Sun, 27 May 2012 Feature Article

Uganda has got a life president but some people still discuss M7′s successor

John Patrick Amama MbabaziJohn Patrick Amama Mbabazi

I think it is wrong for some people to measure Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi's popularity in Uganda on the basis of his winning in one constituency or 'winning'('rigging') the post of NRM Secretary General. Unless a national poll is run, we cannot know for sure how popular Mbabazi is nationally.

I think Mbabazi is nothing without president Museveni and my assumption still remains:' he will fall with the big man”. There is too much at stake here to promote Mbabazi as the next president of Uganda. He is undoubtedly an intelligent and serious man but I still cannot imagine Mbabazi as my president, but you never know. Uganda is one country where anything is possible.

Nonetheless, I don't know what makes some people think that president Museveni is looking for a successor. There are some NRM guys usually deployed to confuse Ugandans every time they are fed up with the Museveni or some stuff in the government. It was especially NRM journalists and sympathisers that wrote a lot of articles in the media and visited FM stations telling us that there is a succession war in NRM before the 2001 and 2006 elections. Some Ugandans bought it, and it kind of deflated the pressure the church leaders and Makerere students had galvanised against president Museveni. It is all a game to some of them and it is a bad game in my books. They cannot play this game indefinitely.

President Museveni himself has not helped the situation at all as he keeps enjoying this game endlessly, and now some of NRM supporters are at it again. In his 1996 election manifesto Museveni wanted the point inserted that he would only stand for one further term but how many terms has he had since then?

Museveni has never had any intentions to hand over the presidency ever since he came to power. But he knows how to calm down nerves down by telling those close to him every time there is an election- that he's standing for the last time. He did so in 1996, as I earlier stated. He again did so in 2001 elections. In his 2001 election manifesto, Museveni declared several times that he would contest 'for a last presidential term' and also put 'in place mechanisms for an orderly succession'.

In 2008, Museveni is reported in the press saying 'I am not going anywhere'. He stopped pretending since 2006. In the same year (2008), he was quoted as saying when asked about stepping down: 'It's me who hunted and after killing the animal, they want me to go, where should I go?'

During the 2006 presidential campaign, he had this to say: 'You don't just tell the freedom fighter to go like you are chasing a chicken thief out of the house.'

While addressing a meeting of NRM MPs from the western region, Museveni declared firmly 'If you shy away from me, I will also shy away from you'.

In June 2007, at a major retreat for NRM MPs, a number of MPs wanted to discuss who should be the presidential candidate in 2011. But at Museveni's insistence debate on the succession question was removed from the agenda.

So, we should not waste any more time on Museveni's succession project because we have got a life president, and we should come to terms with it.

Jesus, if Museveni is to go, we don't need people who have been helping him to stay in power indefinitely as if Uganda only belongs to them, and Mr. Mbabazi is certainly one of those that have helped to cement this dictatorship. Why would anyone feel that Mbabazi will do anything different from what his boss has been doing?

By the way, those who think that Mr. Mbabazi can only come in as a stopper waiting for ''president'' Muhoozi to take over, are day dreaming. The moment Museveni helps Mbabazi to become the president of Uganda, the former will not be going anywhere soon. Who wants to stay in paradise for a short time in Africa unless if one is a prophet, and I think even president Museveni must be thinking about it. Even loyal servants sometimes stab their bosses in the back.

Mbabazi's popularity VS Besigye's
Most of the NRM guys despise Besigye but they like using him as the standard to compare other candidates at local level. Which constituency did Museveni win before he became the president of Uganda? The whole intention of all this is to portray Besigye as a very unpopular man who should have become a MP before he stood for presidency or who 'jumped the queue' (to quote from the 'popular' Mbabazi). The Norbert Mao supporters tried the same nasty approach in the 2011 presidential campaigns to portray their candidate as already more popular than Besigye because he had been in parliament for ages( 9 years to be exact), but the later still did better than the former.

Besigye may be quitting the FDC presidency but he is not quitting politics, I believe. So, we are likely to see him around for a long time unless the man upstairs calls him. He has done well nationally since he started standing against Museveni in 2001. Museveni's numbers, on the other hand, have been declining (if we disregard the 'useless' 2011 elections). Museveni's numbers had declined from 5.1 million in 2001 to 4 million in 2006 while those for Besigye had increased from 2 million to 2.4 million over the same period.

There is a belief in some circles in Kampala that Museveni was forced to change the term limits because of Besigye's popularity in 2001 elections. There is also some unsubstantiated information that Besigye won both the 2001 and 2006 elections despite the results that were officially pronounced by the Electoral Commission.

The way Besigye performed in 2001 elections was an eye opener for Museveni such that he saw no NRM candidate capable of beating him in 2006 other than himself. Yes, 'popular' Mbabazi was in government but he wasn't seen by his boss as more popular than Besigye. Besigye campaigned in 2001 for only 5 months and he did unbelievably well despite the violence and an array of electoral irregularities impeding a fair contest. As such, term limits on presidency were removed in 2005 to prepare for a Museveni presidency in 2006.

In 2006, the judges were intimidated not to order for a re-run. These are now facts and on record. So, how can anybody compare Mbabazi to Besigye in terms of popularity? By the way, I have got a feeling that Besigye will come back as a presidential candidate in future at some point. It is a just a feeling but worth noting if you are an NRM supporter. And if he stands, Museveni will again have to convince the NRM guys that he is the only one that can take him on. Can you really see Ugandans voting for Mbabazi and discard the man who has been bracing the teargas regularly to change what has gone wrong?

Besigye may have a chance with a 'popular' Mbabazi( NRM). You see, it is now a fact that rigging has been part of Uganda elections since 1980s but sometimes it may difficult to rig and later win an election with a weaker candidate. That's why NRM has kept Museveni or rather he has kept himself running against Besigye for a long time, because he does not see so many options in his own party.

For instance, in Zambia, Keneth Kaunda was controlling the electoral system for decades ,as president Museveni has been doing the same in Uganda, but he was eventually defeated because he could not inflate the numbers as much as he wanted in his last election. Similarly, despite his weaknesses, Museveni has got some popularity in rural areas and there are pockets of people in urban centres that still love him, but i cannot see any reason why anybody would want to vote for Mbabazi, for what really?

I may be wrong about this, and I don't mean to sound like I'm undermining Honorable Mbabazi's authority or power- because I know he is extremely powerful and all that, but I don't see him standing a chance, moreover, against a giant Besigye. Phewwwwwwwwwwwww! He can only win if Kiggundu does it like he did it in 2011 and came up with surprising results.

So, Besigye would have a chance to get into that statehouse if NRM presents Mbabazi as their leader. But popularity never takes anybody to statehouse in Uganda. Otherwise, Besigye would be president by now.

I don't hate Mbabazi at all, and I would probably learn a lot from him if I was working for him because he is an elder with experience. But NRM should also reflect on this:' would he the best person NRM can offer to replace president Museveni?' If he is, then NRM does not care what Ugandans think about them and can do anything they want, which begs another question of why we are wasting money on presidential elections.

One of president Museveni's aides, Aisha Kabanda, wrote: 'Mbabazi is definitely an outstanding character……..'

Our nation is facing crises on several fronts at the moment, the resolution of which will require the steady hand of a statesman in possession of outstanding character, but I don't think Mr. Mbabazi is that person. What can he really do which would be any different from president Museveni's yet he is his close partner in crime? As the Baganda say: 'Mbulilra gwoyita naye…..', or 'birds of the same feathers flock together'.

Look, some Ugandans can say anything they want to support such a character but Mr. Mbabazi's image is so tainted. Do I need to remind them that in 2008 the parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises probed a controversial UShs.11 billion ($5.5 million) land transaction between the NSSF, and Amama Mbabazi. The majority report found him guilty of conflict of interest and influence peddling in the NSSF land deal, recommending sanctions against him and other involved officials. President Museveni had to call a special cabinet meeting with intentions of saving Mbabazi from imminent parliamentary censure. NRM MPs were also later summoned in statehouse and given orders on how they were gonna vote on this issue.

As a man with an otherwise' good' character and impressive history of employment (as Aisha Kabanda put it), it is little wonder it took the president to persuade the MPs and his cabinet to save his job, right?

Aisha also asked:' is he worse than any other President Uganda has ever had? '. Neither She nor anyone knows what Mbabazi will be like because he is not a president yet. So, I don't know why she was comparing him to past presidents we have ever had. May be, she meant president Museveni, right?

Anyway, I don't know why we are even wasting time on him because president Museveni is not going anywhere soon, I guess. That is why I think we are wasting time discussing Museveni succession project- especially Mr. Mbabazi. There is no succession or successor any time soon. Mbabazi will retire with Museveni unless the constitution is changed in 2021 to allow the 70 something old to stand for presidency.

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba