Friday March 7 2014

Mbabazi is now a lame duck Prime Minister

By Asuman Bisiika

All of a sudden, junior NRM members are challenging Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. The man hitherto thought to be the most powerful politician in the ruling party and the country. These junior members have successfully led the efforts to relieve Mbabazi of the position of Secretary General of the NRM.

The leverage the party has given these young Turks is not informed by the party’s new-found love for ‘youth power’ or consolidating and re-organising the party; but rather, the ‘new comers’ are not expected to challenge the cast in the succession drama (when the times comes).

The story is that before the 2010 NRM Delegates’ Conference at Namboole, it was agreed that whoever would be elected to the position of Secretary General would not hold any other position in government. Insiders tell us that this was crafted by Mbabazi to scare former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya off the job of Secretary General.

Since Bukenya persisted with his candidature, this agreement (or arrangement) was later used as a concession President Museveni traded for supporting Mbabazi’s candidature.

Now, as the Bahima would say, the cows have returned home. President Museveni, whose support for Mbabazi was disruptive and impacted negatively on party cohesion, has clearly and publicly expressed disfavour to Mbabazi.

What do we read from this? It is now apparent that all political leaders in the NRM hold office, from which they generate national influence, at the pleasure of President Museveni.

So, what had been construed to be Mbabazi’s grassroots support base was actually derived from the assumption that he (Mbabazi) enjoyed the favour of the President. Whereas Amama Mbabazi now seems to be unpopular in the party and the country, President Museveni does not have any moral card to play against him: he (Museveni) has been in power for a long time.

And let’s face it, before the Anite Motion in Kyankwanzi, there had been calls in the party and outside (almost bordering on a national consensus) quietly hoping (or wishing) that President Museveni would not stand for office in the 2016 elections.

Yet it is not President Museveni who will deliver what the French call coup de grace to Mbabazi’s emotions: the killer punch will come from the Supreme Court. Mbabazi will suffer the ultimate humiliation when (sorry, if) the Supreme Court rules in favour of the rebel MPs and overturns the judgment of the Constitution.

The NRM has sought to portray itself as a mass movement party feeding on (what they call) their historical legacy of a national liberation struggle. And like any liberation movement, the character of the NRM (in the bush during the armed struggle and in power running the government for more than 28 years now) has revolved around the person and personality of Museveni.

Museveni is eligible to seek re-election in 2016. But this engenders some questions: Can the NRM win an election without Museveni at the helm? The answer is yes; because the biggest political constituency in Uganda is likely to support any candidate enjoying the legacy and heritage of President Museveni and NRM.

What is this political constituency? This constituency has the latitude, a national geographical reach and disposition. This political constituency is called the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF).

The political might of the UPDF makes it so firm and conspicuously tout puissant to the elite that they (UPDF) don’t even see any need to make any political muscle flexing.
As we stand now, the Prime Minister has been rendered a lame duck. With the knowledge that he no longer enjoys the president’s favour, how is he expected too rally and superintend over the Cabinet ministers?

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East Africa Flagpost.