People & Power

Mbabazi Vs Museveni: Is it a repeat of events in Kenya in early 1989?

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Mbabazi (L), and other NRM cadres listen to President Museveni (R) during a party retreat in Kyankwanzi last year. The premier is in the centre of a storm of reports of having presidential ambitions. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE 

By ISAAC MUFUMBA

Posted  Sunday, March 9  2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Two tales: In 1989, Kenyan former vice president left office to avoid an ongoing vote-of-no confidence by MPs after he was accused of planning to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi’s government. Could the same happen in Uganda?

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Jinja.

On Tuesday, the NRM Parliamentary Caucus recommended that Mr Amama Mbabazi, the man who was until very recently looked at as “the next President of Uganda”, will appear before the party’s Disciplinary Committee if the resolution of the NRM caucus in Parliament last week prevails.
The caucus also recommended that Mr Richard Todwong, the Minister without Portfolio in charge of Special Mobilisation, takes over some of the roles of Secretary General of the ruling party.

“I have been tasked to coordinate the party as Secretary General until the next general elections,” Mr Todwong told sections of the local media.
A source that attended the meeting has since revealed that the decision was reached following complaints by President Museveni that much as the 10-day Kyankwazi caucus meeting had agreed on consolidating party cohesion, petty issues have continued arising because some party members, driven by raw ambition, had continued engaging rural folk and collecting signatures to help them achieve their ambitions.

It is not clear whether those comments were directed at the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who is being backed by a “pressure group” that has since embarked on a nationwide effort to collect signatures to petition her to take on Mr Museveni in 2016 or at Mbabazi, who has continued giving conflicting signals about his ambitions despite the decisions arrived at in Kyankwazi which he endorsed as signatory 202.

Criticism
Given the flak that Mbabazi has been receiving from members of the caucus, it is clear that he was only saved from suffering an embarrassing dismissal from the party by the fact that the caucus does not have a legal mandate to enforce such a course of action.

That Mr Mbabazi has enemies and friends or sympathizers in equal measure should not shock anyone. Death is the only thing that most humans have failed to come to terms with or muster. It shocks every time it strikes.
The same cannot be said of political fallouts such as those we are seeing in the NRM. If the same could have been said of them, then there would have been no need for any of our leaders to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or Nicolo Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Others in places yonder can learn from political fallouts. So could it be that Mr Museveni is simply following in the footsteps of former President of Kenya, Mr Daniel arap Moi?

A look at Charles Hornsby’s book, Kenya: A History Since Independence will tell you that what is happening is not new. It strikes a chord with what is going on in our backyard.
In 1988, Arap Moi replaced Mwai Kibaki with Dr Josephat Njuguna Karanja as vice president of a nation whose government was “consumed by internecine fighting and clashed with donors, churches and lawyers and anyone who dared challenge its right to rule”

The only difference between the Kenya of the time and the Uganda of today is that the NRM government is presiding over the country under a multiparty dispensation, but that does not mean that it adheres to the principle of free competition as envisaged in such a dispensation.
Dr Karanja, however, soon found himself in trouble with the government. In early 1989, he resigned to avoid an ongoing vote-of-no-confidence in Parliament.
He was accused by David Mwenje, the former Member of Parliament for Embakasi Constituency, of wanting to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi’s government by soliciting help from foreign nations.
Karanja had a network of friends in the United States of America and Britain where he had been an ambassador and high commissioner.
But by then it had long been clear to all and sundry that Karanja was definitely on his way out.

Part of Dr Karanja’s problems was that his “stunningly beautiful” wife was educated and of Ugandan origin. If websites are anything to go by, Dr Karanja was showing off her beauty and brains at a time when “political wives were neither seen nor heard”.

I cannot authoritatively talk about the looks or education of Mr Mbabazi’s wife, Ms Jacqueline Mbabazi, lest I be accused of coveting another man’s wife, but one does’t need a set of eye glasses to discuss her looks.
Having risen to the level of Commissioner in the Uganda Revenue Authority, one does not need a look of tutelage to understand that she is by far one of the most educated, intelligent and hard working women in this country.
Ugandan women may have made strides since the NRM took power, but Uganda remains largely patriarchal. Many of us are yet to come to grips with the fact that women like Ms Mbabazi can be mobilisers of great stature.

One of the accusations against Mr Mbabazi is that he has been using his foreign contacts, especially among the Chinese, to gain political influence.
Like Karanja who became Vice Chancellor of Nairobi University at the age of 40 and was on account of high education and exposure accused of being out of touch with the common African population, Mbabazi too has been accused of being aloof and detached from the average supporter of the NRM.

Karanja’s exit
The campaign that ultimately led to Dr Karanja’s exit was launched in February 1989 from his native Kiambu District by Arthur Magugu and a man who the Standard newspaper describes as “the little known Director of Motor Vehicle Inspections”, Mr Kuria Kanyingi.

According to the Standard, Kanyingi accused Dr Karanja of acting “like a small god in heaven, demanding that politicians kneel before him and claiming he was both acting (when Moi was away) and president – in - waiting of Kenya”.
At the same time, “small” Kikuyu politicians attacked Karanja for claiming that the Kikuyu were being finished.

The signal for the hounds to make the final attack was reportedly released in March by President arap Moi, when he declared that he had never named anyone as Acting President, which implied that Dr Karanja had arrogated himself powers that were never his for the taking.

That strengthened the anti-Dr Karanja forces. In April 1989 he was named in Parliament as the politician “fomenting disunity”
On April 27, during a debate in which he was barred from making any statement in self-defence, Parliament unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him.
In a cacophony that followed, all KANU branches in the country condemned him, asking him to resign from the national and party vice presidency and from Parliament on May 1, 1989.

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