The two countries may be thousands of kilometres apart, but the political script currently being used by their respective presidents to deal with individuals seen for long as their heir apparent could not be more similar.
While President Museveni sacked his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi for allegedly harbouring presidential ambitions, Zimbwabwe’s Mugabe is currently hounding his vice president, Joice Mujuru, over allegations that she plotted to assassinate the 90-year-old president.
In fact, according to media reports, Mugabe over the weekend hinted that Mujuru had probably already “said goodbye” to her job after boycotting the ruling ZANU-PF national congress, which ended on Saturday. Mujuru told Zimbabwean media that she had stayed away from the party meeting to avoid “inevitable public humiliation” orchestrated by Mugabe’s henchmen.
Those words could as well have been said by Mbabazi, also secretary general of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), who was hounded out of the party’s top administrative job, sent on three months’ forced leave, and has had to stay away from some public events such as the swearing in of his successor as prime minister.
In circumstances similar to Mbabazi’s recent fate in the NRM, Mujuru has also been barred from serving on the central committee of ZANU-PF, one of the Zimbabwean party’s most powerful organs. Coincidentally, the NRM in Uganda holds its national delegates’ conference this Monday, less than a dozen days after ZANU-PF held a similar conference.
While the ZANU-PF meeting seems to have marked the end of the road for Mujuru’s political career in the ruling party, the NRM conference is also expected to introduce new constitutional changes that will effectively edge Mbabazi out of the Museveni-led party.
In both countries, the campaigns against the two senior politicians did not start overnight. In Mbabazi’s case, the bare-knuckled fight to diminish his political clout started during the NRM Parliamentary Caucus meeting of February 2014, where he was ambushed with a campaign to endorse Museveni as “NRM sole candidate” for the 2016 presidential elections.
The brains behind the sole candidature accused Mbabazi of derailing the party by secretly mobilising to contest against Museveni, 70, as leader of party and country. In Zimbabwe, the allegations that Mujuru was mobilising cabinet colleagues to assassinate and replace Mugabe gathered currency mid-2014.
The 59-year-old widow of former army commander Solomon Mujuru has also been accused of plotting to oust Mugabe during the ZANU-PF’s elective congress in early 2015.
Both Mbabazi and Mujuru have denied the allegations levelled against them. Mbabazi has repeatedly said he is a loyal NRM cadre who does not intend to contest against President Museveni in the 2016 elections. Mujuru, on the other hand, said: “Let it be known that I am loyal to the president and faithful to my party and its leader.”
However, with their respective presidents fighting to cling onto power, such statements have fallen on deaf ears. The onslaught against the two continues unabated.
Insiders in the NRM say part of Mbabazi’s woes are down to the fact that he does not get along with President Museveni’s wife Janet, a Member of Parliament and senior Cabinet minister in her own right.
Word in the grapevine is that while Museveni and Mbabazi may have reached an agreement to have one succeed the other, it was scuttled by Janet who does not see eye-to-eye with Mbabazi or his wife, Jacqueline, the chairperson of the NRM Women’s League. Janet has, however, never spoken out openly against Mbabazi or his wife.
In Zimbabwe, on the other hand, the recent sudden entry of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, into politics has resulted in a public onslaught on the vice president from the first lady. The similarity with Uganda’s situation is in the fact that the rivalry between first lady and heir apparent seems to have equally torpedoed Mujuru’s chances of succeeding Mugabe.
Since setting her eye on the chair of the ZANU-PF Women’s league early this year (she was appointed to the position last week), the 49-year-old Mrs Mugabe has regularly accused Mujuru of everything from wanting to take power, being a “witch” to exposing her thighs in public.
As the NRM prepares for its delegates’ conference slated for Monday, it could end with Museveni, who already has 28 years of power under his belt, entrenching himself in the position like Mugabe (34 years in power) has done. Given how the two have gone about it over the last one year, it would be very difficult to spot any difference.
Mugabe fired Mujuru and eight ministers.
Source : The Observer