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Chaos in opposition parties as Museveni moves Muhoozi

President Museveni

President Museveni

It is indeed challenging to understand President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s motives behind his recent appointments, both within the cabinet and the military.

Of particular public interest was the appointment of his son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, as the chief of defense forces (CDF), the highest position in the military hierarchy. This appointment has sparked further speculation, especially given the recent expansion of powers granted to the CDF.

Museveni not only appointed Muhoozi as CDF but also named two of his staunch supporters, Lilian Aber and Balaam Barugahara Ateenyi, as ministers of state for Relief and Disaster Preparedness and Youth and Children, respectively.

This move raises questions about whether Museveni aimed to suppress Muhoozi’s publicly known presidential ambitions, evidenced by his establishment of the Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU), or if he was actually bolstering them.

By granting Muhoozi full control over the military, including the ability to appoint allies to key positions, Museveni’s intentions could be interpreted as either sidelining Muhoozi from political endeavors or manipulating the political landscape in his favor.

The answers to these inquiries remain elusive, but it is evident that the traditional opposition, tasked with raising such concerns, is currently entangled in internal conflicts of its own. Some of the turmoil is self-inflicted, while the rest appears to be engineered by President Museveni himself. All four major opposition political parties with significant representation in parliament find themselves engulfed in internal strife.

In fact, three of these parties have already splintered into two factions each, leading to a divided leadership. The Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), the second oldest party in Uganda, is currently divided into two factions.

One faction is led by Jimmy Akena, the member of parliament for Lira Municipality and the son of the party’s founding president, Apollo Milton Obote. The other faction is led by city lawyer Peter Walubiri.

Despite court rulings deeming Akena’s leadership illegitimate due to procedural irregularities during his election, his faction is recognized by the government. Furthermore, Akena’s wife, Betty Amongi, serves as the minister for Gender Labour and Social Development.

The Democratic Party (DP) also finds itself split down the middle, with its president, Norbert Mao, having signed a memorandum of understanding with President Museveni, against the wishes of many party members. Mao now holds the position of minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the NRM government.

A group led by Dr Bayiga Lulume, the member of parliament for Buikwe South, contends that Mao forfeited his leadership role the moment he aligned himself with the NRM government.

The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is witnessing significant changes, with a faction led by Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, including former party president Dr Kizza Besigye, shifting base from the Najjanankumbi headquarters to Katonga road.

This group, now known as the Katonga faction, shows strong signs of forming a new political party. Meanwhile, within the National Unity Platform (NUP), the largest opposition party, a rift is emerging between party president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and his Buganda region deputy, Mathias Mpuuga.

The tension escalated following revelations that Mpuuga, during his tenure as leader of the opposition, accepted a Shs 500 million service award from the Parliamentary Commission. This financial controversy, labeled as corruption by some within NUP, builds on pre-existing conflicts between Mpuuga and Kyagulanyi, particularly after Mpuuga was replaced as LoP.

As the 2026 elections draw near, with President Museveni possibly gearing up for another term or succession, traditional opposition parties are grappling with internal strife. Joel Ssenyonyi, the newly appointed leader of the opposition, in an interview, explained that the current upheaval within NUP should be seen as part of a process to refine their political strategy for engaging Ugandan voters.

“Refining gold is a tough process, it goes through a lot of fire, but eventually, you get a refined product. What’s happening in NUP is beneficial because it helps us reorganize and identify who can withstand the fire and emerge refined. We aim to offer Ugandans a refined political product,” Joel Ssenyonyi stated.

He believes that the current challenges within the party will strengthen them, rather than weaken them.

“Demanding accountability from Museveni requires us to be accountable ourselves. This process, though tough, makes us stronger. Even if it means losing some popularity, it’s crucial for us to do the right thing,” he added.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, MP for Kira Municipality and spokesperson of the FDC’s Katonga faction, recognizes the significant impact of internal conflicts on the opposition.

“The time we should have spent strategizing against President Museveni is consumed by self-destruction,” he observed.

Ssemujju sees little chance of unity among the opposition parties, given the current divisions within FDC, DP, UPC and NUP. He suggests that neutral figures like Prof. Fredrick Ssempebwa might be necessary for facilitating meetings among the divided members.

Discussing the difficulty of aligning behind a single presidential candidate, Ssemujju notes that past opportunities to win constituencies were missed due to fielding multiple candidates.

“Even winning the presidency will be futile if NRM maintains a 70 per cent control in parliament; they could impeach the president in the first week,” he said, expressing hope for unity before 2026. When asked about the root cause of these frictions, Ssemujju attributed them to the selfish nature of many politicians.

“Ugandan politicians largely act as freelancers; we’ve become fortune hunters. When the fortunes we are chasing disappear, so does our allegiance. The majority base their political alignment on the prospects of the next election, not on Uganda’s needs,” stated Nganda.

He suggests that political affiliations are often more about personal gain than national interest. Dr Yusuf Serunkuma, a political analyst, views the opposition’s turmoil as part of a larger strategy.

He argues that the opposition has been ensnared by incentives that dilute their identity and effectiveness. According to Serunkuma, aligning with institutionalized politics under President Museveni’s neoliberal democracy leads to a loss of identity and a confusing role for opposition politicians.

“Joining politics means being captured by a system designed to control. It’s not just parliament that’s a bribe; all institutional politics is,” he remarked, suggesting that this dynamic explains the ongoing corruption in bodies such as parliament.

Serunkuma criticized Speaker Anita Among, describing her as part of a network that exploits national resources. He raised a provocative question: why do political figures in Uganda typically focus on skimming taxes and land, rather than stealing tangible assets like banks, telecoms, or industries?

His explanation is that such thefts would conflict with the interests of powerful external entities. “They can’t afford to clash with the real masters,” he concluded.

mmkakembo@gmail.com

Comments

0 #1 kabayekka 2024-03-27 13:36
One thought the real masters of this country are the tax payers! It is easier done to steal tax money within the law of this country than to break the bank of Uganda.

The Inspector of Government seems to agree that trillions of tax revenue and international aid funds are stolen every day by legitimate government workers.

Why should a government worker go on and risk to rob Stambic Bank, when at the end of the day Parliament will had him on the plate 700 billion shillings every other year?
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