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Nambooze: People Power won’t survive after 2021

Betty Nambooze at NUP headquarters

Betty Nambooze at NUP headquarters

At its headquarters in Kamwokya, the newly formed opposition National Unity Platform [NUP] is welcoming a steady flow of new high-profile followers. Last week, eleven Democratic Party-leaning members of parliament defected to the Robert Kyagulanyi-led NUP.

The surprise defection of all was that of BETTY NAMBOOZE BAKIREKE, the Mukono Mu- nicipality MP. Nambooze, formerly Dr Kizza Besigye’s spokesperson, has in the past been highly critical of Bobi Wine and his legion of supporters, who, she accused in a written statement of being intolerant to alternative views.

Speaking to The Observer recently at her home in Mukono, Nambooze said she joined NUP because that’s what her supporters wanted. She said it was also a tactical withdrawal from her party DP in order to return and take over its leadership. Below are excerpts.

Many people were surprised to see you at Kamwokya (NUP head offices); they said you were hostile to People Power in the beginning...

If someone says I was hostile to People Power, that person should unpack that and say what I did exactly. There hasn’t been anybody as consistent as me. I said any addition is highly welcome. I said if Hon Kyagulanyi wants to have something that will last; he should form a political party early enough before the campaigns.

You know People Power was not a political party. On January 2, 2020, I was hosted on NBS largely to predict what the future holds and I said People Power as a movement was to suffer greatly this year and the People Power dream could not go beyond 2021. I said if Hon Kyagulanyi wants to create an institution that will last, he should form a political party early enough before the campaigns.

Because if he had not done the same, he would run as an independent and so many people would tap into his charisma and win positions but he would not have any authority over them to offer a government he promised if he wins. And if he is to lose, he is supposed to offer a shadow government but how do you do that with people who belong to other parties or independents?

I said People Power as much as they were talking about supporting the most promising candidate for a position, they didn’t have a formula to do that. Because even when they called upon people to pick nomination papers, people would first pick DP or FDC papers then run to Kamwokya to pick forms.

I don’t know why they were even picking them because People Power was just an idea. Like I said, People Power would not survive after 2021. I don’t regret having said that. The problem is that our young people having grown up under President Museveni’s regime, they are so intolerant. They don’t even first listen to what you’re saying; they have created a sort of state for themselves where everyone is talking and no one is listening. That’s why we are missing out on so many discussions, which would have assisted our young organization to improve.

They say your comments seemed to be demoralizing to Kyagulanyi...

When I’m making these analyses, I’m not  driven by vendetta. I’m trying to help people sort themselves out and People Power sorted itself out by morphing into NUP. So, you can’t blame me for having not joined Kyagulanyi, because what would I be joining? Nobody could control People Power; and power without control is powerless.

Must you first form a political party to challenge power because a political party in its nature excludes people yet a movement like People Power is all-inclusive?

When you observe Kyagulanyi’s actions and those of his supporters, the fact of the matter is that he was running an unregistered political party. It was partisan, it had a color (red), it had a mission statement, it had hierarchy, principal, deputy, secretary general. So, increasingly, it was becoming a political party.

When you go to a meeting, everybody there is a candidate at various levels. So, once you have candidates, you will never avoid being partisan. So, on the issue of political parties, Kyagulanyi was very clear, he didn’t like them. The day he launched NUP, he was very clear that the oppressed needed to move together under a movement to liberate ourselves.

That’s why you see there have been efforts to come up with another unifying body but it would be very difficult to do that because of the electioneering that has started.

Now you are out of DP; would it be right to say Norbert Mao (DP president) has won?

Sometimes people lose in order to win and other times they win in order to lose. It depends on how you look at it. If Mao, one of our younger politicians, takes pride in sending away 11 members of parliament and loses all members of his executive save for four people, what kind of success is that?

If I was alone maybe I wouldn’t have gone to NUP. In Mukono here, all politicians and members of the party structures went to NUP. In parliament all my colleagues left. So, at times, politicians do things because of the dynamics of politics. 

You the leader must give direction to the people but it seems the people are giving you direction...

That’s false. Leaders can decide the direction but good leadership allows the majority to reign. Am I being fair to myself to say, I have refused to go. It disturbs me that the other day people were blaming me for not joining Kyagulanyi...What’s the purpose of campaigns if they can’t be used to move people.

If I was against something then and now, I have embraced it, count it as a result of the campaigns that I have been won over. It could also be that we were moved by powerful respected stakeholders. And then, where I had reached, I had to take a decision to either join NUP, ANT or Jeema.

Had DP become so untenable that you had to make a decision to leave it?

I was closed out of DP. I was in hospital when Mao held meetings in Mukono and during one of those tours, Gerald Siranda [DP Secretary General] said, the person who was keeping Nambooze in DP died, that was Birekeraawo Nsubuga, for me, I will never sign any forms nominating Betty Nambooze to be sponsored by DP, so it had become that bad.

You have said you are just hibernating and at some point, you will return to DP; are you not confusing people?

I’m not supposed to do things so that people can understand me. In fact, if people don’t understand what I’m doing in politics, sometimes that’s good. I know what it means to join a political party; it’s just about making a declaration and get a party card.

I’m in NUP nowbutIcanwalkinaDPofficeandpick my card. Of course, I’m not going to do that but NUP is a party on a mission. We need the politics of now, not the past or the future. I would have loved to be in DP or a party that is well administered and I’m sad that I have been forced to leave a party whose ideology I have espoused ever since I became an adult.

Mao and other people say you guys are all just interested in keeping your MP seats and you would go to any party that guaranteed that?

My political life doesn’t depend on the approval of Mao. I was the first in Museveni’s 35 years to stand on a DP ticket in Mukono. Visibly the strongest party here was NRM; so, what drove me then? People who I consider to be my juniors have crossed to NRM and become ministers.

So, if I was only interested in positions, why didn’t I work with Museveni? Why would I stay on a side where my health is greatly distorted?

That I can’t make a bed for my husband; that I have to call my children to dress me up. Everything in this house is being adjusted for me and then you say I only care about the position! It’s an insult manufactured by Mao, a wordsmith calling us meal card politicians but if there is any meal card politician, that person is called Mao. He is hunting me down because he knows I’m going to stand against him in the DP elections.

You still want his office?

Definitely, it’s part of the reason why I’m in NUP. You see the Rwandese came here in 1954, they almost became Baganda. When former President Milton Obote harassed us here, they went to the bush and overthrew the government but they knew that their final battle was in Kigali and they finally took it there.

Today, former NRA soldiers like Paul Kagame are governing in Kigali. My final battle is at Balintuma (DP head office) but now I’m in Kamwokya and like the RPF soldiers, I will do all to make the Kamwokya idea successful but I know where my final battle is; God willing.

Is there anything you are adding to Kyagulayi’s chances of going to State House?

In a few weeks, Bobi Wine will be  the leader of opposition in parliament. He’s becoming so lucky that he’s becoming number two before he goes to war.

Today, he has 17 MPs and Mao has four; you don’t see the difference? He is going to be sitting in forums like IPOD. Does he become stronger? Yes, because we represent constituencies? When I went to Kamwokya, I went with 90 DP councillors. All the 602 DP village chairmen have agreed to be NUP chairmen. I think NUP is harvesting from a garden they never planted.

But these are already opposition zones; they don’t help much in taking over state power...

But I have seen that he has two NRM MPs; that’s not simple. And let me tell you, this year, NUP will get more funds from parliament than DP.

No, they will not, the speaker said even if you change parties, you remain contractually tied to the party that sent you to parliament until the end of the five years...

I don’t get surprised when NRM people start saying that because they are so threatened. They just realized that in a few weeks’ time, Bobi Wine will be forming a government in parliament and now they want to go and twist the laws.

We shall also go for them. For me, it’s an insult and illegal if parliament ever records my words in the Hansard against DP. I’m not DP, I want that word NUP to be on the Hansard and I have written to the speaker to that effect. I would wish my entitlements to be recorded for the same party. What does Bobi Wine want; numbers . And Uganda is  not like America where victory is counted according to the states you have won.

In Uganda even if you get all your votes from Kampala as long as they make 51 per cent, they declare you the president. Buganda has 5.3 million voters and Museveni got five million votes so the game plan is to raise enough votes; in, Buganda and Busoga and make sure we raise as many candidates as possible to guard our votes in other areas so that Museveni doesn’t exaggerate his win elsewhere. But it is one thing having a plan and it doesn’t work out. But it’s better than having no plan.

There was a memorandum that guaranteed you guys won’t have primary challengers in NUP...

I have read about it somewhere but those are just rumours. We have not entered into such an agreement. But even if my colleagues enter into such an arrangement, I don’t need it because I have done so many things that please my voters. But when did it become a crime for a politician to do things that will make him/her popular in their constituencies? So, if there is a politician like Nambooze who goes to NUP because that’s what the people want, what crime have I committed?

But must people not say anything when they see a politician with 30 years’ experience joining somebody who just entered politics three years ago?

In democracies, presidential candidates look for big politicians for endorsement; it’s not the other way round. The stupid thing would be for me to come to Mukono and say vote for me because Bobi Wine wants me. I’m not seeking endorsement from him. 

But world over, presidential candidates look for endorsement and it is recorded as a parameter of strength. But there is also a new trend in
the world where voters are rebelling against seasoned politicians. It’s not only in Uganda and I have to accept it. I’m not disadvantaged because I had no intensions of running for president in 2021 but the coming of Bobi

Wine doesn’t stop me because Barack Obama became president before Donald Trump. Probably you will have a Betty Nambooze candidature in 10 years’ time when I’m 60 years.

What would you tell somebody who says that you went to Kamwokya after realizing that it’s the only ticket to your re-election?

Politicians doing things to attract voters is not out of the ordinary? Politics is like that more so during electioneering. And how does that make me a bad politician to move with my people? People have been saying Nambooze is a populist and I don’t want to deny that because if you do, you will have given opportunity to your opponents to disorganize you.

Apart from hoodwinking people, which other politicians wouldn’t want to do this? That’s how we win elections, by showing voters that we are serving their interests better.

Must you do things that don’t sit well with your heart just because you want to be elected?

Have you measured my heart to know I’m not well? There was a decision to be made, for me to choose which team I would play for in the next five years. I had a lot of soul-searching, I did enough consultations, weighed the interests of my voters, I ruled out the issue of being an independent; so, I decided to join NUP.

People who saw you at Kamwokya and read your body language concluded it wasn’t well...

In Buganda, the day we install a new king we are burying another one, what demeanour do you want a person to put on; to jump up and dance for the new king or cry for the old one.

It was sad we were burying DP and joining a party that was starting. It would be very sad for me, if I was jubilating. I’m sad for having left DP, that’s why I was saying I have unfinished business. I told NUP people that I will give my all while there but it shouldn’t surprise them when one day I go back to DP.

I have been the vice president where DP is strongest, that’s Buganda, I couldn’t walk away smiling. It will take me time to adjust to NUP but I carry one consolation that maybe in future, DP and NUP will become one party. If my husband died today, my son will be elevated to be the head of the family; I will be happy but I will be sad for the husband I have lost.

One of the things you have said many times is the lack of processes in DP or their abuse but then you are moving in a party where there is no pretense, it’s a one-man show...

What Mr Kyagulanyi had to do is to have interim leaders to be able to constitute structures that would sit to usher in democratic leaders. Because of the recruitment that has been going on, next week [this week], the

party is having a delegates’ conference and one of the biggest things to do is to amend the constitution to give more powers to the members than its leaders. As of now, he couldn’t have done otherwise.

Aren’t we going to see trouble in the coming days when NUP decides who will hold its flag for different places when there is no known process of determining candidates?

For leaders, it is not always that you do the right thing but to adjust after listening to people. If you don’t trust people, you can’t do anything. For now, I want to believe that Kyagulanyi couldn’t have been more democratic when the constitution talks about appointing, not electing. Did he appoint his relatives to these positions? So far, he has tried not to.


+2 #1 Wooden K. 2020-08-19 18:31
And there you have it !

Nambooze is probably the most underrated politician in Uganda . Hard to tell whether she is misjudged by her body language or by the aggresive way she talks

Truth be told ; she is one of the sharpest and most informed PMs . She grasps the issues faster than her opponents and critics.

No surprise that Museveni turned down her challenge to hold a public debate on the history of Uganda,
No wonder she is also the most brutalized woman in Uganda`s history.
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0 #2 WADADA rogers 2020-08-19 22:26
This is a political slut, a hater, loose month and i believe her prophecies will never come to pass.

She reminds me of this guy who calls himself Pastor Kayanja, he claimed that one of the Presidential Candidates in the 2011 elections would die, we waited forever before we started questioning whether or not it was a prophecy or wishful thinking.
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+1 #3 Kalemera 2020-08-20 15:34
Quoting WADADA rogers:
This is a political slut, a hater, loose month and i believe her prophecies will never come to pass.

She reminds me of this guy who calls himself Pastor Kayanja, he claimed that one of the Presidential Candidates in the 2011 elections would die, we waited forever before we started questioning whether or not it was a prophecy or wishful thinking.

What an idiot! No wonder you can't even punctuate.
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-1 #4 Wooden K. 2020-08-20 18:50
Soooooo wrong Wadada !!

Nambooze is one of very fwe women who has refused to get enticed & corrupted by Museveni`s cash anf fattening jobs
When it comes to Ugandans that have tasted the regime`s brutality , she stands in company with Dr.Besigye , Hon Zaake , Bobi Wine ......

Nambooze is also honest . She resisted the pressure and the temptation to jubilate when she found herself in a situation where she had to leave DP for NUP.

Non-thinkers could not correctly appraise her demeanour, even when she is the ( only) one who admitted that though DP is her heart , joining People Power/ NUP is a smart strategy.

Think Wadada , think !!!
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