“I have no friends.” This statement, attributed to Mr Yoweri K. Museveni in a 1994 interview with Teddy Ssezi Cheeye, then owner and publisher of Uganda Confidential, prompted me to cross-check with a dear friend that I had assumed to be one of the President’s true social friends.
My friend, now deceased, had known Mr Museveni since their childhood. He left me in no doubt that the President had spoken a truth that others ignored at their peril. He gave me a priceless understanding of the President that disabused me of many assumptions I had held. I no longer bought the lines about so-and-so being the President’s childhood friend or a close associate and such.
So when Mr Amama Mbabazi was humiliated at Kyankwanzi early this year, in a Machiavellian episode that was clearly orchestrated by the President, I chuckled at newspaper statements that referred to the two men as friends.
Last week’s news of Mbabazi’s sacking did not surprise me. I only felt relieved that my friend no longer had to labour under the pretence and the strictures of his office as prime minister of Uganda.
For the record, I strongly uphold the President’s right to hire and fire prime ministers and other courtiers. Mbabazi was the 10th prime minister of Uganda since independence, the fifth to serve under Museveni, and the second to be fired.
In a country where ambition for higher office is considered a crime, Mbabazi’s desire to become president was never going to be received well. We can be certain that Mbabazi had been expecting the announcement. His sober and respectful written response to his dismissal suggests that the draft had been prepared and refined a while back.
Mbabazi, one of the most politically savvy and thick-skinned citizens on the scene, may be down but he is definitely not out. Not one to reveal his hand in any game, he is unlikely to react to his sacking with dramatic displays of displeasure or his next move, at least not for a while.
However, we can be certain that as long as he is secretary general of the ruling party, Mbabazi will remain a formidable force with the capacity to determine the course of the 2016 presidential elections.
Museveni knows this. So he will continue the fight against Mbabazi, probably shifting to charges that will keep the former prime minister busy in the courts of law. The game has just begun.
Meanwhile, I congratulate Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the new prime minister-designate. There is no doubt that he is very qualified for the job. Rugunda’s challenge will be to conduct himself in a manner that will not inflame the passions of those who have been drawn into the Museveni-Mbabazi contest.
Rugunda and Mbabazi have been very close friends for decades. By appointing Rugunda to replace Mbabazi, the great master of divide and rule may be hoping to wedge a rift between the two men and between their supporters, especially in Kigezi region.
Fully aware of Banyakigezi’s long history of bloody and self-destructive political conflicts since the late 1950s, Museveni may be wishing for a Mbabazi versus Rugunda polarisation in Kigezi Region, with the President coming in as the “peace-maker” who reaps the electoral harvest come 2016.
It is a sinister ploy that Banyakigezi should reject by consolidating their unity around common interests and rights of citizenship, including the defence of Mbabazi’s right to receive full justice and to seek the presidency through a free and transparent process.
Kigezi’s interests must never be reduced to who is president, prime minister or minister, but the people’s right to benefit from public funding for substantial infrastructure and social service development, in addition to our human rights.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor