2014 had Uganda engrossed in the political rivalry between President Yoweri Museveni and his former prime minister and party secretary general Amama Mbabazi.
The year’s front page news was dominated by the question of whether or not Mbabazi was going to announce a bid for the presidency in 2016 and run against President Museveni.
Mbabazi’s silence and ambiguity only made the prospect even more intriguing. It was his wife Jacqueline and sisters-in-law Hope Mwesigye and Alice Ruhindi who spoke more publicly and passionately about a Mbabazi presidential bid than Mbabazi himself.
By the end of the year, Mbabazi’s official government and party powers had been removed from him, leaving him in an uncertain position.
His political future now depends on whether or not he has over the last 20 years developed a genuine power base within the NRM party and the wider country that is separate from his appointments to prominent office by President Museveni.
The “rebel MPs” of the NRM Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Muhammad Nsereko, Wilfred Niwagaba and Theodore Ssekikubo got some reprieve and were reinstated in Parliament in what was interpreted as a victory for the voices of reason and moderation in an NRM turning increasingly into a party of yes men and women.
The renegade army general, David Sejusa, returned to Uganda in mid-December, to be greeted by senior security officials and suspicion and ridicule by Ugandans who have now grown tired of short-lived heroes who then turn back and re-join the Museveni fold.
A new book by the former Daily Monitor journalist Daniel Kalinaki on the political life of Dr Kizza Besigye, serialised by the Daily Monitor, reignited public interest in this Opposition leader who although now no longer at the helm of the Opposition FDC party remains as relevant a political figure as has been since 2000.
The FDC itself held a delegates’ conference in December and from the outcome appeared to have put the most serious factional disputes behind it, for the time being at least.
The Governor of the Central Bank, Tumusiime Mutebile, admitted that the NRM party had hoodwinked him into releasing money in 2011 that went into the party’s election campaigns. It was an admission of what is common knowledge among the media and political and civil society establishment, which is that Bank of Uganda is not sacred enough for State House to respect and not interfere with.
The Katikkiro of Buganda, Mr Charles Mayiga, continued with a successful fundraising campaign both in Buganda and other parts of Uganda and among Ugandans abroad in an injection of fresh momentum into the kingdom and tentatively a new, more pro-active drive to empower Buganda. Not much, though, was heard of the Memorandum of Understanding he signed with President Museveni in 2013.
The wrangles within Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) that has pitted the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and executive director Jennifer Ssemakula-Musisi calmed down from 2013 and were replaced by new wrangles between the Central Division mayor Godfrey Nyakaana and a number of mainly NRM-leaning councillors, who rebelled against Ssemakula-Musisi’s leadership style.
The Uganda Police Force chose to commemorate their centennial anniversary of 2008 in 2014 with much fanfare, but many in the public felt that the police under a Museveni loyalist General Kale Kayihura now acts more as a regime police force than a national crime control and law-enforcement agency.
A wave of iron bar attacks and thefts if boda boda motorcycles on residents of Kampala hit the city, then suddenly waned.
Reports of serious tribal clashes came out of the western districts of Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko, made news for two weeks, then suddenly went out of the news. Several months later, all 120 suspects in what came to be known as the Bundibugyo attacks were released without charges. Many wondered at this turn of events and questioned if there might be more to those attacks than the public was being told.
Scandalous videos and photographs released on Internet social platforms that started with the singer Juliana Kanyomozi last year claimed two socialites, the singer Desire Luzinda and a Kampala gossip figure, Zari Hassan.
A video recording by CCTV of a domestic maid, Jolly Tumuhiirwe, assaulting a small child in Naalya, Kampala, went “viral” on the Internet both in Uganda and abroad, becoming the biggest video sensation to come out of Uganda since the 2012 “Kony 2012” video by an American NGO.
Tumuhiirwe got a relatively short four years in jail, showing that sometimes a public outcry sounds bigger than the crime.
The wrangles among the leadership of Uganda’s Muslim community died down in 2014 and little was heard of the conflicts between the Old Kampala and the Kibuli factions of the rival Muslim leadership.
The civil war that erupted in neighbouring South Sudan in December 2013 directly affected the Ugandan business community that had been doing thriving business in South Sudan since 2009 when it became an independent state.
Air Uganda, the semi-official though private airline, had its operations suspended in June and with that hundreds of Ugandans lost their jobs and contracts.
New shopping malls and restaurants kept cropping up in Kampala, with result that many in the city ended up mostly empty during the opening hours. It seemed as if the number of supermarket branches and restaurants in 2014 were becoming more than the economy could absorb.
A prolonged drought baked much of the country from December 2013 until about May 2014, affecting much of Uganda’s agricultural harvest. December saw an odd development, when for the first time in more than 40 years, it actually rained on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Kampala, a place usually hot and dry during the month of December.
Uganda’s efforts to end the 36-year drought of Africa Cup of Nations football appearances came its closest in years to ending, only for it to slip away at a decisive game in Morocco, which many Ugandan sports fans came away convinced had been deliberately lost by the national team, the Uganda Cranes.
Failure to win or finish a close second also continued to elude Uganda in the M-Net Big Brother Africa virtual reality TV show.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor