Opinion | Daniel Kalinaki | On Amama Mbabazi’s Loyalty, Enemies and Sacking – The East African!

Posted September 24, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Inside Politics ~ 6,586 views



President Yoweri Museveni asked Amama Mbabazi to resign as prime minister, then sacked him before he could jump, according to people familiar with the matter. The president and premier are said to have met last weekend to try to resolve what many see as a simmering political conflict between them that has lasted over three decades.

On the face of it, the conflict was around Mr Mbabazi’s ability to effectively mobilise support for the ruling NRM party as secretary general while also supervising government ministries as prime minister. However, it is Mr Mbabazi’s own ambitions and his refusal to endorse Museveni as the sole party candidate in the next election, due in 2016, which made his position as PM no longer tenable.

The EastAfrican has learnt that Mr Mbabazi was asked to resign one of the two positions in the meeting with the president and was preparing to step down from the premiership when the decision was made for him on Friday morning.

President Museveni wrote to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga nominating health minister Ruhakana Rugunda as the new PM. Parliament is expected to easily approve the appointment of the veteran politician who, like Mbabazi, is from Kigezi in southwest Uganda.

Sources close to the former PM told this newspaper that Mr Mbabazi “did not expect” the announcement from State House, which came just before President Museveni left to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.

Suave, hardworking, and with assuredness that critics say amounts to arrogance, Mr Mbabazi served in the external committee of the guerrilla army that took power in 1986 in Uganda but slowly rose through the ranks to become the most powerful politician in the NRM after Museveni.

His unquestioning loyalty to the NRM and to Museveni upset foes and exasperated friends but it allowed Mbabazi to outlast many who dared to challenge the incumbent or whose loyalty was found wanting.

While his sacking was abrupt, sending social media buzzing with memes, the falling out of the two men has been a train wreck captured frame-by-frame, blow-by-blow.

It started, ironically, with Mbabazi’s appointment as prime minister, in May 2011, when Museveni described him as “disciplined,” “knowledgeable” and one of the “most ideologically reliable cadres” of the NRM.

As PM, Mr Mbabazi was driven and methodical, attempting to reduce bureaucracy and inspire cynical bureaucrats. For instance, one civil servant was surprised, one Saturday morning, to receive a telephone call from the prime minister asking for a report that would, in the past, have been filed away routinely and forgotten.

However, Mr Mbabazi’s ascension to the job and the profile and publicity he suddenly enjoyed rattled many.

They included some who blamed him for their waning political fortunes, those from the military wing of the regime who have remained disdainful of those who “did not fight,” and those whose pork barrels carts are hitched to the Museveni wagon.

Eventually, it rattled Museveni himself. After an intelligence dossier sent to the president accused Mbabazi of preparing the ground for a rogue run for the job, the incumbent increased the pressure on him to quit as secretary general of the party.

When Mbabazi refused to quit the elective position, a plan was quickly put in place to undermine him and his plans. Allies in the security establishment were arrested or removed from key positions, a bank in which he had interests shut down, pro-Mbabazi youth groups infiltrated and disbanded and the women’s league of the NRM, which Mbabazi’s outspoken wife heads, mobilised against her.

In addition, Richard Todwong, a youthful minister, was appointed to effectively do the work of the NRM secretary general, and a pre-emptive campaign was launched to endorse Museveni as the sole party candidate, using members of parliament to by-pass the NRM structures that Mbabazi controlled.

Throughout it all Mbabazi remained poker-faced, saying he would not stand against Museveni for president and dismissing the sole-candidature as neither legal nor representative.

Stoic and spotless

Despite widespread but unproven claims linking him to less-than-proper dealings, for instance in a land transaction with the National Social Security Fund, Mr Mbabazi remained stoic and spotless, a Teflon man against whom political mud just refused to stick.

When Mbabazi first turned out at Namboole Stadium in Kampala to support the national football team, he was booed and heckled (he played rugby in school, but not football) but he continued to turn out. On his last visit, earlier this month, he was roundly cheered.

Clear that Mbabazi’s popularity was defying gravity and political mudslinging, Museveni decided to cut him to size, firing him from Cabinet and making his the shortest reign as prime minister.

In a statement issued on Friday, Mr Mbabazi was typically graceful, thanking Museveni for the opportunity to serve, expressing confidence in Dr Rugunda, and offering to continue serving the country in whatever capacity he can.

For now Mr Mbabazi remains secretary general of the NRM. It is a big job that has been whittled down from lack of funding and the appointment of parallel structures.

If he harbours any real ambitions he will have to build on that role without the visibility or resources that come from being in Cabinet.

Mr Mbabazi, who is financially independent, is unlikely to suffer the humiliating fall from grace that two of his predecessors, Cosmas Adyebo and Samson Kisekka, who were left down at heel.

However, more than a decade after he accused Kizza Besigye of jumping the queue to succeed Museveni, he finds himself sent back to the back of the line.

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli argues, “it is desirable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved”.

Mbabazi rose to the top without being loved or feared. Whether he goes away quietly or comes back fighting – and whether he will seek love or fear – will depend on whether he has learnt anything from history and four decades of working with The Prince of Ugandan politics.

Source — The East African

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.

One Comment

    Henry Ndawula

    This is the end of Mbabazi. He knows where power lies in Uganda & his limitations too, besides, he is a coward who fear taking risks.

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