During the 2001 general election, Amama Mbabazi contested the Kinkizi West parliamentary seat against Mr James Musinguzi (of the Garuga “trademark”). If there were other contestants, nobody remembers them.
This contest of thirteen years ago is significant because it demonstrated with unusual clarity the kind of mindset that drove the men of power in the NRM.
Mr Mbabazi was then the Minister of State for Defence. Although not openly so named, it was assumed that President Museveni himself was the (senior) minister holding that portfolio.
Multi-party politics had not returned, so the contest was under the so-called Movement system. Anyone could stand on individual merit.
The main official reason for the suspension of political parties had been that parties were divisive.
The argument went that Uganda was a delicate traumatized society that had just gone through a five-year bush war. Moreover, the psychological scars of wounds sustained earlier under Dr. Obote’s first regime and Idi Amin’s military dictatorship were still itching. It was thought that, for some time, the country could be spared the polarisation likely to result from bare-knuckled party competition.
That was the official line, touted by President Museveni and parroted everywhere by his ruling clique. Mr. Mbabazi was in that privileged group.
Furthermore, Museveni was a minister in a department (Defence) that had blatantly abused the people’s rights under the governments the NRA/M had fought and deposed. Reversing that kind of abuse was at the very heart of the NRM cause.
If there was any conscience left in their hearts, Mr Mbabazi and Gen Museveni should have been the very last people in this land to violate what was supposed to be a peaceful election.
The exact opposite happened. To keep our focus on Mbabazi, his Kinkizi West constituency was turned into a battlefield. Thugs of different shades, some in uniform, unleashed a reign of terror in the constituency, intimidating and beating up James Musinguzi’s supporters and disrupting his rallies. Someone lost an eye. Many others were injured. Votes got stolen.
Calmly, cynically, Amama Mbabazi watched. The message could not be clearer: Regardless of what people think about your abilities against mine, do not dare challenge my position in this constituency.
Although Mbabazi’s 2001 election to Parliament was nullified by Justice Egonda Ntende in the High Court, Mr. Musinguzi did not enjoy free political space thereafter, and NRM machinations eventually hounded him out of active politics.
But fascism, I am now discovering, can be “cool”. Because, you see, Mrs. Jacqueline Mbabazi has written of fascism in the NRM as if it is a new development. And she is absolutely serious that her husband should be treated fairly by the (NRM) party members who have been engineered to support President Museveni for the 2016 presidential race.
And the Prime Minister’s wife is not alone. Youthful Political mercenaries and sections of society – some without any political morality, some genuinely forgetful, and others willing to throw their weight behind anyone trying to get Museveni out of office – are also pleading that Mr Mbabazi should be treated fairly, following the rules of the NRM (party) constitution, and so on. His right to stand against President Museveni is being defended by even some of his erstwhile victims.
This in itself would be a good development, if it meant a state of reconciliation after the oppressor had recognised and shown remorse for the evil perpetrated by the ruling side.
But there is none of this. Only a few months back, and many years after Musinguzi’s anguish in Kinkizi, Premier Mbabazi was reported (by The Observer) to be arguing for an unconstitutional removal of Kampala’s Lord Mayor, Eriasi Lukwago, even if it meant using taxpayers’ money to pay the victim millions of shillings in compensation.
A society that does not consistently reject the enemies of the people’s rights will never be sufficiently on its guard to prevent cycles of dictatorship. That is why, almost 50 years after Dr. Milton Obote abrogated the Independence Constitution, the country is still speaking of the smell of fascism.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator firstname.lastname@example.org.