Uganda: Museveni’s War Within NRM
It is not clear how the latest clash between Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, will end. But it is interesting to watch how President Yoweri Museveni will handle it.
In the past, Museveni has played off one leader in the party, government, or security agencies, against the other. Under such a game plan, the question would be which of the two, Kadaga or Mbabazi, is to be kicked off the Yellow Bus this time?
Recent events indicate, however, that with too many clashes between top cadres of the party, this is no longer Museveni’s game. Some within the party have out-grown his strings; they hold power centres.
It is, therefore, inconceivable that Museveni can sack Mbabazi. It is also hard to see him attempting to unseat Kadaga. Instead, he will possibly wait and cheer the winner of this seemingly clash of David versus Goliath proportions.
Political experts and colleagues say Kadaga and Mbabazi have a history of animosity but their latest clash is the first to be played out on national television and on the floor of Parliament.
It erupted publicly when Kadaga spoke out about Mbabazi on Aug.20 at Parliament; first in the House and again on national television. She said he should stop accusing her of meeting opposition MPs and sympathising with them.
“I am a Speaker of Uganda; I am the speaker for all Members of Parliament and the way Parliament operates,” Kadaga said, “you talk to different people on different issues so for the Prime Minister to go and launch an attack on me because I talked to opposition MPs, it is very wrong.”
Kadaga said that in 2005 Uganda adopted a multiparty system of government, which means the views of many parties and their interests should be taken into account.
“When I took the oath to become speaker,” Kadaga said, “I said I would be speaker for everyone and I want government to understand that.”
Then she threw in the zinger.
“Prime Minister Nsibambi was Prime Minister for 12 years,” she said, “not once did he go to radio to attack the Speaker, even when they disagreed, he would come to the office and sort out the matters but this one [Mbabazi] has made it a habit, and I think it is not right.”
“I don’t attack the Executive, I don’t attack the Judiciary,” Kadaga said, “I want them also to behave themselves and stop attacking me as a person and my institution.”
A day after Kadaga spoke, she had to postpone a parliamentary session because over 80 members of cabinet dodged Parliament. Sources say the ministers have vowed to deal with Kadaga and, even with the fallacy of separation of powers in Uganda, Kadaga needs the ministers to be present for her to conduct substantive legislative business.
She knows an executive boycott could stymie her work. But it could also create a public backlash from the public against the Cabinet.
Conscience of Parliament:
It appears that for 10 years, while working as Edward Sekandi’s deputy from 2001, Kadaga decided that if the opportunity arose, she would be nobody’s stooge.
Immediately she was elected speaker, Kadaga became popular for her handling of a House dominated by Museveni’s NRM by appearing to give the few opposition voices a platform to vent.
Nobody was fooled. The numbers were against the opposition but Kadaga’s independent-mindedness ensured that they had a voice if not the vote.
She became the conscience of Parliament and an admired public figure. Her popularity crested when in 2012, outspoken Kabale priest Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda publicly endorsed her to become Uganda’s first woman President.
At around the same time, former Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said Uganda would be well-served if the next president is a woman. He was understood to be vouching for Kadaga’s abilities.
A survey by Research World International that same June showed Kadaga to be the favorite for next president across the political divide.
In the ever-present power games, President Museveni and Mbabazi obviously did not miss that. Her balloon had to be deflated.
If there is anything Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has mastered in his 37-year political career, it is the art of posturing as the most powerful and clipping the wings of ‘underlings’ like Kadaga.
In many cases, he has succeeded even at causing the downfall of those who fail to accept him as boss or oppose him. Meanwhile, those who understood his agenda have often been promoted.
Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya put himself among the Mbabazi opponents and lost. But others, including former deputy Inspector General of Government (IGG) Raphael Baku, minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs Saleh Kamba, and former minister of State for Health James Kakooza, have good testimonies of what it means to be in Mbabazi’s good books.
Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the Kyadondo East MP, describes how Mbabazi had succeeded in posturing and making himself and everybody else believe that he was the defacto number two to Museveni, whose word even in Parliament under Kadaga’s predecessor would be final.
“With Kadaga, this has changed,” Ssemujju said, “She is not like Sekandi (former Speaker now Vice President) who always followed Mbabazi’s directives. For her, she came in on merit and cannot be blackmailed by Mbabazi.”
Ssemujju attributes the problem between them to Mbabazi’s bruised ego because Kadaga has eliminated his role as power-broker in the Speaker’s chamber.
“Museveni has to directly deal with Kadaga, he has to convince her and not to order or direct her,” Ssemujju says, “But Mbabazi is extremely intelligent, he cannot attack Kadaga directly but he will look out for opportunities to undermine her.”
Kadaga knows that by taking on Mbabazi she is effectively fighting for her political life against a master of execution. Fortunately, she has had a lot of practice since she was elected speaker in 2011.
Like Mbabazi, she appears to have inflated confidence, fueled by political ambition, and a willingness to dabble in intrigue.
It is not clear what Kadaga, who will be just 60 years old when the next elections are held in 2016, is planning.
Until now, and since she joined politics in 1989, Mbabazi had been in the thick-of it; her fortune has depended on President Museveni. He made her minister for Parliamentary affairs in 1999, a position that propelled her to her current role. Will the ladder now be pulled from under her feet? If that happens, has she grown enough wings to soar past Museveni and Mbabazi?
While Ssekandi carefully hid any ambitions he might have harbored, Kadaga and Mbabazi, observers say, are not shy to flaunt their credentials as “presidential material”.
Alhaji Abdul Nadduli, the NRM party vice chairman for Buganda who also sits with the duo on the NRM’s top organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), was blunt about this when asked about it by The Independent.
“Those ones,” he said, “it is succession that is disturbing them.”
But the clash between them has sucked in the entire Executive and Parliament and could have wide implications on the functioning of President Yoweri Museveni’s government. Many ministers are publicly rallying behind Mbabazi “to deal with Kadaga” while MPs are standing behind Kadaga to “tame Mbabazi”.
So who’s boss?
Two days after Kadaga spoke against him, on Aug.22, Mbabazi unleashed two of his barking lieutenants; Minister without portfolio Richard Todwong and Media Centre boss Ofwono Opondo to refute allegations that the prime minister had accused Kadaga of harboring opposition sympathies. The rebuttal fell flat.
Todwong said Mbabazi had tried to reach the Speaker to assure her that he had made no such statements but Kadaga had refused to take the prime minister’s phone call. That was refuted.
“It is not true that I am not accessible,” Kadaga said immediately afterwards, “No one has tried to reach me and failed, and it’s not about finding me; this matter has been in the press for two weeks now, he [Mbabazi] should have gone to the press and clarified.” An army of MPs cheered.
A meeting by the Parliamentary Commission, where the two sit, also failed to reconcile them. This could worsen the already delicate grip of the Museveni administration on power, although party stalwarts like Nadduli deny it.
“It does not affect the NRM,” Nadduli said, “It affects those involved. Those watching them will now judge them according to what they are doing.”
But others like renowned constitutional lawyer, Laudislaus Rwakafuzi, think differently. He told The Independent that the standoff could precipitate reforms.
“The standoff shows that Uganda needs a Speaker who is independent of any political party,” he said, adding that beyond structural safeguards being entrenched in the law to protect the opposition which, by definition, is always the minority in a democracy, attitudes need to change.
“This idea of imagining that because the opposition is a small group that should be ignored is very absurd,” he said.
If Rwakafuzi’s ideas are picked up as a campaign platform, especially towards the election campaign period of 2016 when concessions are often easily given, it is not far-fetched to see movement on them.
Among issues that need to be resolved in the current tussle is the tangle of structural hierarchies.
As Prime Minister, Mbabazi should be receiving orders from Kadaga because she is his boss at two levels; in the NRM, as the second deputy vice chairperson of the party – she is second to Alhaji Moses Kigongo and third to the national party chairman President Yoweri Museveni – in the party hierarchy.
In the government, Kadaga is also third in the hierarchy, as Speaker, she is second to the Vice President and third to the President. She is followed by the Chief Justice and then the Prime Minister.
However, as the Leader of Government business, Mbabazi exerts a broader sweep of power; he is the boss of over 80 ministers who sit in Parliament. Secondly, as the Secretary General of the NRM, he is the administrator of a party with its nationwide network, and whose majority in Parliament dwarfs everybody else. The NRM boasts of a 258-majority in the 383-member House.
The result of these mixed roles for Mbabazi and Kadaga in the government, in the party, and based on constitutional hierarchy, is confusion about who is whose boss when and where.
Kadaga, today faces accusations of usurping the power of Parliament in interpreting the Constitution following her ruling in which she declined to declare vacant the seats of four MPs that the NRM expelled from the party and wanted out of Parliament. But Theodere Ssekikubo, one of the four MPs that the NRM ‘expelled,’ knows Mbabazi’s lethal ability to turn a crisis on its head to his advantage.
“You remember after the Delegates Conference,” Ssekikubo said, “the move was about how to remove Mbabazi (as secretary general) but then the issue of rebel MPs emerged and Museveni put aside Mbabazi to concentrate on the rebel. When you see Mbabazi now coming off as the most avowed crusader of the fight against the opposition, you wonder.”
In another controversial case, Kadaga and other members of the Parliamentary Commission hired Dr Sylvester Onzivua, the Mulago pathologist, to take samples of the late Cerina Nebanda, the Butalejja woman MP, to South Africa for an independent investigation in what killed her, Mbabazi was the first to come out and dismiss such a decision saying that as a member of that Commission, he was never consulted about that decision. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, was also forced to disown that decision. Kadaga was left on the spot.
Early last year, Jan.2, the CEC met. At the meeting, there were several issues stemming mostly from a storm in Parliament over the oil bribes in which Mbabazi was implicated. The storm had sent Kadaga’s star rising.
While at the meeting, sources told The Independent that Museveni presented intelligence reports showing that Kadaga was mobilising in Busoga region, holding meetings to boost her presidential bid come 2016.
When Museveni showed the documents to Kadaga, she dismissed them reportedly saying they were the handiwork of Mbabazi who was fighting her.
Mbabazi reportedly did not deny his involvement in the report.
He reportedly asked her: “Is it not true?”
Once again, Kadaga who had entered the meeting with all the tramp cards was being pinned against the wall. It could happen again.
Mbabazi’s ability to invent himself is partly historical.
In the 1980s bush war days, Mbabazi, while operating in the external wing of the National Resistance Army (NRA) carried himself as boss.
While those in the bush wore tattered clothes in the bush, Mbabazi was always wearing sharp suits and driving posh cars in the Kenya capital, Nairobi.
Brig. Pecos Kutesa, in his book, ‘How I saw It’, narrates how he felt that the late Sam Katabarwa and Mbabazi were not fighting the same war as those in the bush.
Kutesa, who was a bush fighter, narrates how one time he approached Mbabazi for some money. Instead of giving him free money, Mbabazi told Kutesa to wash his car in exchange for the money.
Kutesa at the time was a high ranking rebel, a potential commander and one of Museveni’s top commanders. He narrates how he was shocked that Mbabazi was asking him to wash his car.
When Museveni captured power in 1986, Mbabazi scooped the powerful position of Director General of the External Security Organisation (ESO) and later Minister for the Presidency. By the time he became Defence Minister and later Foreign Affairs minister, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mbabazi had succeeded in branding himself into a sort of kingmaker within President Museveni’s government.
It was often said that Museveni could never make any important decision without consulting Mbabazi. Whenever there was a whiff of a cabinet reshuffle, ministerial hopefuls prostrated themselves before him because, it was said, Museveni always filled the important few positions and left Mbabazi to complete the list.
When President Museveni praised him publicly, and those in Mbabazi’s good books kept rising, the claims of his invincibility appeared to be confirmed.
Later, when Mbabazi appeared to stumble from one corruption scandal to another and Museveni failed to sack him, word on the street was that the government would collapse if Mbabazi was ever sacked.
Even when he was Minister for Security, before he was promoted to Prime Minister in 2011, Mbabazi had earned the nickname of “super minister”. In Parliament, he behaved like he walked around with Museveni’s thoughts and decisions on major issues. He postured as President Museveni’s final man.
Ssemuju says under Ssekandi’s reign, Mbabazi was the defacto leader of government business and the Speaker.
“He issued directives from Museveni and himself that Ssekandi implemented without any questioning,” Ssemujju says.
It seems, when he officially became Prime Minister, Mbabazi hoped to consolidate his power. However, the wind carried in a formidable challenger; Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga.
Weeks, after Kadaga was elected Speaker of Parliament, Mbabazi would be seen escorting her from the House after parliamentary sessions or dashing in and out of Kadaga’s chambers.
But unlike her predecessor, Kadaga appears determined not to take orders from Mbabazi. She quickly made it clear that as Speaker of Parliament, she would not let him do her job.
But Mbabazi is no quitter.
As The Independent reported on Aug.16 in the lead article, “Oulanyah’s mess in Parliament”, Mbabazi appears to have frustrated Kadaga’s handling of parliamentary business, pushed her aside, and found a willing mate in Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah. It appears Mbabazi has decided that if Kadaga will not work with him, he will work with the more malleable Oulanyah.
Where will that leave Kadaga? Will she succumb or will Mbabazi have to pull her down?
But this is the second time Kadaga is being accused of being ‘unavailable’.
It is significant that Mbabazi accuses Kadaga of being “unavailable”. He is reading from the same script as Museveni who, in December 2012, said Kadaga was “too busy” to take his calls.
Back then, Thomas Kategere, the NRM candidate in Kadaga’s stronghold of Kamuli District, had just lost the LC-V election, and Museveni was angry.
That election marked a turning point in the Kamuli area elections as Kadaga reportedly tacitly sided with winning opposition candidate, Salamu Musumba. That arrangement effectively cleared the way for Kadaga to maintain her strangle-hold over the district woman’s seat that she has held since 1989.
It means Mbabazi and Museveni cannot easily dislodge her from Parliament come 2016. But they can snatch the Speakership from her because that is decided in the NRM caucus, which Mbabazi controls. But then, Museveni might also decide that this is a good time to tame Mbabazi. Whichever the outcome, there is bound to be one winner and that will be President Museveni.
President Yoweri Museveni who is into his 27th year in power faces unprecedented division with in his government, army, and other institutions. The public is watching how he deals with some that are simmering.
Bukenya VS Museveni:
In an unprecedented move, President Yoweri Museveni’s former vice president, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya has announced he will challenge him for the presidency in the 2016 elections. Just two years ago such a move would have been unimaginable. The last person to challenge Museveni was now de facto leader of the opposition, retired Col. Kizza Besigye in 2001. When word first emerged that Besigye was to challenge Museveni, he was immediately bombarded with threats and harassment.
Kayihura Vs Nantaba:
To be feuding helplessly with the Minister of State for Lands, Aidah Erios Nantaba is perhaps the worst sign of the powerlessness of the Inspector General of Police, army Gen.Kale Kayihura.
Nantaba is a 33-year old political debutante whose ministerial posting a year ago is her first major job. Gen. Kayihura, meanwhile, is a 57-year old decorated four-star general who has been by President Yoweri Museveni’s side since the 1980s bush war and is believed to be part of the inner sanctum of state.
But the bad blood between the two surfaced when each claimed to be on special assignment from the President to solve the land problem in Kayunga District. Nantaba who chairs the committee set up by the President to solve the land wrangles across the country quickly accused Kayihura of being in ‘bed with land grabbers’ and of frustrating her work.
But Kayihura quickly fired back, accusing Nantaba of uttering falsehoods and using unlawful methods to solve Kayunga’s land problems. Museveni has not spoken out publicly for or against any of them.
Brig. Kasirye Ggwanga Vs Brig. Muhoozi:
The point of friction is a house in the Makindye suburb of Kampala city that Brig. Kasirye Ggwanga has lived in for the last 22 years. Eyebrows went up recently when he was recently served with notice to vacate. He refused to budge claiming he is a bona fide owner of the property. President Museveni has constituted a committee to look into the matter amid allegations that Brig. Ggwanga’s woes are linked to comments he made regarding the First Son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
Gen. Tumwiine VS Pius Bigirimana:
Gen. Elly Tumwine, the man reputed to have 32-years ago fired the first bullet in the war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power, is under siege by Pius Bigirimana, a 55-year old permanent secretary battling allegations of corruption. When everyone, including Gen. Tumwine, was baying for Bigirimana to be sacked for his alleged role in the loss of billions in the Office of the Prime Minister, President Museveni refused to act.
Now Bigirimana, who was recently transferred to the Ministry of Gender as Permanent secretary, is accusing Gen. Tumwiine of using a government facility, Nomo Gallery, without paying rent now in arrears of Shs1.2 billion.
Museveni has remained quiet. Not so for Bukenya who has followed his pronouncement with attacks on Museveni’s government for allegedly tolerating corruption and squandering public funds.
Museveni has not commented but the official vehicle of the former VP has been withdrawn and a committee is proposing an amendment to the 2010 emoluments and Benefits of the President, the VP, and the Prime Minister Act, to strip Bukenya of more of his entitlements.
They contend that since Bukenya is still serving the same government as an MP, and therefore earning from the consolidated fund, it is unfair for him to draw two salaries from the same fund.
Gen. Katumba Wamala VS Gen.Sejjusa:
These two Generals have served as colleagues for over 30 years now. But when Gen. David Sejjusa aka Tinyefuza recently wrote to the Speaker of Parliament requesting an extension to his leave for an extra 3-month, the request seems to have struck a raw nerve in Gen. Katumba Wamala, who is the Chief-of-Defense Forces.
Wamala said: “It is only in Uganda, where someone would declare war on the state, and continue to earn a salary from the same government.”
Sejjusa shot back, warning Wamala to move cautiously because he was “not the first, and certainly not the last Chief of Defence Forces”.
Kadaga Vs Oulanya:
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga and her deputy Jacob Oulanyah have behaved cordially towards each other in public so far. But as the deputy continues to take controversial positions that contradict his boss, it is only a matter of time before the backroom fissures become public.
Compiled by Ivan Rugambwa