Former Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya recently claimed that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi had falsely accused him of clandestine politicking before President Museveni.
As Siraje Lubwama now reports, Bukenya was, by then, threatening to pull ahead in the legendary succession queue. Sometime in 2006, President Museveni met with high-profile Catholics, including Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala and suggested that he was contemplating retiring, and he had some very good news for a religion that had never given Uganda a president.
According Msgr Dr John Wynand Katende, the current head of political affairs in Kampala archdiocese, the meeting took place at his country home in Rwakitura. Museveni is understood to have told his guests that he preferred to be replaced by a Catholic and he pointed to former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya as a likely candidate.
Msgr Katende said the Catholic officials warmed up to Museveni’s wish but cautiously warned that Bukenya had to first win a nationwide election.
“I was one of the many people who met the president because the Cardinal is nonpartisan and when he [Museveni] told us that he had groomed Prof Bukenya to succeed him, I recall we told him it is okay but we insisted it is Ugandans to vote for him [Bukenya] because this is a democratic country.”
Katende said. “… we appreciated his wish for a Catholic to succeed him but we said because Uganda is a democratic country and not a monarchy, the final decision on whether to vote Bukenya or not would finally be made by the voters in Uganda.”
According to Msgr Katende, the meeting had one agenda and lasted an hour. He said many officials from both the government and the church attended.
“This meeting took place at Rwakitura and had many government officials, Prof Bukenya himself inclusive. The team, led by the cardinal, also had many officials some of whom I don’t remember because it was a long time but I vividly recall Msgr Lawrence Kanyike was among those present,” Katende said.
Interviewed at the weekend, Bukenya confirmed attending the meeting.
“The meeting had Museveni on the government side and the cardinal on the other side. Because it had only one agenda and the president had other assignments, it lasted one hour,” said Bukenya, who, however, refused to divulge details.
Sources say that after the Rwakitura meeting, Bukenya began positioning himself for the big job. He even announced at Lubaga cathedral later that a Catholic had been tipped to replace Museveni. A source said it all began in 2006.
“In 2006, Museveni called Bukenya and asked him [Bukenya] to give him [Museveni] two Catholic officials he could discuss with something very important. Bukenya gave Museveni names including that of Cardinal Wamala,” the source said.
Museveni then contacted the Cardinal and set up the Rwakitura meeting. It is said that when the then Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, a Protestant, learnt about the plan, he and other people went to Museveni and objected to the succession plan.
Today, neither Mbabazi nor Bukenya appears to be anywhere near that legendary succession queue. Mbabazi has been isolated by Museveni-loyalist MPs and has been forced to deny that he has ever contemplated succeeding the president. Bukenya has declared that he will run for president in 2016, although the party is pushing the view that no one should challenge Museveni for the NRM ticket for the presidential race.
Asked about this meeting last week, Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi said that although Museveni may have promised some people that they would have a chance to succeed him when he retired, the president had not retired yet. Mirundi hastened to add that Uganda was not a monarchy, and that any presidential hopeful would have to face the voters.
“If I tell you I will give you a lift back home when I leave the bar, you can’t force me to leave the bar before I decide when I promise you to succeed me when I die, you don’t kill me alternatively when I promise that I will give you my old car when I buy a new one, you wait until I buy it,” Mirundi said.
Source : The Observer