Sunday March 16 2014

With her statement, Mbabazi’s wife may have calculated well

By Bernard Tabaire

If climate change will not have killed us all, I exaggerate not that Ms Jacqueline Mbabazi’s statement of Saturday, March 8 (Women’s Day), 2014, will feature, 40 or 50 years hence, in historians’ accounts of Ugandan politics under President Museveni.

It might be read alongside Dr Kizza Besigye’s critique of 1999. Only Ms Mbabazi’s is crisper, more devastating. Dr Besigye, incidentally, offered a perceptive reading of Ms Mbabazi’s statement in the newspapers this past week. He picked up on the line about the NRM showing “fascist tendencies” and extended it to skewer President Museveni for what he described as the big man’s unrelenting projection of his pastoralist heritage as superior in Uganda and beyond. Heavy stuff.

Ms Mbabazi’s statement begins with reference to a February 25 meeting she had with the President at State House Nakasero. “This meeting arose out of what the President described as intelligence reports…” She clearly thinks little of the “intelligence reports” thus questioning the very basis of the meeting right there in the second sentence. That sets the tone for what follows.

Before getting into the meat of the “intelligence reports”, however, she establishes her credentials as someone who has “been in the struggle for the liberation of Uganda since the 1970s” – pretty much for as long as President Museveni has. Ms Mbabazi is saying no one will push her about, or as Margaret Thatcher would have said, colourfully, this “lady’s not for turning”.
She is irritated that even after meeting privately with the President to discuss his intelligence reports, he saw fit to raise the matter in the NRM parliamentary caucus meeting of March 3 yet she is not a member of that grouping and therefore could not be there to defend herself. That, Ms Mbabazi says, contravened the party’s principles of “transparency, accountability, integrity and consensus building”. So she too was going public.

Now to the specifics. As to working to keep her husband, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, as NRM secretary general, she has no regrets. If Mr Mbabazi must leave the secretary general’s position, which the President wanted him to do in 2010, others too should follow suit. “Why him when other members of the Central Executive Committee are holding two or more posts?” Who are the others? Well, there is someone who holds the positions of chairman of NRM and President of Uganda at the same time. Which position has he relinquished?

On the audio recording of her allegedly criticising the President for involving his family in politics, Ms Mbabazi says the whole thing does not make sense because two different recordings were spliced to create a misleading picture. Which gently raises quality questions about the intelligence that reaches the big man.
The weakest part of Mr Museveni’s case is on the matter of Ms Mbabazi inviting NRM mobilisers to her parents’ thanksgiving event. Bizarre accusation.

Not that Ms Mbabazi is persuasive all through. “With regard to meeting various influential leaders,” she writes, and then throws up a limp analogy before dismissing the allegation as “overrated and false intelligence”. That was a non-answer. Why? Did the influential leaders include some senior military officers? I do not expect Ms Mbabazi to reveal everything she discussed with Mr Museveni. But interesting as her statement is, we are yet to know everything that is going down in this still-evolving Museveni-Mbabazi tango.

For now, the written record will do. Ms Mbabazi concludes her statement this way: “I would like to say though of the NRM Kyankwanzi retreat and these last two NRM parliamentary caucus meetings that they have exposed fascist tendencies within the NRM party. What is obvious is that Hon Mbabazi is a target of orchestrated cliques and groups. Whereas they make an effort to make it appear like a spontaneous attack, it is blatantly obvious that it is not. I would therefore like to state quite clearly, that I will continue to defend Mbabazi, especially when I feel he is being unfairly targeted.”

A loyal member of NRM of 40 years standing, the head of its Women’s League today, is saying the ruling party in Uganda has fascist tendencies within it. Hallelujah!
On March 10, police chief Kale Kayihura strained in his own statement to say the Force is not doing a hack job for the anti-Mbabazi political forces by detaining his dogged youthful supporters. On the same day, Mr Museveni issued a gag order to NRM MPs. All this suggests Ms Mbabazi calculated well in taking the fight to Mr Museveni. Who will avert his gaze first?

Mr Tabaire is a media consultant with the African Centre for Media Excellence.