In almost all respects, 2014 served us a mixed bag of intriguing political surprises.
Who would have expected that by the year’s end Amama Mbabazi would no longer be prime minister or secretary general of the ruling NRM?
And who would have guessed that Gen David Sejusa, then exiled former coordinator of intelligence services, would return to the country after directing so much criticism at government?
Mbabazi’s falling out with President Museveni has been the biggest political story of 2014. Once considered the second most powerful person in NRM and government after Museveni, the Kinkiizi West MP has seen his political star fade.
In the process, Museveni has spent at least Shs 75 billion, over the last 10 months, to extinguish Mbabazi’s political threat and diminish his stature. Yet it seems likely that we have not seen the last of Mbabazi. On Christmas day, Mbabazi told a congregation of worshippers in his western home district of Kanungu that “I will make an important announcement soon.”
Two days later, his lawyers said he was still the lawful secretary general despite changes to the NRM constitution made at the party’s special delegates’ conference last December that ousted him. The lawyers added that Mbabazi would go to work at the NRM offices along Kyadondo road on January 5. The stage is set for political fireworks.
Having kicked Mbabazi out of the way, Museveni consolidated power within the NRM by commandeering the amendment of the party constitution to give him powers to appoint the secretary general and other key positions. Using his newly acquired powers, he appointed a new team, with Kasule Lumumba as the secretary general, Richard Todwong, deputy secretary general, Rosemary Namayanja, treasurer and Dr Kenneth Omona, deputy treasurer.
In the opposition FDC, Gen Mugisha Muntu maintained his grip on the presidency despite occasional political turbulence. His main challenger, Nathan Nandala-Mafabi refused to sit back quietly, accusing the general of running down the party. But as the year ended, Muntu appeared to have emerged winner of the duel.
Meanwhile, Dr Kizza Besigye, the former party president, delved deeper into political activism, linking up with Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago to try to shake up the political establishment. Besigye’s main message in 2014 was for the opposition parties to boycott the 2016 elections as long as electoral reforms are not instituted.
As for the Uganda People’s Congress, it bordered on the chaotic. Its president Olara Otunnu faced an internal revolt as members disapproved of his management style. Two of the people he sacked in 2012, David Pulkol and Edward Rurangaranga are plotting his ouster.
The Democratic Party soldiered on albeit with some unresolved matters. Norbert Mao, the president, who many expect to become the leading opposition figure once Besigye gets off the scene, was not very visible. Mao continued to face pressure from a section of party members with whom he has failed to reconcile.
Collectively, opposition parties working with the civil society spearheaded a campaign to institute electoral reforms to guarantee free and fair elections. The NRM, however, scoffed at these efforts.
Besides the happenings in the political parties, 2014 will also be defined by many other political moments. The return of Gen David Sejusa from the United Kingdom after 18 months of exile was one of the most unexpected events of the year.
Sejusa fled in April 2013 after alleging a plot to kill senior government officials opposed to a future presidency of First Son Brig Kainerugaba Muhoozi.
On December 23 during his homecoming party in Naguru, Sejusa denied he had agreed a deal with government. He said he had come back to fight oppression.
State of the parties and their rating
The NRM spent most of 2014 trying to put its house in order. Mbabazi was thrown by the wayside and new office bearers were appointed by President Museveni. On January 3, NRM MPs plan a one week retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi.
Top on the agenda will be a discussion on when to organise party primaries. The party had tentatively said the primaries will be conducted in March but some MPs want them pushed to November as they try to skirt around a legal lacuna that requires independent MPs to first resign their seats before participating in party primaries, hence triggering a by-election.
Under the law, by-elections are supposed to be held at least six or more months before the end of Parliament. If the primaries are held in November, it will mean there will be only five months left to the end of the ninth parliament, negating the need for a by-election.
With the general elections slightly over a year away, 2015 could prove to be a hectic year for Museveni. He has to fend off opposition from within (Mbabazi) and outside his party. Expect money to change hands as the president deals with the political challenges.
The future of FDC continues to be dogged by uncertainty. Party president Gen Mugisha Muntu has held firm amid a storm started by the person he defeated in 2012, Nathan Nandala Mafabi. Mafabi continued to criticize Muntu’s leadership style saying he has taken the party to the doldrums.
Yet it was not all gloom for the Najjanankumbi based party. First, it was able to win the Amuru district woman parliamentary seat in the November by-election and secondly, it organised a highly successful delegates’ conference on December 5.
In 2015, the party will organise another delegates’ conference to elect new members to the party’s National Executive Committee which expired two years ago. 2015 will give us more clues as to whether Besigye is still interested in standing for the national presidency and if so, whether he will do so using the FDC platform.
For UPC and Otunnu in particular, 2014 is a year worth forgetting. Several factions opposed to Otunnu’s leadership continued to press for his ouster. While the party embarked on a process to re-organise its structures at the grassroots, it was riddled with reports of malpractices.
Next on the agenda is the delegates’ conference and a number of people, including David Pulkol, are expected to challenge Otunnu. Given the mounting pressure for him to step aside, there is every feeling that 2015 is going to be a tough year for him. His days at the helm appear to be numbered.
As the year ends, the Democratic Party still has a lot of house cleaning to do. DP President General Norbert Mao, who was briefly hospitalized in Nairobi, has still failed to reconcile with estranged members who include Erias Lukwago, Mathias Mpuuga and Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze.
However, DP had something to celebrate when its candidate Brenda Nabukenya beat NRM’s Rebecca Nalwanga to become the Luweero Woman MP in the May by-election.
As for other ‘smaller’ parties, Justice Forum (JEEMA) led by Asuman Basalirwa strived to remain visible. Basalirwa, through Activists for Change (A4C), asked tough questions of government’s political leadership. He also offered legal representation to some of the activists imprisoned in the course of their activities.
For the Conservative Party (CP), Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) and People’s Progressive Party (PPP), 2014 was a quiet year. Will they roar in 2015?
Source : The Observer