechanism, why not? He is welcome,” Niringiye said.

Asked about the said talks, Opondo called them a hoax being spread by the opposition.

sadabkk@observer.ug
smwesigye@observer.ug


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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