Bobi, Mpuuga rift widens after party meet

NUP party president Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine and deputy president for central region Mathias Mpuuga. PHOTO/COMBO

What you need to know:

  • The NUP party faces internal discord and accusations of corruption as a significant portion of its parliamentary members abstain from a meeting discussing the fate of Mathias Mpuuga, accused of accepting a controversial ‘service award’ amidst tensions over party principles and leadership decisions.

Nearly half of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party’s membership in Parliament were absent at a caucus meeting convened to discuss the fate of House Commissioner Mathias Mpuuga.

Mr Mpuuga stands accused of indulging in corruption against party principles when he received a now-controversial multi-million ‘service award’ from Parliament in June 2022 yet he was barely into office as Leader of the Opposition.

He has resisted a party directive to return the money and resign as parliamentary commissioner –a position to which he was appointed last December. It is that decision which has reportedly stoked already simmering tensions inside the party.

Sources indicated yesterday that at least 22 of the 57 legislators were a no-show at the Tuesday meeting called by party president, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi.  They had been summoned on Monday morning to the NUP’s headquarters in Makerere-Kavule, Kampala, with Mr Kyagulanyi urging them “to attend in person”. 
Five of those absentees did not issue any communication to explain their failure to attend the meeting, party officials said. 

At least one NUP-leaning MP Joan Namutaawe (Masaka Woman MP), also attended the meeting.

Mr Lewis Rubongoya, the party secretary general, however, poured cold water on suggestions that the absence of some legislators signalled a widening rift inside NUP, or even a revolt against the leadership over the Mpuuga affair. 

“So, 35 attended; 17 sent apologies and five were absent without apology. No action needs to be taken on anyone on account of not attending the meeting,” Mr Rubongoya said. 

“We’ve never had a meeting attended by 100 percent of the leaders. Some are out of the country, others indisposed, others were handling party work in Dokolo (where a by-election to replace former district Woman MP, the late Cecilia Ogwal is underway), committees [of Parliament], etc”. 

Some of the absent MPs attributed their absence to prior commitments, emergencies, and the short notice. 
Mr Micheal Kakembo (Entebbe Municipality), who attributed his absence to a mechanical problem with his vehicle, said he had issued an advance apology.

“I have no problem because I sent in my apology. I was called that morning, the meeting was very abrupt. We have to keep quiet and let things move. Time is our best ally and it will bail us out,” he said.
Mr Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) was observed chairing a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament at the time of the Tuesday meeting.

He, however, also said it is not mandatory for him to attend all party meetings, adding that to question who attended or didn’t is to trivialise the party, and an attempt to distract them from their main target of removing President Museveni from power. 

“We are dealing with serious matters and you start asking who was present or absent. Were you there when we started NUP? If I didn’t attend, so what? Then you do what? Must I attend every meeting, Am I a page boy?  Stop trivialising NUP. NUP is a serious party. It can’t go into a trivial matter; who attends a meeting. Do you know how many NUP meetings I attend and there value and importance?” he asked.

He added: “Nobody can blackmail me because of Parliament, I am past that. I won when I was not on NUP, I became a Member of Parliament on a DP (Democratic Party) ticket. I won, twice. That politics should end. If I am not a Member of Parliament, I die? Or I starve to death? They don’t know that some of us are tired of being MPs…it is not an issue of do or die. There is life after Parliament and there will be Parliament after…Nobody on planet earth will blackmail me on the question of being a Member of Parliament. No one can put me on pressure,” he said.

Mr Kivumbi is known to be part of the group which, along with Mr Mpuuga, defected from the DP and joined NUP in the run-up to the 2021 General Election. Two MPs from that group: Ms Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality), and Mr Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West) are said to have attended the Tuesday meeting. 
According to knowledgeable sources, a number of members of the ‘DP bloc’ side of the caucus is reportedly sympathetic to Mr Mpuuga, and may privately be siding with him with in the emerging dispute.

Similarly, his other colleague, Busiro East’s Medard Sseggona was also chairing the House Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises and never appeared in Makerere-Kavule.

At the meeting, this publication learnt that those present were briefed on actions taken against Mr Mpuuga, to which reportedly no objection was raised. The Tuesday meeting was seen as one aimed at establishing the position of individual legislators. 

The party’s National Executive Committee first met on March 15 and resolved to recall Mr Mpuuga from the position of parliamentary commissioner, and replace him with Mityana Municipality’s Francis Zaake.

The former LoP was accused of engaging in “acts of corruption and abuse of office,” and failing to “provide any satisfactory explanation for engaging in this grave action which goes against the mission, values, and objectives of the party.”

Mr Mpuuga’s troubles with his party boiled over when it emerged that he, along with three backbench commissioners from the ruling NRM party, in an unprecedented decision made by themselves were allocated Shs1.7 billion in service awards. Mr Mpuuga has admitted to being allocated Shs500 million. 

The Kassanda South MP, Mr Frank Kabuye, told Monitor yesterday: “We agreed on how to move forward as a family, and our target for a new Uganda. We spoke about the corruption allegations that came out in Parliament, those that we have proof of and the party took a stand which I am in support of”. 

Mr Waiswa Mufumbiro, deputy spokesperson, said: “The meeting was to reaffirm our commitment to the struggle and to make sure that matters of corruption as has been seen in Parliament do not re-occur and to also bring them up to speed with what happened with Hon Mathias Mpuuga,”
“They are all in agreement that there should never be a reoccurrence of corruption within us,” he added.

Kyagulanyi interview

On Wednesday, March 20, Mr Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine the musician) was interviewed on Kampala-based Simba FM. Excerpts: 

On accountability: It’s the law of the party that everyone (Members of Parliament) is supposed to pay a certain amount of money that helps us in facilitating the party.

On Mpuuga: Upon learning about the issue of Shs500m, I summoned [an informal] meeting which was attended by the four deputy presidents of regions, the secretary general and his deputy, the treasurer and three leaders. We spoke to Honourable Mpuuga who accepted his mistake and even apologised. We advised him to return the dirty money, apologise to the country and resign from the Parliament Commission he agreed but later backtracked. This prompted us to take the issue to the party and to avoid conflicts of interest, I assigned my deputy to handle the matter and that is how the issue has been handled.

Punishing our colleagues who have wronged has challenged Museveni because he has been keeping quiet on thieves because the majority of people in his Cabinet are thieves; stealing iron sheets, among others. We have been exposing Museveni and will continue to do that.

There are some of our Members [of Parliament] who fear to talk because they are intimidated that they may end up like [Mityana municipality MP Francis] Zaake and thus fear to speak the truth.  

The issue is moral. We know the criminals are hiding under the law.
Because of what we believe in we requested Mpuuga to resign. (Transcribed by Busein Samilu)

Attendance list 

1.     Betty Nambooze (Mukono) 
2.     John Baptist Nambeshe(Manjiya)
3.     Naluyima Ethel (Wakiso) 
4.     Muwada nkunyinji (Kyadondo East)
5.     Christen Nakimwero (Kiboga)
6.     Joel Senyonyi (Nakawa West)
7.     Francis Zaake(Mityana) 
8.     Derrick Nyeko (Makindye East)
9.     Joseph Gonzaga (Kalungu West)
10.    Aloysius Mukasa (Rubaga South) 
11.    Ronald Balimwezo (Nakawa East)
12.  Hellen Nakimuli (Kalangala)
13.  Shamim Malende (Kampala)
14.  Gorreth Namugga (Mawogola S) 
15.   Hanifa Nabukeera (Mukono)
16.   Frank Kabuye (Kassanda South) 
17.   Abubakar Kawalya (Rubaga North)
18.  Robert Ssekitoleko (Bamunanika) 
19.    Teddy Nambooze (Mpigi)
20.   Paul Nsubuga (Busiro North) 
21.  Hassan Kirumira (Katikamu South)
22. Manjeri Kyebakutika (Jinja City) 
23. David Kalwanga (Busujju)
24.  Henry Kiyaga (Mawokota North)
25.  Ssimbwa Fred (Nakifuma)
26.   Kayemba Ssolo (Bukomansimbi S)
27.  Evans Kanyike (Bukoto East)
28.   Stephen Sserubulwa (Lugazi)
29.  Francis Katabazi (Kalungu East
30.   Dennis Sekabira (Katikamu North)
31.  Charles Matoovu (Busiro South)
32.   Wakayima Musoke (Nansana)
1.  Mathias Mpuuga (Nyendo-Mukungwe)
2.     Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala)
3.     Medard Ssegona (Busiro East)
4.     Abed Bwanika (Kimaanya-Kabonera)
5.     Joyce Bagala (Mityana)
6.     Micheal Kakembo (Entebbe)
7.     Twaha Kagabo (Bukoto South)
8.     Geoffrey Lutaaya (Kakuuto)
9.     Charles Tebandeke (Bbale)
10.  Bashir Kazibwe (Kawempe South)
11.    Flavia Nabagabe (Maternity Leave)
12.   Muhammad Ssegirinya (Sick)
13.  Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West)
14.  Jimmy Lwanga  (Njeru Municipality)
15.  Patrick Oshabe (Kassanda North)
16.  Abdallah Kiwanuka (Mukono North)
17.    Allan Mayanja (Nakaseke South) 
18.     David Sserukenya (Makindye Ssabagabo)
1.     Aisha Kabanda (Butambala)
2.    Veronica Namaganda (Bukomansimbi)
3.     Suzan Mugabi (Buvuuma)
4.      Brenda Nabukenya (Luweero)
5.      Juliet Kakande (Masaka City)
6.      Godfrey Saazi (Gomba East)
7.     Christine Nandangire( Bukomansimbi North County)

Independent (Present) 
1.     Joan Namutawe (Masaka Woman MP)