New details indicate that the merger between Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and the National Unity Platform (NUP) leadership was unveiled prematurely, Daily Monitor has learnt.
According to inside sources, the party that was registered with the Electoral Commission (EC) by Mr Moses Nkonge Kibalama was set for official handover in two weeks’ time but Mr Kyagulanyi and his team were pressured into unveiling it after the idea leaked to State House.
Sources also indicated that the group had to convene a crisis meeting at their base in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb, and at the heart of their agenda, the source says, was making sure the party is announced before the information infiltrated the public.
“The fear was that the owner of the party we were joining could have been bought or compromised by the regime as they have done to many other People Power leaders. We also feared that the party would be targeted by the government to make sure we don’t announce the party at all,” the source said.
On Thursday last week, NUP leaders presented papers of the transfer of the political party into the names of Mr Kyagulanyi and they were relieved that the documents were signed by EC officials, according to sources.
Daily Monitor has also learnt that Mr Kyagulanyi developed the idea in 2018 when he first met Mr Kibalama at a personal level before he told a few core members of People Power.
In the early days of May, an irregular visitor winked at the Kyadondo East MP, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. On a plastic seat outside the grey coloured conference room of a former youth centre, Mr Asuman Basalirwa, Jeema’s party president, adjusted sets of papers in a brown envelope as he waited to be attended to by Bobi Wine.
He had come as Mr Kyagulanyi and a team of advisers would later find out, to ask for the legislator’s support in the Bugiri by-election in which the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) supported Ms Eunice Namatende over him.
Mr Basalirwa fancied his chances in the race with FDC’s backing but without it, he would need to recreate his political cards.
Mr Kyagulanyi had won in Kyaddondo East without FDC’s backing. What had propelled him then was a cocktail of endorsements from NRM stalwarts, rebel campaigners, who defied their party structures and a cocktail of newcomers on the political scene.
Months later, Mr Kassiano Wadri (Arua Municipality), in the same predicament – denied the FDC flag - called on Bobi’s support and it became evident that the movement, albeit unstructured, had gained foothold in the political establishment of Opposition politics.
In both elections, Bobi Wine’s campaign team led by Mr Tony Sempebwa had secretly filed reports indicating the hurdles they faced.
Top of both Bugiri and Arua polls’ reports was the fact that separate symbols for the candidates cost them voters despite registering wins.
Mr Moses Nkonge Kibalama, 58, ceded National Unity Platform (NUP) leadership to Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine, the leader of People Power, a pressure group.
But who is Mr Kibalama, the man behind the formation of NUP party?
Mr Kibalama served as Obote’s escort and driver. How he metamorphosed from a driver to a bodyguard to the most powerful man at the time is a long story.
However, after years of rumination, he decided to join activism to oppose the government that had waged a Bush war against his boss in the 1980s.
“I wanted to continue with politics and that is why I registered a political party in 2004 called National Unity, Reconciliation and Development Party (NURP). I have been doing my work and that is why my party might have been silent for now,” he says.
But because the name was too long, Mr Kibalama says the party leadership sat on July 14, last year and resolved to change the name to NUP.
Mr Kibalama says the party he has handed over to Bobi Wine in the interest of the struggle for change has 25, 000 registered members but has struggled to find office space and taking the party forward.
“I know Bobi Wine is one of the leaders that proclaims the values that we as a party stand for. He is the leader of the new era and I trust that he can change the government,” Mr Kibalama said.
Bobi Wine was restive without a political home, something analysts say had put him in an tight situation ahead of the 2021 General Election.
But in the NUP umbrella, they say, he has found the shelter he needed to circumnavigate the political waves in the run up the 2021 elections.
Mr Kibalama graduated with Business Administration from Makerere University after which he went ahead to study a diploma in VIP protection and escort duties, arms detection and disarmament techniques at Derbyshire constabulary UK in the Midlands between 1983 and 1985.
Born of Buwambo Village, Wakiso District, Mr Kibalama says he attended Martyrs High Senior Secondary School Lubaga for his Uganda Certificate of Education and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education.
Mr Kibalama was part of the logistics management team during the Bududa landslide between March 2010 and August 2010. He speaks Swahili, Lumasaba, Runyankore, Rukiga, Luganda and Acholi. Mr Kyagulanyi lauded Mr Kibalama for being supportive to the cause and receiving the People Power merger with grace.
In the kitchen cabinet of People Power too, was a growing worry that the politicians Bobi Wine had campaigned for, did not, in turn, return the favour.
For example, Bobi had lent his prominence and support to the youth wing of the Democractic Party (DP)– the Young Democrats. Over three gatherings, the Young Democrats emerged as a formidable wing in the party.
They staged party events of reunion and crowned them off with speeches from Bobi. The Young Democrats though, were a bastion of Opposition to Mr Norbert Mao’s presidency.
To tame the growing prominence, Mr Mao called off all engagements and turned the faction against him. The party revived old rivalry between Bobi Wine and Mr Joseph Mayanja, aka Jose Chameleone.
Mr Wadri increasingly became absent at People Power events and Mr Basalirwa, despite remaining present always took the route of Jeema before calling in at Kamwokya.
“We had always had a debate on whether we needed a party but it was not proper at the time,” Mr David Lewis Rubongoya, the now party secretary general, said.
“People Power was a movement that united people across platforms but drawing closer to the elections, they would need a similar symbol at the polls,” he added.
It became a matter of when, not if, for People Power to form a political party.
“Many parties had already approached us,” Mr Rubongoya said.
These included DP, Jeema and a little known National Unity Reconciliation and Development party (NURDP).
NURDP had been formed in 2004 to challenge for the 2006 polls. Its founder, Mr Moses Nkonge Kibalama, bore its early brunt. When he approached People Power in early June 2019, he had hoped to get into an alliance.
The choice of the party, thus, had to be of low prominence, but headed by a person the movement could entrust with their future and to keep a secret.
“We chose the party because we shared similar values. We stood on similar objectives of unity,” Mr Rubongoya said.
By July 2019, as the People Power movement put together a list of national coordinators, it was known to its select members that the political party takeover was a pipework already.
The movement was worried, a source said, telling the covert move to legislators in the movement would attract state scrutiny and potential blocking.
“We were also worried about the loyalty of the MPs from other parties,” the source added.
Bobi Wine secretly bankrolled Mr Kibalama to change the party name with the Electoral Commission (EC) and thereafter to run an advert in the papers for a delegate conference where he would be declared president and the party symbols changed.
“Yes, we had a delegates conference some weeks before this announcement. When the EC officially stamped the name change, we held the delegates conference and took those resolutions,” Mr Mr Rubongoya said.
The final hurdle would come on Thursday last week when the paperwork bearing Mr Kyagulanyi’s name would be presented to the EC.
The electoral body spent a weekend with the paper work and only called back Mr Kibalama on Monday to pick stamped papers.
Central to the move of registering the party was to get a harmonised symbol for all candidates using the movement.
The new party, Daily Monitor understands, will tomorrow morning file paper work for admission to IPOD, a key negotiation table for political parties in Uganda.
“We are also now in talks to have an alliance with other parties that we shall call the ‘People Power Alliance,” Mr Rubongoya said.
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, has merged his People Power pressure group with National Unity Platform (NUP) in the first political merger ahead of the 2021 General Election.
According to Electoral Commission records, the NUP was formed in 2004 as National Unity, Reconciliation and Development Party (NURP) under Mr Moses Nkonge Kibalama but it only changed last year to NUP.
NUP officials, who did not want to be quoted for personal reasons, told Daily Monitor that the leaders of People Power approached them a few months ago requesting for a merger.
In the negotiations, NUP party was represented by Mr Kibalama, their president, Mr Paul Simbwa, the secretary general, Ms Lillian Odinga, the publicity secretary, and Mr Edward Seremba.
The People Power side was led by Mr Kyagulanyi, the pressure group’s executive secretary, Mr David Lewis Rubongoya, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson, Mr Benjamin Katana, the leader of the legal team, and Ms Flavia Kalule, the leader of the women wing.
Daily Monitor understands that as negotiations progressed, the NUP leadership agreed to allow the People Power team take over some of the top most positions of the party and use the umbrella symbol in the General Election as a joint team of lawyers continue to discuss the terms of partnership, including proposed party constitutional amendments.
Bobi Wine told Daily Monitor in an interview that they had chosen NUP because their message and objectives rhymed well with People Power ideals.
Bobi Wine’s camp yesterday said their leader and team zeroed down to NUP after several attempts on three other political parties they did not disclose.
The plan was to boost their bargaining power in the 11th Parliament and buttress Mr Kyagulanyi’ s presidential ambitions in the 2021 polls.
Mr Rubongoya told Daily Monitor that the other fear was about the fact that they were going into the polls with a pressure group that did not have a symbol that members can use to avoid confusion.
“This meant that everyone had to use their own symbol. This would affect our mission in terms of being disunited and we also wanted to observe Section 8 of the Political parties and Organisations Act 2005,” Mr Rubongoya said.
Section 8 of the Political Party and Organisations Act indicates that; “A political party or organisation shall not submit to the EC for the purpose of registration under Section 7, any identifying symbol, slogan, colour, or name or initials of any registered political party or organisations or republic of Uganda.”
Mr Kibalama said he had to surrender his position as president whose term was due to expire in November.
“I am happy to work with Mr Kyagulanyi because he has been tested at all fronts and he is the talk of town. As we speak now, his team will take full charge of the political entity as we engage the lawyers on the final finer details,” he said.
It is not yet clear whether there was any monetary value attached to the power brokering process after which Mr Kyagulanyi was named president of the party on July 14 when they met in Wakiso District for what they called a delegates conference. According to sources, Bobi Wine will have to change his leadership to accommodate members of the two political entities.
The secretariat will be represented by at least members from both political groups as part of the deal agreed upon.
Bobi Wine yesterday admitted that they had been struggling to answer the question of having a uniting symbol after EC rejected their People Power name in 2008 that it had already been gazetted by another individual who was taking care of elderly people.
“When we announced the call for expression of interest, more than 10,000 people responded so that they would run under our platform but every day, we have been receiving countless calls about one thing- what is the symbol?” Mr Kyagulanyi said.
“Expectedly, all our people would want to have a uniform symbol for liberation. They know that if they go into this election as independents, the regime will ensure that the symbol which I have is not available to any other of our candidates. Today, we gather here for yet another important step in our liberation struggle,” he said.
The two political entities launched a symbol which will be used in the coming election as the umbrella which had initially belonged to the NUP party.
Fate of outsiders in People Power
Explaining what this merger meant to the members who had left their political parties to seek the People Power card, Mr Rubongoya said they will be free to stay in the activist wing of People Power.
However, it remains unclear whether members of other political parties would carry NUP flag or People Power flag.
But Mr Rubongoya attempted to explain the conundrum.
“We are having People Power as the activist wing and NUP as the political wing. We have seen some of these things work in other countries and that is why we have applied it here. We wanted to be sure that all candidates that are joining have some uniting factor which is the symbol registered with EC but we remain People Power.”
He added: “In the coming days, we shall embark on the process of formalising the People Power Alliance. The People Power Alliance shall be composed of different political formations which we have been working with and those that will be willing to join us. Formal engagements with many of these brothers and sisters have already been ongoing and they will continue,” Mr Rubongoya added.
Reactions from other political parties
Mr Richard Todwong, NRM deputy secretary.
“As NRM, we don’t care who the People Power merges with, we are ready to win any election. I think it was also wrong for that political party to join People Power which is also struggling to get a home. They should have established themselves.”
Asuman Basalirwa, Jeema president.
“We welcome the new party of MP Kyagulanyi and his team. We support it and we shall be working together on all fronts because this has always been our call. Now Bobi Wine has where to belong other than the pressure group.”
Kenneth Kakande, DP spokesperson.
“The move is towards the right direction since most of us have been talking. We want to agree on how we can work together. What People Power should do at the end of it all is to bring together all other political actors to make sure that there is an amicable position that is agreed upon.”
Alice Alaso, National Coordinator Alliance for National Transformation (ANT).
“This move might affect individual members from other political parties who cannot leave their original political parties. That means they will have a tough choice to make. But People Power has a lot of explanation on where this is heading. The talks between us and People Power will not be affected because the quest for change still exists.”
Wasswa Biriggwa, FDC chairman.
“We congratulate them for forming a political party. It is better than what they have been calling a movement so they will have a constitution that guides their activities. The way we welcomed ANT is the same way I would like to say that MP Kyagulanyi now comes to the table and the struggle must continue. We are going to work together. The members who had left other political parties to join People Power will now have a choice to make on whether to join or not.”
During the People Power and NUP meeting on July 14, they elected Mr Kyagulanyi as president of the party, Ms Joel Senyonyi as spokesperson, Mr Lewis Rubongoya as secretary general and Ms Flavia Kalule to head the female wing. After the meeting, the next step for the political party was to begin entering into different memoranda of understanding (MoU) with other political parties and individuals to form an alliance.
Some of the parties that have been in the process for an alliance include the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) led by Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, Jeema party led by Mr Asuman Basalirwa. Others are NUP secretary general Paul Ssimbwa and Democratic Party bloc members including Busiro MP Medard Ssegona, Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga and Butambala County MP Muwanga Kivumbi.
The other individuals include Kasanda County MP Patrick Nsamba and Manjiya County MP John Baptist Nambeshe.
Mr Ssegona yesterday confirmed that they have been in talks with People Power and NUP but declined to divulge details and subject of their discussions.
“We have been talking and these are all semantics. What we want is unity and strength but we have not yet concretised on many things and once we do I will call you and inform you,” he said in an interview.
Mr Basalirwa told Daily Monitor last evening that they are now free to operate with Mr Kyagulanyi after the new political party.
“We continue to talk as we have been talking. It is very good that he has formed a new party and this eases our work with him. A pressure group is not bound by the Political Parties and Organisations Act. This move is good and a big congratulation,” he said.