Kyankwanzi Revolt: Is The Arab Spring Fuelling NRM Internal War?
The unshakeable spirit openly exhibited by youthful NRM legislators in fearlessly challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s authority, which has threatened a bitter split of the ruling party, could be fuelled by external political forces.
And most likely - the Arab Spring.
Never before in Museveni’s two-decade-rule had a bunch of mere legislators, he commonly refers to as ‘political allies under my care,’ threatened his hold on power as today.
But the fully-fledged revolt staged by NRM MPs, insisting the party Secretary General (SG) Amama Mbabazi must step down as Premier for allegedly accepting Tullow Oil bribes, despite firm resistance from Museveni, shows what the MPs are made of.
During a nation address last week, Museveni said Uganda’s only problems are the ‘political class and media.’ He never mentioned opposition, which at the time was organising the usually violent protests, raising fears he implied the politicians within his party.
To fully understand the troubles in NRM, one needs to look at its history and how the party leader has handled cases of indiscipline.
In 2005, MPs gathered in Kyakwanzi for a retreat. They had been called to discuss the Presidential term limits.
Several Ministers, who argued there existed an ‘oral agreement’ during the bush war that Museveni would step down after his first term in office, openly rejected amending the Constitution to allow Museveni stand for a third term in office. Miria Matembe (Ethics), Amanya Mushega (Education), Eriya Kategaya and others such as Augustine Ruzindana (IGG) who stood their ground lost their jobs! But Kategaya, for welfare reasons, changed his mind and returned to NRM.
Those who know Museveni very well say he uses the ‘carrot and stick’ policy.
After begging and then arm-twisting - with zero results, Museveni is left with no option but to fire ‘rebel’ MPs as he has threatened in the past, lest the internal rebellion sweeps his leadership away.
This would come at a huge cost since it’s more likely, because of their popularity, they would seek re-election in their constituencies and bounce back to the House.
The Arab Spring has shown that an internal uprising can oust a President despite presence of an adequately funded intelligence network and loyal security forces. The African revolution started in North Africa with Tunisian leader Ben Ali being overthrown, then Egypt’s Mubarak followed suit and Col. Muammar Gaddafi did not survive the rats.
Several opposition members have insisted that Ugandans can rise up and remove Museveni and this talk has reportedly excited NRM legislators who think NRM is a sinking Titanic. With walk to work demonstrations shaking the world, NRM MPs are now showing signs of ‘fence-sitting’ so they can be accommodated in the Museveni post-era.
It’s logical that the likes of Bernabus Tinkasiimire, Theodore Ssekikuubo and Mohammed Nsereko, who are considered to be leading the offensive against Museveni, are aware of the urgency of re-positioning themselves in case NRM collapsed.
It was unheard of for an MP to defy the President. For example Museveni begged NRM-leaning Independents not to divide party votes by contesting in the recent MP polls but they could not listen. Nsaba Buturo and Francis Babu were among dozens of defiant MPs who stood for election despite being floored in primaries.
This act of defiance seemed to have ‘graduated’ when MPs walked out on Musveeni during the Kyankwanzi retreat with analysts saying the big man could have lost control of the Titanic.
It was a clear signal of a fully-fledged rebellion against Museveni.
Allegations of ‘bully-boy’ tactics were made against Mbabazi as legislators fought to kill off plans to reconsider their recent resolutions in Parliament which included an investigation into allegations of oil bribery levelled against senior Cabinet ministers.
Wilfred Niwagaba said: “We can’t be party to undermine the institution of Parliament.” Nsereko Muhammad added: “Some of us are not willing to change Parliament resolutions because it is our country first. Let them have their views and we have ours.”
Museveni has in the past subjected them to a number of threats to make them toe the right line but they are still defiant.
The President is now facing the most serious political revolts since his re-election eight months ago. With the Kyankwanzi retreat backfiring as opposition leaders surge and ADF regroups in Eastern Congo, Museveni will have to play his cards very well to sail the Titanic through the whirlwind. Uganda is one country facing two revolutions.
John Nasasira, the chief whip that would have brought sanity in the party, is in court facing charges of abuse of office during the Common Wealth meeting in 2007 in which Shs12bn was lost.
It is in fact feared that Mbabazi and his cronies such as Mike Mukula (who desperately wants a ministerial position to further his presidential ambitions) could hit the phones to bring MPs back into the fold since the real Kyankwanzi arm-twisting has flopped. It’s hugely expected that NRM top shots could employ the classic tactic of peaking off the weak waverers or the ones angling to be bought off with some promise of ministerial appointments.
The most interesting bit of this is the timing. Why now is it that the NRM legislators are no longer charming playboys? A few weeks ago, NRM publicist Ofwono Opondo said the CIA was playing a big role in triggering political strife in Uganda. He insinuated that the intelligence outfit was paying off politicians in Uganda to wreak havoc.
This rhymes well with reports that following the outbreak of the Libyan revolution in May, CIA promised protection and welfare funds for top officials in Gaddafi’s administration if they quit the ‘mad man’s’ ranks. And it worked as Gaddafi became increasing unpopular and isolated.
If this trick is being played, considering the money-hunger facing our legislators, then Museveni is in trouble because they cannot be bought off. But one wonders why US would do that given the rosy relationship enjoyed between Washington and Kampala. Needless to say, a former US leader put it succinctly: “We don’t have permanent friends but interests”. The US abandoned Hosni Mubarak, a regional peacemaker and supporter of the infamous rendition program, when Egyptians rose up in arms against the 80-year-old’s tyranny. US looked the other side as it made vague statements about Mubarak. They never supported him at the critical hour, despite being a long-time ally.
We also need to be sensitive to audio clips released by police Chief Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, pinning an FDC women activist in subversive activities. According to Kayihura, Ingrid Turinawe said “opposition intended to create a situation where police and army can join and overthrow government because they are the ones with the guns.”
To add salt to a wound, Conservative Party leader Ken Lukyamuzi told our reporter last Friday that he is mobilising signatures to move a motion to censure Museveni for using a 30m Pound grant to buy a luxury jet.
During a cabinet meeting last Wednesday, Museveni said: “I know that those who want Mbabazi are after me. It’s me they want.”
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Updated on 2013-05-09 09:25
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