Kampala- Former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi has told President Museveni that the time for a peaceful transition in Uganda is now, turning down a call to withdraw his bid for the presidency in next year’s election.
Mr Mbabazi’s rejection came to light as details of Monday’s meeting between the former allies emerged yesterday.
Moments after returning from South Africa where he had attended the African Union summit, President Museveni invited Mr Mbabazi together with prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda for a meeting.
The PM described this meeting called hours after Mr Mbabazi’s dawn announcement of his intention to run as the ruling party’s flagbearer as “candid, cordial and constructive” in comments to Daily Monitor on Tuesday.
Sources privy to the meeting, however, told this newspaper that Mr Mbabazi instead handed the President a letter explaining how he believed the current leadership of the country has run its course.
The leadership is afraid, is not equipped to stay the post-liberation course of Uganda’s progress and is out of step with the aspirations of modern day Ugandans, he wrote.
The sources said Mr Museveni had pointed out that Mr Mbabazi was campaigning outside the NRM structures.
He demanded that Mr Mbabazi withdraws his declaration and channel his intentions through internal party processes.
Mr Museveni, the sources added, also reportedly accused Mr Mbabazi and his people of being behind a recording with sectarian overtones that has been posted on social media and using money to bribe voters.
In response, Mr Mbabazi reportedly asked Mr Museveni why he was accusing him of using money without evidence yet he (Museveni) was dishing out sacks [of money] in public.
Mr Mbabazi is also said to have told the President that he had nothing to do with the recordings and had not even listened to them.
A copy of the three-page letter dated June 13 seen by Daily Monitor bears a stamp indicating acknowledgement of receipt by the President’s Office on June 15, the day of the meeting.
In it, the former PM tells Mr Museveni that the coming election is not simply about changing a leader, but about changing systems in Uganda for this generation and generations to come.
“We simply must join those nations where a change of guard happens regularly and through the ballot. It is time for a peaceful transition,” Mr Mbabazi wrote. “Uganda is at a crossroads; stuck between old and new … NRM must adapt and Uganda must progress. It is time to evolve.”
Mr Mbabazi’s director of media and communications Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi yesterday said: “ It was an honest, heartfelt letter from one comrade to another.”
Yesterday, the minister for the Presidency, Mr Frank Tumwebaze said: “Yes, I have seen the letter. And as I said earlier, Mr Mbabazi is free to vie for any office; be it in NRM or elsewhere. But he contradicts himself a great deal on many issues.”
“For him to lambast other leaders in NRM and call them fortune-seeking cadres, is unfortunate on his part. So, does he want to say that all the time he worked as the party’s chief mobiliser (secretary general) responsible, among others, for mentoring and [recruiting] cadres he only mentored fortune-seekers? If that is what he means, then it means he was the pioneer of that fortune-seeking ideology. And in any case, which cadres did he mentor?”
Also last evening, the government’s Media Centre boss, Mr Ofwono Opondo, said: “We think the letter is a cover up because it is dated June 13 and his declaration was made on June 15. Ideally, if it was genuine, the date should have been new. We found him pants down and he has chosen to be clever by half. He is really finished and we shall frog-march him in the delegates conference should he present his candidature.”
Asked if he gets the impression that Mr Mbabazi’s announcement has set off a panick reaction from State House, Mr Opondo disagreed, observing instead that the President is not at all bothered by Mr Mbabazi’s stand.
He said the former PM was invited to State House to clarify on the forged document.