Amama’s four possible political options

The man, who has for long cast an image of a “kingmaker” within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) political backyard, today, finds himself in the cold.

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, 65, the “super minister” was on Thursday sacked as prime minister and ordered to hand over the office to his friend, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda ‘with immediate effect’.

The “External Wing” Bush War hero who became the first spy chief in President Museveni’s post-war government, a distinguished intelligence kingpin who rose through the ranks, was left without a job in a government he has served for 28 years.

But what will be Mr Mbabazi’s next course of action? When Daily Monitor contacted some of the former premier’s known close confidants for insight on what will happen next, most expressed ignorance while others indicated uneasiness to comment on the subject.

Academicians, politicians and commentators however, see four possible political paths for Mr Mbabazi, who still occupies the position of secretary general of the ruling NRM party.

According to Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo, the “sky is the limit” for ex-premier’s political future although he refused to elaborate what this means.

Build power base
Lawyer and political analyst Nicholas Opiyo says the first course of action open to Mr Mbabazi is to take aantage of his position as secretary general to continue building a power base within the party and hopefully upstage President Museveni at the delegates conference slated for mid next year.

“Amama can eat humble pie and go to Plot 10 Kyadondo (NRM headquarters) and assert his authority on party structures as the lawful secretary general in the hope of building those networks and defeating Museveni at the ballot during the party general assembly,” said Mr Opiyo.

Whereas this is Mr Mbabazi’s most likely strategy, for that was what was assumed he was up to when the party legislators drafted the Kyankwanzi resolution aimed at barring him from running for president, Mr Opiyo says this is bound to run into hiccups.

“This option is problematic because the NRM structures do not function in any organised manner or fashion. Even if they worked, Todwong seems to have the real power as minister in Charge of Political Mobilisation,” said Mr Opiyo.

In the aftermath of the February Kyankwanzi resolution, President Museveni announced that Mr Richard Todwong, the Minister without Portfolio in charge of Political Mobilisation, would take over management of the party secretariat since Mr Mbabazi was busy with prime minister duties.

Lie low
The second option for Mr Mbabazi, according to analysts, is to lie low, pay allegiance to Mr Museveni and witness a reversal of his political fortunes. This option, according to Mr Opiyo, is feasible considering that Mr Mbabazi has been a close ally of the President—many times executing some of his critical assignments.

Other analysts point out that people like Gen David Sejusa (before his 2103 flight to exile) and late Eriya Kategaya were examples of beneficiaries of President Museveni’s magnanimity after they kissed and made-up.

Gen Sejusa fell out with the system in 1996 after he accused the army of lacking the will to end the then raging northern Uganda war. Asked to apologise and retract his statements, Gen Tinyefuza, as he was known then, opted to leave the army.

He took his battle to the Constitutional Court where he won but lost in the Supreme Court after the State appealed. He was placed on “katebe” (non-deployment) before he bounced back as coordinator of intelligence agencies where was played a central part in the 2005 arrest of Opposition leader Kizza Besigye.

For Mr Kategaya, a once de-facto leader of the NRM, his woes began in 2003 when he opposed the lifting of presidential term limits. He was dropped from Cabinet and went into private legal practice before having a lukewarm relationship with the FDC party. After talks with Mr Museveni, he was reappointed to Cabinet until March 2013 when he passed on.

Form splinter group
Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa of Makerere University says Mr Mbabazi could also opt to form a splinter group from the NRM.
“If Mbabazi decides to run for presidency, we are going to have one party headed by Mbabazi and the old NRM headed by Museveni. I don’t see Mbabazi going to Opposition because he has no base there,” he said.

That is the same view held by Mr Morrison Rwakakamba, who heads the presidential research unit.

“Mr Museveni retains the mandate of the party faithful and no member of the party can fight him without risking the wrath of party faithful. Mbabazi will likely seek another political vehicle to accommodate his presidential ambitions,” Mr Rwakakamba said.

Start pressure group
Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga, however, suggests that Mr Mbabazi’s most viable option is start a political pressure group and join the Opposition to fight President Museveni. “Mbabazi needs to join the Opposition and form a grand coalition that will restore hope and capture power,” said Mr Karuhanga.

Asked if such an option would not invite the ire of the system and see Mr Mbabazi subjected to some of the harsh treatment Opposition leader Kizza Besigye has faced in the past, Mr Karuhanga said: “If Museveni decides to gag Mbabazi’s political activism by arresting him, if he makes that mistake, that would be the first of the closing nails in the coffin of NRM.”

But Prof Ndebesa expressed misgivings on whether Mr Mbabazi would join the Opposition and whether they would embrace a person who has been harassing them.

“They will be naïve to do that. What I see happening is that Mr Mbabazi is going to be a toothless secretary general with no power and influence. I see him gradually resigning that position,” said Prof Ndebesa.

The plan
Political analyst Nicholas Opiyo says what Mr Museveni has done with the Amama sacking is show that he (Museveni) still wields the axe and has sent fear down the NRM hierarchy. But while everyone is still holding their breath for his next move, Mr Opiyo says, the President will unleash his plan which still has Amama in some senior role in both his government and party.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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