The Observer | How Mbabazi, Besigye meeting in London ended in stalemate

Posted November 2, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in The Roadmap to 2016 ~ 2,379 views


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By Sadab Kitatta Kaaya — The surprise entry Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, into the opposition stuttering search for a joint presidential candidate, has renewed debate and hope that one of the two presidential aspirants; Dr Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, could soften and give way for the other.

Insiders interviewed for this story at the weekend, said it all began on October 21 when Kofi Annan rang Besigye (FDC flag bearer) and former Prime Minister Mbabazi (Go Forward) inviting them for a hastily-arranged meeting in the UK.

In his telephone call, Annan informed the two presidential hopefuls that he was acting on behalf of a group that is concerned about the political developments in Uganda, more so, The Democratic Alliance’s (TDA) failure to pick a joint opposition presidential candidate.

TDA’s failure, Annan said, was not good for democracy. According to sources, Annan said the TDA failure prompted him to offer a hand in facilitating dialogue between the two principals. Annan reportedly asked Mbabazi and Besigye to travel to the UK with two people.

Besigye, on his short-notice trip, travelled with Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, the FDC secretary general. Mbabazi, who was already in London, was joined by UPC’s Olara Otunnu. Bishop Zac Niringiye joined the meeting as head of the TDA secretariat.

Interviewed on Saturday, Mafabi said he learnt of the meeting just hours to their flight out of Entebbe International airport.

“My assumption was that we were going for our usual meetings until [Besigye] told me that we were going to meet Annan,” Mafabi said.
Mafabi said Besigye did not offer much detail about the meeting.


On the first day of the London meeting on October 23, Annan reportedly first talked to Besigye and Mbabazi before joining the bigger meeting that had former ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prof Mahmood Mamdani and Prof Anyang’ Yong’o plus representatives the British and American lobby groups.

During the closed-door discussion, Annan is understood to have asked the two aspirants to tell him the sticking issues that caused the TDA impasse. He also underscored the need for the two men to work together.

Besigye reportedly bared his misgivings about Mbabazi who he accused of joining the opposition simply to lead, but not offer support. Besigye also said that Mbabazi had failed to show commitment to the fight for rule of law, human rights and corruption – issues he has consistently referred to as central tenets of the opposition’s cause.

He also said that Mbabazi could not be trusted because he has no known structures and political support. To cement his point, Besigye boasted of FDC’s countrywide grassroots structures and a support base of at least two million voters that have consistently voted for him.

He also told Annan that much as Mbabazi got the majority of groups in TDA to support him, they are small parties without any known support and credibility.
Mbabazi, however, told Annan that much as he is a newcomer in the opposition, he committed himself to the opposition cause by signing the TDA protocol, which he said well represents the aspirations of opposition groups.

Annan later told Besigye and Mbabazi that the donor community has closely followed the TDA processes. He said the donor community is determined to end President Museveni’s long hold onto power.


According to insiders, after their closed discussion, Annan led the two men to the bigger meeting where Mafabi raised similar issues Besigye had talked about in the closed meeting.

Mafabi’s submission fired up the meeting and Besigye was put on the defensive. For instance, Besigye was challenged about his insistence on running as an FDC candidate yet in the 2011 general election when he was the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) candidate, he said parties do not matter and that it was better for them to take on NRM’s Yoweri Museveni as a united force.

The meeting asked him whether the governance system had changed and the ground was now level for parties to individually defeat Museveni. The capacity of FDC structures also came under scrutiny. The participants queried FDC’s failure to guard Besigye’s vote. They said the structures were either weak or were compromised.

At some point, Ocampo, who sources familiar with the meeting described as rather aggressive, asked Besigye what the meeting could do for him to bow out of the race. It was as if, one source said, Ocampo’s mission was to ensure that Besigye stands down for Mbabazi.

When this reporter asked Mafabi what he made of Ocampo, he told us on Saturday that they too were shocked by Ocampo’s approach, before hastily refusing to discuss the matter any further.

Ocampo’s approach, according to sources, led Besigye’s side to think that people in the meeting had conspired against him. It appeared to Besigye that the purpose of the meeting was to get him to stand down for Mbabazi.

At that point, Mafabi told the meeting that since the two principals come from the same “village” (Kigezi), they should be given time to talk alone.


When the two emerged later, they had no positive news. They informed the meeting that they had agreed to continue talking. This, however, incensed the Annan group. To ensure it controlled the outcome, the group offered to facilitate dialogue between the two principals.

At the end of the two-day meeting, an eleven-point agreement was reached and the two presidential hopefuls committed to work together to end the split within their ranks.

But importantly, the agreement which the two principals signed set today (Monday) as the deadline for them to agree on a single presidential candidate.
Once that is achieved, they will then agree on a power-sharing deal in the event the opposition wins the forthcoming election.

In the new government, the agreement stipulates, one of them will become prime minister with authority to perform executive duties, and shall not be removed by the president.


When they returned to the country last Thursday, both Mbabazi and Besigye separately briefed their organizations on the outcome of the London meeting.

In a press statement issued on Thursday, FDC announced it had set up a four-man team led by Besigye to further negotiate with Mbabazi. The party declined to disclose the other members of the team. But on Friday, FDC President Mugisha Muntu told a press conference that the party is committed to a workable formula to cause regime change.

“We believe that these negotiations are being taken seriously from both sides; we have been open with all the discussions that have been held for the last three or four weeks seeking to see how we can cooperate and find solutions to ousting this regime because that’s the main objective,” Muntu said.

The Mbabazi team, on the other hand, has Otunnu, Kibirige Mayanja (former JEEMA president and presidential candidate), Medard Lubega Sseggona, the Busiro East MP, and Beti Kamya (UFA).

The teams began meeting on Saturday, the same day Annan’s representative was expected to arrive in the country. The minister for the Presidency and Kampala, Frank Tumwebaze on Saturday scoffed at Annan’s efforts.

“He is simply hobnobbing with political actors who have failed to win support and legitimacy at home and now are desperately looking for external backers,” Tumwebaze said.

“He will be shocked to learn that he is wasting his time with losers.”

Source — The Weekly Observer

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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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