Weekly Observer | Why do you so fear competition, Chairman? By Moses Khisa

Posted October 27, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 5,275 views



This is what Ms Jacqueline Mbabazi, Women’s League Chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), reportedly asked President Yoweri Museveni at the party’s politburo meeting last Saturday.

Ms Mbabazi, it should be noted, is wife to the embattled former Prime Minister and (now also former or outgoing?) NRM Secretary General John Patrick Amama Mbabazi (JPAM).

Throughout NRM’s long reign, it has been a rarity to have someone with the courage to forthrightly speak truth to the power of General Museveni. In Ms Mbabazi, we have someone who has mustered unusual candor to intrepidly defend her husband’s right to aspire for the nation’s topmost job.

Her pointed criticism of the unabashedly partisan inspector general of police, General Kale Kayihura, and her relentless opposition to the very undemocratic act of declaring Museveni the sole candidate for NRM in 2016, have potentially placed Ms Mbabazi in the direct line of fire from the ruthlessness of state machinery.

At the reportedly-charged State House meeting on Saturday, a source intimated to The Observer, Ms Mbabazi could easily have been arrested! But so far so good, it seems.

Yet it might not be too long before the Mbabazis face full-blown state harassment that has heretofore been mostly reserved for Dr Kizza Besigye for daring to exercise his right to speak truth to power, and offer himself as an alternative to the decadent rule of General Museveni.

For whatever tactical reasons, JPAM remains publicly guarded about whether or not he will take a shot at the top job in 2016 even when his master is fully persuaded that he has a grand plan for a presidential bid. Museveni’s intelligence information aside, Ms Mbabazi’s consistent defence, and legitimately so, of her husband’s right to stand for president betrays the latter’s continued ambivalence.

Uganda People’s Congress’ ideologue Yoga Adhola, who has a knack for haste criticism of my views in this column, recently made what was undoubtedly an apt observation. Commenting on my column on JPAM two weeks ago, Adhola opined that the current fallout in the ruling party was the most significant development for the struggle for democracy in Uganda.

Not since the watershed presidential candidacy of Dr Besigye in 2001 had any other individual created such panic to Museveni as JPAM’s alleged 2016 presidential project. Museveni has an exaggerated phobia for political competition. A friend recently told me it was precisely that fear of competition that had enabled Museveni to rule Uganda for nearly three decades.

The inordinate phobia for competition is typical of highly autocratic rulers. Even when they have a very good chance winning an election, they will do all that is both imaginable and unimaginable to disadvantage their opponents, skewing the entire campaign terrain and rigging the polls outright.

Given how Museveni is deeply entrenched all around the Ugandan state and society, with enormous access to material resources to buy his way into maintaining a firm grip on power, it’s highly unlikely that JPAM can mount a successful presidential bid. But the Ssabalwanyi can’t take any chances.

And his handlers have most likely added to the man’s exaggerated fear of open political competition by overemphasising JPAM’s political strength and the extensity of his countrywide network of loyalists.

As I wrote two weeks ago, Museveni and his apparatchiks are intent on completely wiping JPAM’s power in the ruling party and government. His sacking as prime minister was just the beginning of a sustained pushback against a man once considered the de facto number two. Thus, reports that he was forced to take leave, with the leave-letter drafted and approved by the party politburo, came as little surprise.

Interestingly, JPAM will be on leave well after a delegates’ conference, scheduled for December 15, is convened to amend the ruling party’s constitution to grant the chairman powers to appoint a secretary general! Practically speaking, JAPM has been manipulatively booted and is unlikely to return from his leave.

If one thought Besigye had forced the worst out of Museveni’s ruthless authoritarian streak, JPAM, and especially the intrasigence of his wife, has laid bare all Museveni’s democratic pretensions. But it has also underlined a most unfortunate tragedy about our politics: that many would-be voices of reason, for instance MPs Mike Mukula, Jim Muhwezi, and veteran politician Francis Babu, are willing to cheer on General Museveni all the way to being a Mobutu, a Gaddafi or a Saddam Hussein.

One is hard-pressed to comprehend why these three, along with retired army officer Matayo Kyaligonza, would turn guns against someone for planning to legally compete for the ruling party’s chairmanship and the nation’s presidency. Was JPAM plotting a coup? Or does General Museveni have a divine right to rule such that it’s sacrilegious for anyone to compete against him?

The utterances of the aforementioned CEC members and their chairman, and their gratuitous grilling of JPAM, have further confirmed that there is no political party called the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Rather, it is the personal possession of General Museveni and whoever wants to remain in his good books, and stay at the eating table, must sing praises for him while unreservedly savaging anyone remotely suspected of attempting to challenge the master.

The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago-USA.

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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