Time check is 3:13pm, Tuesday September 23. Kinkiizi West MP Amama Mbabazi drives into the parliamentary compound without the police lead car and military escorts, which had become part of his convoy for the last 13 years.
Mbabazi has enjoyed a military convoy since he was elevated to a senior cabinet position in 2001, serving since then as minister of defence, security and prime minister. Although he was dismissed from cabinet last Friday, Mbabazi has so far retained the military bodyguard and black armoured Land Cruiser that he used as prime minister.
The car has, however, lost the red government registration number plate and in its place has the private black UAS 969J. Unlike other MPs who are subjected to security checks as they enter parliament, police officers manning the main entrance saluted and cleared the way for Mbabazi, who still retains some of his clout as secretary general of the ruling NRM party.
The cops were joined by parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Ahmed Kagoye, in praising Mbabazi as an “extra-ordinary” man for making the appearance, days after he was sacked. The 67-year-old Kinkiizi West MP waved at MPs, parliament staff and journalists who were standing in the central lobby as he walked into the chambers where he was received with wild cheers.
This was exactly one hour after Government Chief Whip Justine Kasule Lumumba had told parliament that it would not be easy for the government side to make a statement on the ongoing border dispute between Uganda and South Sudan in Moyo.
Speaking as prime minister, Mbabazi last week said government would come up with a comprehensive statement on the dispute this week.
The opposition side took the lead in welcoming Mbabazi, who was joining the backbench for the first time since he was first appointed minister of state for Defence in 1992. Shadow minister for Finance Geoffrey Ekanya’s presentation was interrupted for nearly five minutes as opposition MPs asked Mbabazi to cross over and join their side.
On the other hand, Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko urged him to occupy one of the seats allocated to the MPs expelled by NRM or join former Vice-president Gilbert Bukenya (Busiro North) or former leader of opposition in parliament Nathan Nandala-Mafabi in the ‘elders’ wing.’
With a beaming smile, Mbabazi spread his arms, as if wondering what to do next before he chose to sit next to Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi on the second bench behind the front (cabinet) bench.
“I welcome him to the backbench and I want him to come and start debating transparently… ,” said Bukenya, who was dropped as vice-president at the beginning of the current term.
“I want him to join us to speak about government’s excesses such as the unnecessary use of tear gas, the poor state of UPE schools, among others,” Bukenya said.
Unlike Mbabazi, it took Bukenya several months before making an appearance in parliament after he was relieved of his duties in 2011. Mbabazi sat quietly following debate on the Supplementary Appropriation Act, occasionally checking his i-pad. After one hour, he left the House.
Museveni should explain
Outside the chambers, Mbabazi told journalists that he had an urgent engagement to attend to. He cracked jokes with journalists and attempted to dodge some questions, but later on yielded, saying it was up to President Museveni to explain why he had sacked him.
“The president took this action. He exercised his powers. He knows why he did it. He should explain,” Mbabazi said.
“The onus is on him, not me, to explain why he sacked me. But I am okay with it. I don’t feel bad about it,” he added.
Mbabazi declined to respond to questions on his relation with Kampala NRM Poor Youth Forum (KPYF) that recently embarked on activities to promote a 2016 presidential bid on his behalf. Several members of the group were on September 10 arrested by the police as they marched towards the Constitution square, donning yellow T-shirts emblazoned with Mbabazi’s portrait and wordings welcoming him as the new leader and president 2016-2021.
This was hours before Mbabazi appeared at Namboole stadium as chief guest at a football match between Uganda and Guinea. Several fans carried pro-Mbabazi posters and others wore yellow T-shirts with his image at the front. Mbabazi’s answers to related questions were vague but at some point he said that as secretary general of NRM, he would now channel his energies towards preparing the party for the 2016 general elections.
“We are preparing,” he said. “Obviously, we will be ready at the right time.”
Memorable Museveni quotes on Mbabazi
Among top ten
“When I retire, we shall call a Movement conference to look for someone who can be a President, a prime minister, vice-president, speaker. When it comes to vice-president, we start looking at Kigongo, Kategaya, Wapakhabulo, Rugunda and Mbabazi. If you remove Mbabazi and replace him with James Musinguzi, what will happen? You would miss that opportunity. Mbabazi is among the first 10.”
June 13, 2001: Museveni campaigns for Mbabazi against James Garuga Musinguzi on in Kihiihi, Kanungu district.
“I know very well that this NSSF land issue is not about Mbabazi but about [destroying] the party and I will not sit back and see my party being destroyed. I know very well all the people in the party shouting on Temangalo and very soon they will be fixed.
“Mbabazi is not a businessman. He is ever in office or handling my assignments. He does not know business. If I were him, I would have got a better price from that land.”
October 10, 2008: Museveni defends Mbabazi before MPs probing the NSSF -Temangalo land transaction.
“In 1974, [Mbabazi and Otafiire] helped me to rebuild the kakuyege that had gotten disorganised. It is the reason I have defended Mbabazi and Otafiire when they were being attacked by all sorts of people. Although Mbabazi and Otafiire had made some mistakes, in [my] view they were not grave.”
August 29, 2009: Museveni at Otafiire’s son’s wedding.
“Mbabazi is a clean man. He is like a white man, he doesn’t booze, he doesn’t involve himself with women, and he is a hard-working man,”
August 2010: After Kigezi MPs claimed Mbabazi was using the clergy to undermine them.
“The allegation that the secretary-general, the Rt Hon Mbabazi, had been replaced by the Hon Todwong, for instance, is not true. The secretary-general is still the secretary-general. However, on account of being very busy as prime minister, I, sometime last year, appointed the Hon Todwong as minister without Portfolio in charge of Mobilization to help the Secretary General run the day-to-day activities of mass political work. He is, however, not secretary general.”
March 06, 2014: Museveni in a letter.
Source : The Observer