By Muniini K. Mulera | Mbabazi, Museveni 10-year War for Control of NRM and the Country
The Museveni regime’s assault against Amama Mbabazi’s campaign continues. No surprise, of course.
When it became very clear that Mbabazi would seek the presidency, Yoweri Museveni’s courtiers first chose deception to deal with the danger. What better way than to dismiss him as a non-starter!
Predictably, a symphony of dismissive statements took centre stage in the print and broadcast media. Many bought the lie, except one man and his inner-circle of operatives. President Museveni knew what he was up against.
Friends inside Museveni’s court had confided to me long before Mbabazi’s formal declaration of intent, that Museveni had extensive intelligence reports about Mbabazi’s incredibly well entrenched grassroots campaign operation. He knew him to be a very shrewd, disciplined and indefatigable operator.
Therefore, Museveni would have to marshal an arsenal of weapons to fight the man whom, until recently, he had publicly praised and defended as one of the finest leaders in the land.
Museveni took personal charge of the open war against Mbabazi. He orchestrated an agenda of humiliation, desecration and every imaginable attack on his old comrade, with the hope that he would either break him or pull the rug from under him.
The seriousness of the fight became clear when Gen Kale Kayihura, the most partisan police chief in Uganda’s history, was caught on an audio recording debriefing one Alex Kasirivu, then chairman of NRM youth league in Kayunga.
The latter narrated details of Mbabazi’s extensive campaign organisation and how they controlled the NRM across the country. Kayihura, not one to pretend to be anything but an NRM cadre, took the gloves off. He would fight Mbabazi in the open.
Meanwhile, the regime’s disinformation machine went into overdrive. They resurrected allegations of corruption and other ills that had been thrown at Mbabazi in recent years.
Museveni himself claimed that whatever had gone wrong in the government and the ruling party had been Mbabazi’s fault. It was as though Mbabazi had been the president all along.
Incredibly, some people, including journalists and veteran Opposition activists, bought a lot of this stuff without asking questions. People claiming to be in a struggle for freedom and justice were willing to crucify a man on the basis of allegations.
Prior to 2005, Mbabazi had been known as Mr Clean, having largely remained free of the corruption and other scandals that had become the signature tune of the Museveni regime.
However, when Mbabazi was elected secretary general (SG) of the NRM in 2005, Museveni became highly suspicious of his comrade’s intentions. He understood the power and influence a determined party SG could wield.
So he began to undo Mbabazi. Mr Clean had to be dragged into the sewers where many of the regime loyalists were drowning.
The president knew that he ruled a country where an allegation was treated as a fact, where an accused was always presumed guilty, and remained guilty despite the evidence.
The objective inquirer who reads the detailed reports, not the filtered stuff in the newspapers, discovers that Temangalo, Chogm, Oilgate and the OPM scandals were twisted to throw enough mud at Mbabazi to soil him in the court of public opinion.
In all cases, there was no evidence to incriminate Mbabazi. Had there been even the most flimsy but admissible evidence, Museveni would have had Mbabazi in jail a long time ago.
Meanwhile, Mbabazi’s role as NRM SG remained a source of worry for Museveni. When Mbabazi was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2010 as party SG, the President decided to edge him out with a pen. He would make him prime minister.
Museveni made Mbabazi prime minister, expecting him to resign the position of party SG. Prime Minister Mbabazi refused.
At a party NEC meeting held at State House, Entebbe on April 24, 2012, Museveni sought the help of the members to remove Mbabazi so that the party chairman could appoint his own SG. The NEC rejected Museveni’s demand. The battle for control of the NRM went into top gear.
Mbabazi continued to lay the groundwork for 2016. Museveni continued to craft strategies to destroy him. The dirty and increasingly violent war that is being waged against Mbabazi on the campaign trail is a continuation of a 10-year effort to destroy the President’s surprisingly most formidable threat.
Those who think Mbabazi is a Museveni mole, sent to destroy the Opposition, better think again.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada.