Can DP Survive Sebaana’s Death?
Nambooze says Party’s Future is very bleak
The passing of John Sebaana Kizito, the former two-term Mayor of Kampala and former President General of the Democratic Party was to be expected considering his prolonged ill-health but also from the mere fact that he was mortal.
Sebaana Kizito, after suffering from multiple health complications in recent years that culminated in a massive stroke that struck him about two weeks ago rendering him unconscious until he breathed his last at Nakasero hospital in Kampala on Monday July 3, 2017.
Sebaana’s departure has come in a particularly difficult year following the demise of what some have described as the pillars of the Democratic Party. Mathias Nsubuga Birekeraawo, who was serving as the Party’s Secretary General, died just before we crossed into 2017 – December 18, 2016. His sudden death also due to a massive stroke that hit him as he was buying a book in one of Kampala’s bookshops, shocked many who looked to him as a unifier and voice of reason.
Nsubuga’s demise was quickly followed by that of DP historical Boniface Byanyima nearly two months ago. Previously considered as one of the rocks of the party in Ankole and the country at large, Byanyima served as the Chairman of DP and active elder and advisor until the time of his death.
And if that was not bad enough, the party lost its long-serving lawyer and ardent supporter in the names of Edward Muguluma on June 12. He was aged 81.
He was most known for his unique sacrifice as a human rights defender who rendered free legal services to Ugandans at a time when many lawyers are known for defrauding clients. Muguluma’s commitment to upholding the principles of the party, as seen by the way he condemned and prosecuted errant behaviours in the ranks of the party, earned him a lot of praize.
He lived a humble life despite his visible capacity to afford high life, rarely drove a car and always priding himself in the fact that as a policeman he had capacity to walk around on foot.
One of his most outstanding cases was when he successfully petitioned court against the leadership of current DP president Norbert Mao and the Mbale Delegates conference that brought them to power. He sadly died before seeing the fruits of his efforts as the defendants obtained a court injunction that prevented judgement.
But above all, Sebaana’s death could have far reaching implications for Uganda’s oldest political party. Many in the party will attest to the fact that Sebaana was a financial muscle for the party who stepped in to provide financial assistance whenever internal fundraising mechanisms failed or when donor funding came short.
His wisdom and foresight has been widely acknowledged by party and non party members; as his successor and current president General Norbert Mao has said, Sebaana was a pillar of strength.
Mao wrote that: “The death of Dr. John Ssebaana Kizito has deprived Uganda of a ‘representative man’. A quintessential entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist. He presided over the difficult leadership transition in DP passing the baton from Uganda’s pre-independence generation to those born after independence.”
He went on to say that: “To his final days he remained a pillar of strength, a mentor and fountain of wisdom for the current leaders of the party countrywide.”
To many, Sebaana’s death represents the end of the road for the founding generation of the party that is not being replaced by equally visionary, charismatic leaders who can vie for political office with the backing of their Party.
Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament Betty Nambooze Bakireke, who claims is still nursing wounds inflicted on her by a faction of the party led by Norbert Mao, is less optimistic about the of the party.
Asked by this newspaper if she still holds hope that the party can survive the death of its seniors, Nambooze says DP’s future is very bleak.
She worries that the party may collapse just like its sister party – Democratic Party of Kenya that collapsed when its leaders sought alliances with rivals. For Uganda’s DP, she says, its current leaders are bent on staying in power and blocking new leaders to emerge and take over from them. In Kenya, former President Mwayi Kibaki witnessed the death of his Democratic Party when he entered into alliance with Raila Odinga. Reigning President Uhuru Kenyatta also cannot be proud of the fact that his father’s KANU party died after he took over its leadership.
“I cannot say with certainty that I am hopeful about the future of my party. I am very worried indeed. Let me be frank with you.”
Nambooze accuses Mao of refusing to exit from the party’s leadership despite losing in two presidential polls, first as a candidate and secondly, as a major backer of a candidate.
Nambooze describes the party’s current leadership crisis as lost generations. The first lost generation, who were Sebaana’s contemporaries, she says, was killed by Amin. They included Uganda’s first Prime Minister Benedicto Kagimu Kiwanuka. Several others leaders of the party were killed by Amin’s ruthless men.
Nambooze adds that the second lost generation is one that was persuaded by President Yoweri Museveni in the 1980s, which apparently included Sebaana but he later crossed back to DP.
She says that Museveni’s ‘mischievous’ plot that was dubbed a government of national unity, ended up killing an entire generation of DP leadership by taking promising leaders such as former Finance Minister Gerald Ssendaula, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, Current Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga among others. Majority never returned and have until recently comprised majority in Museveni’s government.
The third ‘lost’ generation, she points out, includes majority of those that voted for singer Bobi Wine in the recent Kyadodondo East Polls. She these are impatient, militant individuals driven by quick money.
“The group that voted Bobi Wine see no hope in the party,” Namboze states.
“The problem is that we’ve had so many leadership vacuums in our party. The first vacuum was created by Amin. The second was created by Museveni when he lied that the Movement was an all embracing party. The third vacuum has been created by Mao and his group who don’t want to organise elections through which new leaders can emerge,” Namboze adds.
Nambooze accuses Mao of ‘scattering into disarray’ his contemporaries and whoever sticks their neck out to offer new leadership to the party.
Nambooze says the party needs a revolution that would bring a new charismatic leader to restore hope in its base and general public.
“We need a revolution and a charismatic leader and that leader is not Mao, because what Mao has done is to turn DP into a canteen from where he can obtain groceries. President Museveni is very eager to embrace and support such people because they help him to kill their own parties without his efforts.”
Recently, in the just concluded Kyadondo East bi-elections, Nambooze says, DP pulled out its candidate one week into the race, and Mao promised to announce whom they would support in 24hrs time but has never done so to date.
The outspoken MP adds that DP has been reduced to funerals at which its leaders are so happy to make statements.
She predicts that in the coming 2021 general elections, DP will fail to return the same number of MPs it currently has in Parliament.
“In the next general elections, DP may not be able to get 3 MPs unless the incumbents stand again or personally endorse someone,” She says.
Namboze also blames Mao for failing to cultivate a good working relationship with the dominant Opposition FDC party, through ‘his abusive’ and ‘derogatory’ language.
Asked why she does not step up to take over the leadership of the party, Nambooze says her efforts to do so, including a national assembly, have been frustrated by Mao.
As Sebaana is laid to his eternal resting place this weekend, it seems likely that unless something dramatic happens, he will be buried with his party.