Museveni, Mbabazi factions face off over 2015

Saturday April 26 2014

Despite public displays of reconciliation, factions loyal to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, are still locked in a battle for supremacy, whose culmination will be the National Resistance Movement’s delegates conference next year.

In President Museveni’s camp, an army of legislators continue to sell his sole candidature to constituents as rival factions of the party’s youth wing clashed in Kampala last week — highlighting the continuing differences between the principals.

According to insiders in both camps, President Museveni’s strategists are working on overdrive to trip the premier ahead of the 2015 NRM delegates conference, which supporters see as the ultimate battleground for the NRM ticket.

The clash at the party headquarters in Kampala was the culmination of weeks of clandestine activities by both camps that saw pro-Mbabazi youth pitch camp in northern Uganda.

Despite Mr Mbabazi distancing himself from his supporters and stating that he will only contest if President Museveni is not in the race, he came out boldly over the Easter weekend to defend his bid, arguing, that “there is no crime in harbouring presidential ambitions.”

President Museveni, on the other hand, held meetings with the youth at State House Entebbe, where he spoke about creeping intrigue that seems to be dividing the party as some leaders jostle for position.


On returning from a State House meeting with President Museveni a fortnight ago, the party district leaders seemed invigorated and have now teamed up with MPs to popularise the president’s candidature and counter Mr Mbabazi’s alleged presidential bid.

Intelligence briefs

The move follows an intelligence brief presented to MPs in February, alleging that Mr Mbabazi was using party structures to mobilise for his candidature and that if not handled, he would upstage President Museveni and see him kicked out of the race in the upcoming conference.

The team on President Museveni’s side is out to counter Mr Mbabazi’s growing popularity among the youth and women’s leagues and NGOs; his financial muscle and his alleged increasing visibility with foreign diplomats especially from China and Western Europe.

While President Museveni’s camp is using the existing party structure with legislators championing his campaign, a group of party members, especially the youth, are traversing the country, mobilising for Mr Mbabazi’s candidature.

“We are mobilising for Mbabazi because we know he will come out and say yes to the demands of the youth. You cannot shove a particular candidate down our throats; it is democracy that we the youth are advocating for,” said Omodo Omodo, NRM youth chairman for northern Uganda.

Officials from President Museveni’s side accuse Mr Mbabazi of supporting the youth. The pro-Mbabazi youth, most of them unemployed, have been dishing out money and buying airtime on radio.

Acting NRM secretary-general Richard Todwong defended Mr Mbabazi, saying the youth are canvassing for support without his blessings.

“The person they are campaigning for has clearly stated he will not contest against President Museveni,” said Mr Todwong.

While President Museveni’s agents say that he should be voted for based on his past record, the pro-Mbabazi group demands that he retire.

“The young people of Uganda need a peaceful change from President Museveni to Mr Mbabazi come 2016 so that in 2021 we get a new president who was not part of the 1980s NRM bush war,” said NRM Kampala youth chair Adam Luzindana in a written opinion.

Officials seeking to garner support for President Museveni who spoke to this newspaper say the insistence by Mr Mbabazi that he will not contest against President Museveni while he is doing nothing to rein in his wife and the youth is a tactical move to dupe the president’s camp.

To counter a surprise upset, the president’s camp have developed several strategies. The plan is to purge the current network of party leaders by voting out delegates to the conference considered to be pro-Mbabazi. With this, they hope to have denied him the votes he has worked to build.

Another move expected in early 2015 is action being taken on a yet to be released report by a committee put in place early this year to investigate past electoral malpractices.

Mr Mbabazi’s role as party secretary-general would see him take responsibility for any malpractises committed during the elections and he could face the party’s disciplinary committee.

However, at the centre of this renewed battle are the youth. The groups loyal to President Museveni and those loyal to Mr Mbabazi arranged rival conferences last week, with each side claiming to have the moral high ground.

The clamour for the support of the youth comes at a time when “historical members” are seen to be deserting the party or choosing to sit back and watch.

According to former opposition leader Kizza Besigye, in an interview with the Observer newspaper, the historicals, who had genuinely hoped that President Museveni would leave power peacefully, are now realising they were deluded.