When Museveni’s best friend tried to wrestle his power away, help to deflate the threat came from his seasoned political nemesis!
What happened in the political space of this country in the last two weeks has left my mind in total awe. Dr. Kizza Besigye is determined to compete with Amama Mbabazi instead of his erstwhile political nemesis, President Yoweri Museveni.
Earlier, before Mbabazi had parted company with his longtime friend and former political ally, Besigye announced that he would not be party anymore to elections under Museveni’s Presidency. He had actually disappeared from the political scene, occasionally holding press conferences with his new found ally, Erias Lukwago, the embattled Mayor of Kampala.
When Mbabazi declared his intentions to contest for the presidency, Besigye also reactivated his presidency ambitions. In his party, the FDC, Mugisha Muntu had become the natural leader. Muntu had worked hard to keep the party going in the midst of divisions that had been created by the elections that won him the party leadership.
I am sure Muntu was as surprised as Winnie Byanyima, Besigye’s wife, when the retired colonel reneged on his word and declared his intentions to run for President, more so on the FDC party ticket. On June 15, 2015, Ms. Byanyima tweeted, “Besigye, Muntu to face off in FDC polls… I am taken by surprise!”
In the meantime, a loose coalition under the name, The Democratic Alliance (TDA), was put in place to mobilise the opposition politicians to choose one candidate to contest against the incumbent. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the TDA was an effort to rally the opposition behind Mbabazi, the man whom many believe stands a better chance, if any, to defeat President Museveni.
Why did Mbabazi’s candidature create excitement and hope among the anti-Museveni people? Few NRM leaders, if any, were as close to Museveni as Mbabazi was. Mbabazi’s decision to stand against his friend actually sent shock waves that are still hanging on the top of the NRM party and the country. President Museveni himself got destabilised. We had never seen our President knocked off balance.
I will never forget the image of President Museveni when he addressed the country for the first time after Mbabazi’s YouTube announcement declaring his intemtions to run for President.
Immediately after his return from South Africa, the President addressed the country on television. It was not the image of the Museveni we all know. This was an image of a man who was not sure of what say, what not to say, how to react, and how not to react.
Within the NRM, Mbabazi candidature created panic, uneasiness and what the Americans refer to as McCarthyism. Many people in the party do not know whom to talk to or not to talk to.
Party members, including some leaders, have been divided into camps; some belonging to the Museveni camp, while others to the Mbabazi camp. Those that belong to or are simply suspected to belong to either camp, have been subjected to accusations and as a result have been cold-shouldered.
Since Mbabazi has been so deeply rooted in the State apparatus, the impact of his decision to run against his former boss and friend cannot be understated. Undoubtedly there is now a lot of mistrust in the NRM party and government.
The party leaders and supporters can no longer interact freely for fear that those they talk to might be belonging to a ‘wrong’ camp. They have to make calculative moves, statements and gestures while dealing with other.
Besigye can’t win
Therefore, it doesn’t require one to be a genius in political analysis to know that Mbabazi’s candidature, more than any other person and particularly at this point in time, would cause the incumbent more problems. Mbabazi represents hope for a number of categories of people who had lost hope and faith in presidential elections.
These include; those that are disillusioned by the NRM, those that are disillusioned by the opposition, those that want change for the sake of it, and those that are simply Mbabazi’s sympathizers for the way he was hounded out of the party and government just because he expressed his ambition to become president.
It is thus logical for one to think that if the entire opposition were to rally behind Mbabazi, the odds would turn against the incumbent. It is also quite clear that Besigye cannot win the election.
He loves to argue that he has been winning in the past, only for the NRM to steal his victory. Well, that’s the very reason I am saying he cannot win. However, apart from that I also believe that between Besigye and Mbabazi, the latter would be more likely to make damage to NRM’s block vote for the reasons given in the preceding paragraph.
This doesn’t require a lot of scientific expertise to see. So why has Besigye and his supporters failed to join Mbabazi? Had it been any other opposition politician, other than Besigye, we would suspect Museveni’s invisible hand. We would think that Besigye had been coopted by the NRM to help them fight Mbabazi.
However, over the years Besigye has distinguished himself as a dependable opposition politician. He has passed nearly all exams of a credible opposition politician that many of his colleagues have failed.
So what could be the reason behind this illogical decision by Besigye to refuse to support Mbabazi? Could their past personal differences explain this? Is it because Besigye feels Mbabazi, having been one of the chief architects of the NRM’s “bad deeds”, does not deserve to be President before him?
Does he feel that Mbabazi would be worse as a president than Museveni? Does Besigye feel he is better off remaining the chief opposition leader than becoming a Prime Minister or any other position that Mbabazi would give him if they worked together to defeat Museveni?
Whichever way you would want to answer those and other related questions, it points to one fact: Museveni was born a very lucky person. Over the years, his has been a life of hard work and luck.
It is Roger Tate Jr. who said, “The secrets to success are hard work and luck.” Indeed we all know that the harder one works, the luckier they get. President Museveni has been the first VIP (very important person) in Uganda for 30 damn years! Walking the red carpet lined by all other human beings in the country. Receiving salutes from all men and women in our military uniform. Having the right of way on our often congested roads. Arriving last, and in most cases late, at all public functions. All these for one man, for 30 years!
Yet his has almost been a smooth ride; rarely have we seen any serious threat to his power and/or life during the past three decades. That is uncharacteristic of long serving leaders in Africa. Many who tried to stay around for extended periods endured coup attempts or even threats on their lives. Not Y. K. Museveni.
When his best friend, out of unclear reasons, tried to wrestle his power away, help to deflate the threat came from unexpected quarters. It took Museveni’s seasoned political nemesis to fight his war. Mr. President, that is the introduction to the book I am preparing to write when you retire after leading us for 40 years!
During the liberation bush war of the 1980s, we were told an interesting myth; that Yoweri Museveni, then a rebel leader of the National Resistance Army (NRA), could sometimes turn into things like a cat or even lifeless things such as a bunch of firewood or an anthill to evade the enemy.
This siasa helped the NRA to inveigle a very big section of Ugandans, especially the peasants in rural areas, into looking at their leader as unparalleled and invincible.
Stupid as this talk may have been, no one has ever demystified it to the satisfaction of the layman. So even up to now, some peasants still believe that Museveni is superhuman. Imagine people living on this planet in the 21st century believing that a human being can turn into a cat! If that is not luck on Museveni’s side, then luck has no meaning.