Is Lubega sacking splitting NUP, DP Bloc?

Mr Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku

Many politicians who quit their political parties to join the National Unity Platform (NUP) cited internal squabbles at their previous addresses as the key reason for quitting.
But the controversial sacking of Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku proves that the fights within NUP are threatening the marriage with the want-away DP group.
When the Court of Appeal threw out Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Apollo Kantinti from Parliament in April 2017, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine, who had no idea about how to run an election campaign, was hesitant.
While many seasoned politicians avoided the musician, who was taking baby steps into politics, Mr Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku swung into action. He embraced Bobi’s campaign that would later morph into the People Power movement, now NUP.
Another politician who warmed up to Bobi in his early political days was the current Kasangati Town Council chairman, Mr Tonny Ssempebwa, who recently dumped DP for NUP. Mr Ssempebwa now passes as heir apparent for Bobi Wine’s Kyadondo East parliamentary seat.
Although Mr Lubega’s support was not financial, he brought in his moral backing and mobilisation skills, which are believed to have ignited confidence in the musician turned politician.

Lubega fired
But in a surprise turn of events and by the stroke of a pen, on Tuesday, the relationship between Bobi and Mr Lubega suffered a setback when the 2021 presumptive presidential candidate fired Mr Lubega from NUP’s top elections management committee.
This committee is tasked with vetting all candidates who want to stand on NUP’s ticket in the upcoming 2021 General Election.
Mr Lubega, a 2011 Independent presidential candidate, was replaced by one of Bobi’s music producers and friend, Tony Bikumbi, also known as Tony Houls.
Mr Lubega’s sacking, according to sources within NUP, has exposed the lack of structures within the months-old political party and how the party runs its affairs.
“Everything is done informally,” one of the members of NUP, who only recently crossed over from DP, said.
The source, who preferred anonymity, said: “You discuss something and then it’s later overturned by a group of people without your knowledge. There is no NEC [National Executive Committee, a top party organ that normally decides most critical decisions] to make decisions,” he added.
Although NUP meetings are never documented, it is understood by this newspaper that in mid-August, as Bobi Wine welcomed a group of Buganda politicians who had decamped from DP, he mooted that Mr Lubega should be removed from elections management committee and be absorbed into his national campaign team.
Since Bobi Wine wants Mr Lubega to be part of his national campaign team, the sources say, NUP doesn’t know what to do with Lubega’s insistence to run in Lubaga South where he will face off with Mr Aloysius Mukasa, a friend of Mr Nyanzi, who has also turned out to be one of the biggest funders of NUP’s activities.
But the removal of Mr Lubega, although anticipated, has perplexed some NUP members who crossed over from DP Bloc.
First, there was belief that members who manned the NUP polls committee were also prospective candidates in the coming election, hence would be biased when making a determination on choosing the party’s candidates for various elective positions.
For instance, Mr Lubega has interested in the Rubaga South parliamentary seat, while Mr Sulaiman Kidandala is interested in the Kawempe North constituency and Mercy Walukamba in the Bugweri District Woman MP slot. However, while Ms Walukamba and Mr Kidandala were spared, Mr Lubega wasn’t.
This uneven approach has not escaped notice, with several NUP members interviewed for this story saying the issue of the committee members being candidates had been resolved. They said the committee members agreed that should their respective positions come up for consideration, they would excuse themselves from any deliberation.
But more questions are being asked since two elections committee members, namely Mr Jeremiah Keeya Mwanje, and Mr John Mary Ssebuwuufu, who aren’t vying for any elective position were also fired.
Sources that talked to Saturday Monitor say they were fired because they are still looked at with suspicion within NUP due to their strong DP links.
Although he now holds a NUP card, Mr Lubega, too, is still seen as a DP stalwart and only taking advantage of NUP’s popularity in Buganda region to ride and win his parliamentary contest.
Indeed, Mr Lubega was chastised by angry NUP supporters when he turned up at a polling station in Mutundwe, Kabowa zone in Lubaga South constituency during the recently concluded youth local council elections.
The unruly youth snatched Mr Lubega’s red beret, accusing him of being the backer of a DP candidate, who eventually won the race by trouncing a NUP candidate.
In his press conference on Tuesday, Bobi Wine reiterated his earlier position that it’s either NUP or nothing. “…if you join NUP, kindly be with NUP, you cannot belong to two political formations. That will help ease the confusion that has been ongoing,” Bobi Wine said.
This reinforces the earlier suggestion that some members of the DP bloc who joined NUP have not totally embraced their new party.
Ms Betty Nambooze, the Mukono Municipality MP, who joined NUP recently and was given a party card, dropped a bombshell when she said she will go back to DP once “the struggle” is over.
Although she has since backtracked from that position, Bobi Wine’s message on Tuesday “of either you are in or out” seems was a response to Ms Nambooze.
Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson, in a phone interview rubbished the notion that intrigue was the underlying reason behind the sacking of Mr Lubega and his colleagues.
“The issue is we need Mr Lubega on our campaign team. So we don’t want him to be burdened by committee work,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
However, Mr Lubega, in trying to explain the reason he is no longer a member of the committee, contradicted Mr Ssenyonyi’s position.
Mr Lubega denied he wasn’t sacked but rather sat down with Bobi Wine and struck what he called “an agreement”.
“There was a need for me to focus on the constituency [Rubaga South], that is why I agreed with our principal [Bobi Wine] to step down from the committee. I wasn’t sacked as many people claim,” he said.
But those with knowledge of the goings on within NUP find it strange that Mr Lubega was fired at the time he seems to be gaining ground in Rubaga South at the expense of Mr Mukasa, who is said to be favoured by NUP’s inner circle.
“Mr Lubega is a well behaved and principled man,” a source familiar with NUP and the Rubaga South politics, said.
“The humiliation was intended to demoralise his supporters. The fact that it’s Bobi Wine himself who did it, just shows that they wanted him not to gain more ground in the constituency,” he argued.
Mr Mukasa, who is Mr Lubega’s opponent and has his campaign posters littered all over the constituency, has for the last two years been credited for being generous towards the People Power movement before it morphed into NUP.

Sources say it is highly unlikely that NUP will dump Mr Mukasa considering the fiscal muscle he has, even if it means annoying Mr Lubega, who has been loyal to Bobi Wine from the very start.
“He has been buying caskets for all People Power supporters who have died,” a source familiar with NUP operations said.
“He keeps on fueling their cars when they are going upcountry, and on top of that, Nyanzi [Bobi Wine’s brother] is his buddy.”

Fight for NUP ticket
Rubaga North, which neighbours Rubaga South, is also generating headache to the NUP leadership. NUP has three candidates to choose from. They include Kampala Capital Authority (KCCA) speaker Abubaker Kawalya, Mr James Mubiru, who is one of earliest People Power supporters and is a close ally of Bobi Wine, and the incumbent Moses Kasibante, who has won his last two terms as an Independent but until recently was a DP member.
While Mr Kasibante has been conspicuously silent about this increasingly murky race, Mr Mubiru and his proxies have used social media to directly accuse Mr Kawalya of bribing the influential Nyanzi in order to get the NUP ticket.
Mr Kawalya has so far refused to respond to the allegations, despite repeated calls and messages to him from this newspaper.
There is also frustration with Bobi Wine’s insistence that the elections management committee should vet all potential NUP candidates throughout the country. They say that’s a lot of work, which needs lots of hands and some should be apportioned to NUP’s vice presidents that were recently handpicked by Bobi Wine.
The vice presidents include Mr Mathias Mpuuga (Buganda), Mr John Baptist Nambeshe (eastern Uganda), Ms Jolly Mugisha Ekyomugisha (western Uganda), and Dr Lina Zedriga (northern Uganda).
“What does that committee, which is Kampala-based, know about politics of all districts in Uganda?” a NUP member wondered.
“Work should be decentralised regionally,” the member added.
As nominations for all candidates by the Electoral Commission nears, NUP, despite earlier dilly-dallying, is going to come under immense pressure to decide on who will be their official candidates for the various political seats.
This will ultimately be the party’s first litmus test but the superseding agreement in this party is that Bobi Wine’s judgment can’t be challenged.
“What he says is final,” one of NUP’s members who crossed over from DP and he is now seeking to enter Parliament through one of the constituencies in Buganda, said of Bobi Wine.

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