Independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi made an unexpected show at the annual Kyabazinga coronation anniversary celebrations at the weekend, causing disquiet among the organisers and kingdom officials.
Mr Mbabazi’s original programme was to start his campaign rallies in Iganga District at 10am. However, by 11am, he was still holed up at the hotel where he spent the night. At noon, he emerged clad in a cream Busoga traditional tunic and his convoy headed to Bugembe, the venue of the celebrations.
At the venue, it was evident that Mr Mbabazi was not an invited guest. None of the kingdom officials, except ushers, welcomed him and there was no seat reserved for him.
However, the organisers had to create space in one of the VIP tents, where guests, including police director of operations Haruna Isabirye and commissioner of environmental police Taire Idwege, were seated.
Mr Farouk Mujomba, the kingdom chief of protocol at the celebrations, could be heard shouting at Mr Mbabazi’s team about how he could only allow one person and no one else from the team in the tent.
However, Mr David Pulkol and two bodyguards managed to squeeze seats for the entourage in the tent where Mr Mbabazi quietly sat, occasionally adjusting his spectacles and seemingly jotting in a notebook.
When Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga arrived with the Kyabazinga, Gabula Nadiope, Mr Mbabazi first remained seated but Mr Pulkol tapped him and he stood up to acknowledge their arrival.
Ms Kadaga walked straight to her seat, beside that of the Kyabazinga. Mr Mbabazi walked to greet her but he had to stand wait for the Speaker to get done with a chit-chat she was having with Gender state minister Rukia Nakadama.
Mr Mbabazi almost got impatient and he could be seen gesturing toward the Speaker and after close to three minutes, Ms Kadaga recognised him, smiled and got off her seat.
The two hugged and the former prime minister then muttered a few words in her ear before each returned to their seats.
Mr Mbabazi and Ms Kadaga are known to have had a not so smooth relationship while in government. In July, Ms Kadaga was caught out in leaked tapes, attacking Mr Mbabazi for allegedly propping political opponents against her in her constituency. Mr Mbabazi denied the charges.
Kingdom officials said when asked why he had come to the function, Mr Mbabazi told them he had come to buy a Busoga certificate as a sign that he respects the kingdom tradition.
However, Mr Mujomba said the kingdom premier, Dr Joseph Muvawala, told the former prime minister to come for the certificate on a working day.
While speaking at his Busembatia and Iganga campaign rallies later in the afternoon, Mr Mbabazi justified his going to Bugembe, saying it would have been bad manners had he gone on with his rallies without respecting the ceremony at Bugembe.
He also said he was able to buy the certificates.
Speaking on the side-lines of the Iganga rally, Mr Robert Kanusu, one of the architects of the impromptu visit, said they bought the certificate at Shs5M which he (Kanusu) paid in cash and received.
Ordinarily, the certificate goes for atleast Shs20, 000.
“The moment we stepped in at Bugembe, they had nothing to do. We were already there,” he said. “We paid our respects to the Kyabazinga and Busoga and we sent a message that Mr Mbabazi is not as bad as he is portrayed by some politicians in the region.”
Meanwhile, as Mr Mbabazi sat quietly in the tent, an order was being passed to the master of ceremonies not to recognise Mr Mbabazi’s presence and the organisers agreed not to give him a chance to wave to the crowd.
In all, he spent an hour and a half at Bugembe before leaving midway the celebrations.
But before he left, he was taken to greet the Kyabazinga. However, as he stepped forward, a culture enthusiast stopped him and demonstrated how to courtesy before a Kyabazinga and asked Mr Mbabazi to do the same.
Mr Mbabazi took one look at him, ignored him, and instead gave the Kyabazinga a firm handshake.
As tradition dictates that no subject is allowed to show the Kyabazinga their back, Mr Mbabazi took a few paces backwards and left the venue escorted by a group of youth punching the air and shouting his name. Ms Kadaga looked on with both her hands covering her nose.
From the Kyabazinga homage, Mr Mbabazi got a campaign line for the day, at all his three rallies, one in Busembatia and two in Iganga, he apologised for the late coming, saying he was held up at Bugembe.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR