Norbert Mao, Besigye, Muntu, Kyagulanyi, and the Devil’s Bargain

Monday, April 29, 2019

Opposition political groupings are reported to be mulling over whether to work in alliance towards 2021 elections supposedly to defeat the NRM, but perhaps more precisely, to dislodge President Yoweri Museveni, whose longevity gives them sleepless nights. But, so far, the deep cracks are evidently visible, as each accuses the other of being a mole working for President Museveni. And although each of them claim, without much evidence to be fighting for ‘Ugandans’, it will be quite hard for them to dismantle NRM’s record.

These self-inflicted wounds of suspicions were started by Cecilia Ogwal, then secretary general of the disgraced Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) around 1987 against DP, led by Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere. ‘Old Paul’, as we derisively called him in the media then, had joined the NRM government as a minister, under what he self-described a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which never was. Ssemogerere was being seen as a political opportunist without any back-borne as he, and Olara Otuunu, had served the short-lived Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa’s military junta as internal, and foreign affairs ministers respectively. Museveni, on the other hand, had rejected serving in Lutwa’s government unless the NRM/A, had veto powers, or else, he went for an outright victory which he assumed in January 1986. 

Under intense pressure, from inside and outside DP, Ssemogerere, as deputy prime minister, eventually bolted out of NRM government in October 1995, to run as a joint opposition presidential candidate in 1996, supported by UPC which brought so much laughter, scorn, and rejection as Ugandans kept reminding ‘Old Paul’ of his ‘famous’ “Black Book,” documenting UPC II atrocities. In that election, Ssemogerere limped off with 25% votes. DP faction that tormented Ssemogerere, were led by Michael Kagwa of “Mobilisers Group”, and Ommulongo Wasswa Zziritwaula of “Tap Dialogue.”

It’s important to remind Ugandans, that it was on Ssemogerere’s ruin, that Kizza Besigye germinated as an opposition figure in 2001, co-sponsored by DP and UPC machinery, and some disgruntled elements from NRM who have since abandoned him, and appear retired from active election politics. 

So today, when, even before there is any ink in the rumoured deal-making between Norbert Mao of the ailing DP, Mugisha Muntu of Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), and Robert Kyagulanyi, who is yet to find his feet, analysts have suggested that the road towards 2021 could again be a devil’s bargain. In 2001, Mao, Jacob Oulanya, and Odonga Otto rallied behind then flamboyant Aggrey Awori (MP Samia Bugwe North) for president, apparently because he had publicly bragged of bringing $10 million, a helicopter, and Al Gore’s name into his campaign.

With an acrimonious discourse, as Mao, Muntu, and Kyagulanyi elbow each other, people should also be asking the whereabouts of Olara Otuunu and John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who, in 2011 and 2016 respectively, stirred so much political anxiety only to crush out. Otuunu, freshly from UN and self-imposed exile during which he renounced his Ugandan citizenship, returned in a frenzy, accompanied by a battery of international journalists from CNN, BBC, AFP, and VoA among others. Now, both Otuunu and Mbabazi, it appears, have reached their end of times in politics and enjoying very quiet private lives. Some even wish that Mbabazi returns into the NRM ‘queue’.

Besigye, having crashed out, as a possible joint candidate in the civil society sponsored Democratic Alliance (TDA) in 2016, left gnashing, and isn’t taking matters lying low. Besigye appears ready and willing to spill some ‘blood’, when being pushed to give way to a new person. Meanwhile, Mao, Muntu, and Kyagulanyi, are three men claiming equal rank in the opposition, with a shared contempt for each other, and are ganging up against Besigye.

Muntu, who joined Besigye in the opposition belatedly in 2005, is beginning to find out that politics is a diabolical game in which presumed allies can become enemies who could hurt your interests permanently. Apparently, Muntu didn’t know that it would be a very long one, and the only way to win the game, is having a disciplined strategy. Kyagulanyi, is sadly, yet to find the check, from checkmates, who want to use him as a convenient vessel to their desired destinations.    

It may still be early but pointers show that all the four men-Besigye, Mao, Muntu and Kyagulanyi are fighting to run for president on opposition ticket, or perhaps become the power behind the throne, although each has political sidekicks unwilling to relinquish their roles as barking dogs, even if small ones. Each faction is trying to establish feedback, and bypass loops against the other, reinforcing annoyance, suspicions, and frustration in their camps. 

One of the joys of being a columnist writer is that you can collect many interesting characters and find some excuses to write about them whenever it appears necessary or relevant. Impassioned speeches by ‘People power’ con artists, should remind us that even Adolf Hitler rode on sloganeering. As the populism gathers storm before subsiding, we must find at which point Mao, Muntu, Kyagulanyi and Besigye will intersect or cross each other.