Last week Wednesday June 10, Hotel Africana was a political scene as it hosted the launch of the The Democratic Alliance (TDA) which was termed by many as a historical event that brought together leading political activists determined to wrestle power from the tight grip of President Yoweri Museveni.
The alliance brought together many luminaries of yesterday and today’s political landscape, except of course President Yoweri Museveni, whose removal from the seat he has occupied for thirty years, as the group’s main objective.
Given the group’s stated objective, the presence on the high table of common faces in the opposition such as Mugisha Muntu, Ken Lukyamuzi and Betti Kamya, was largely expected. But the presence of former Prime minister Amama Mbabazi’s sister in-law Hope Mwesigye who conveyed Mbabazi’s willingness to support the ideas of the alliance, energized the group as many suddenly looked at it as a broader democracy-seeking initiative.
All of a sudden, most speakers posited, the elusive unity that had bedevilled the opposition in the past, had finally been achieved.
Hope Mwesigye told the gathering that although some of their principals, who many understood as a reference to Amama Mbabazi, were absent,but they largely concurred with the main ideas of the alliance.
The sudden announcement this week by ex-premier Amama Mbabazi that he wants to challenge Museveni for president, eclipsed the new alliance, some thought.
Some observers considered Mbabazi’s announcement as a departure from the goals of the alliance considering that the one of the principles of the group was the subduing of individual interests in favour of a single flag bearer.
It should be observed however that while the Alliance concurred to subdue the individual interests of members in favour of a single joint candidate, it does not stop political party activities.
Rather the decisions by Mbabazi and Mugisha Muntu to vie for their respective parties could actually be seen as the starting point for the Alliance to get candidates from among whom the flag bearer will be chosen.
According to the Protocol of The Democratic Alliance, the rule book that governs the Alliance, the flag bearer will be chosen from among the chosen flag bearers of the parties to the Alliance, or an individual chosen who subscribes to the group but has the capacity to earn them victory.
According to Section 10 of the Protocol, which spells out the criteria for selection of candidates, the Summit – which is the decision-making organ of the Alliance with 27 members, has the discretion to choose someone as its joint flag bearer, even when they lose in their primaries.
Sub-section c of clause 29 states: “The Summit may in its discretion chose any candidate taking into account the goal of winning an electoral majority,”
So far, the reaction of the top guns in the ruling NRM party suggest that Mbabazi faces an impossible task winning the candidates’ flag bearer in his own NRM as he desires.
In a hushed and apparently desperate unedited video response to Mbabazi’s announcement, President Yoweri Museveni said this week that Mbabazi cannot claim to offer new solutions to Uganda’s challenges because he has been responsible for most of the conditions he claims he wants to address.
“Mbabazi has been at the centre of this system all these years. All these weaknesses he talks about are largely his responsibility,” said Museveni.
Insiders argue however that Mbabazi’s knows he may not win the NRM flag bearer but has the potential to chip away at some of Museveni’s support from within the NRM party even when he loses.
The calculation for Mbabazi is that he wants to cause a split within the NRM, using the machinery he left while serving as its secretary general, which support he will use to claim for the leadership of the Democratic Alliance.
Sources close to the Alliance argue that the group, whose roots date as back as 2011 following the failure of the Inter-Party Coalition (IPC), has been brokered by donors with the view to bringing Museveni’s long reign to an end.
They add however that while Besigye remains the more popular opposition politician, he may not cause as much excitement among voters as perhaps Mbabazi would.
Donor, who denied they are backing Mbabazi, largely view Mbabazi as a more agreeable person to whom Museveni would be more willing to hand over power than say Besigye.