Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Commander Land Forces (CLF) Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba appears to be, by small steps at a time, entering the national political fray with his recent public posture where well-wishers are nudging him to throw his hat on the presidency in 2026. Although Muhoozi hasn’t stated his ambition, the usual pseudo pundits claim that he’s teasing the waters. Within NRM and government circles there are subdued voices which only time will expose. But whichever way, the MK48 crusade is reshaping public discourse whose duration is anyone’s guese.

Muhoozi’s admirers, who seem spread countrywide, and calculating possible windfalls, argue that the ‘MK movement’ is spontaneous although many people disagree and insist it’s well-calculated to give it a veneer of legitimacy so as to shield him from accusations of disregarding the constitutional provision which bars serving UPDF soldiers from involvement in open politics. 

And the visit to Uganda last week by Rwanda President, Paul Kagame who Muhoozi worked with to open up the frosty relations with Uganda for almost four years including slamming his borders shut to travel and trade, is being seen by some, possibly as an icing on Muhoozi’s cake. At a dinner hosted in his honour at State House Entebbe, Kagame, tongue-in-cheek, offered to ‘edit’ Muhoozi’s twitter messaging. For that score, Muhoozi deserved a gentle pat on the back. 

The birthday carnival involving sports activities and merrymaking at venues across Uganda are indicative of latent mobilization which he has said is unstoppable. On his twitter account, Muhoozi has taunted his haters to watch the unfolding events saying “The enemies fought us for so long! They abused me with every name they could find! Now they can’t believe we have taken over the country! We will not stop until we are in complete control!” There’s no doubt, that Muhoozi, a disciplined professional soldier of repute, on his own merit, attracts great attention, and could as well upset the political alignment should he join the fray.

It would be tantalizing to watch the realignment of Kizza Besigye, Robert Kyagulanyi, Norbert Mao, Mugisha Muntu and others who have shown interest in the presidency when that time inevitably comes. In a strange twist, those who have been demanding that Museveni shows them a successor are now crying foul that he’s installing a family dynasty, even before he speaks out. 

The widespread perception until evidence is adduced, is that Muhoozi, a serving officer, contrary to the Constitution and laws governing UPDF, is getting involved in what appears to be open politics and not being called to order. Muhoozi and many supporters present their acclaim as a generational shift to save the NRM revolution from decay among the restless young people who constitute over seventy percent of Uganda’s population whose aspirations aren’t being met.

These shifts may be small steps but should compel NRM to refocus its outlook, organizational discipline, policy priorities and mass mobilization to consolidate its gains. NRM must avoid the temptations to use extra civil, political and constitutional means to deal with those legitimately challenging its grip on power. The modest realignment two years ago when Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) picked some politicians with vacillating traits spelt trouble for FDC which has been relegated to play a third fading fiddle.

At the time many MPs including former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) and then Kasese woman MP Winnie Kiiza de-camped FDC. Kiiza didn’t seek re-election perhaps avoiding contradiction perhaps because her husband, Yokasi Bihande is ANT national Chairman. Although Kasese had voted FDC in the previous three election cycles, in 2021 the ground shifted in NRM’s favour. Former Aruu county maverick MP Odonga Otto also abandoned FDC, ran on another ticket but fell flat as FDC’s attrition widened countrywide, and is writhing and blaming witches as its boat sinks further.

There is need for NRM cadres to reinvigorate a culture of spirited debates in the marketplace of ideas because open criticism has declined, while obscurantism and dirty tricks become the dominant face of NRM politics. In this vision, ideological and intellectual exchanges should be unencumbered by personal attacks, harsh judgment, need for self-preservation or risk of occupational hazards. The main objective should be to preserve freedom of inquiry. 

Many leaders in NRM today seem more focused on curbing disagreements within and outside than finding and pursuing a principled ideological correct line to serve NRM and public interest. At the start of 11th parliament in 2021, NRM took its MPs-elect to the National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi for an orientation in liberation ideology, patriotism, commitment to national duties, political discipline, and humility in leadership. 

It was hoped that progressively NRM MPs would appreciate how far Uganda has come, achievements registered, immediate and long-term challenges, and importantly what needs to be done collectively to accelerate Uganda’s socio-economic transformation. The NRM MPs were fore-warned to lookout for fifth-columnists among themselves to guard against being derailed from NRM’s main platform which is the election manifesto and government policy programs under implementation and those to be unveiled.