It has now become common knowledge that President Museveni is many times arm-twisted by one or two factions in his palace in making one socio-economic decision or the other. What used to be shared in hashed tones within the corridors of power is now openly discussed on radio talkshows, social media platforms and all manner of public fora. The power struggles of camps loyal to different political bigwigs inside Museveni’s Presidency or palace is what I’m writing about here. At one point, rivalry was alleged between the First Lady and the former Principal Private Secretary; or one son-in-law against the brother of the President and so on and so forth.
Beneath all the fighting lies the insatiable appetite for amassing money at the expense of other people in the same boat. The camp that gets access to the kitty at a given time does all things possible to exclude the other and in response, the excluded camp hits back in a well choreographed hate and smear campaign against the advantaged camp.
If you did not know, this is how some of those corruption scandals in which obscene sums of money are stolen leak to the public through the media. The political opposition is always on hand to collect the spoils; gain some survival money and win some political capital. For long, Col. (rtd) Dr. Kizza Besigye was a leading beneficiary of this contradiction within the ruling clique.
With Dr. Besigye morphing into political oblivion, the new kid on the block; Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu a.k.a Bobi Wine is set to reap big as the palatial wars get decentralised to the regions in the NRM Party. I will explain this out more elaborately using the Eastern region as an example.
Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga (NRM 2nd National Vice Chairman), Mike Mukula (NRM Vice Chairman Eastern region) and Justine Kasule Lumumba (NRM Party Secretary General) form band A of the ruling party politicians in Eastern Uganda. Each of these bigwigs has a following of commanders (what I will call band B ruling party politicians) in their column. The band B politicians then recruit the foot soldiers and spin doctors that go around discrediting the other camp or cropping up strong opposition candidates against the members of the other camp.
Some of the prominent band B politicians linked to the camp of Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga include Moses Grace Balyeku of Jinja South West (formerly Jinja Municipality West) constituency. The column of Justine Kasule Lumumba is believed to host bigwigs like Nathan Igeme Nabeta (NRM Chairman for Jinja City/District, former MP for Jinja Municipality East Constituency) and Minister Persis Namuganza who contested against Kadaga in the CEC elections. Dr. Kenneth Omona, the Principal Private Secretary to President Museveni, is also suspected to sympathise with the Justine Lumumba axis among others. The camp of George Mike Mukula is not as powerful as the first two, but it exists and is believed to be in bed with the Kadaga camp to stave off the growing influence of the Lumumba camp.
While the camps in the Presidential palace fight over sharing money in the public service, the camps in Eastern Uganda are fighting over the control of campaign finance and profiting from the NRM campaign kitty as service providers in one way or another. When the President decided to use NRM party structures for his scientific campaigns, the Justine Lumumba axis was set to benefit by design to the disadvantage of the Kadaga and Mukula axes. Being battle hardened politicians, they just did not sit down and watch. A spirited fight has been mounted to force President Museveni to rethink his campaign strategy to one that will even the ground for all camps to reap financially.
While the President was on the campaign trail in Teso, Bukedi and Busoga sub-regions, these fights came to the fore. Proxies of Mike Mukula and Kadaga cornered the President into making some concessions on contentious issues such as allowances to delegates among others.
Besides the cash battles, it is not difficult to see why Balyeku would not want to see Nabeta in Parliament for instance. If Nabeta loses his seat and Balyeku wins, it would increase his chances of being named in cabinet and thus open more cash taps for him and his camp. This therefore is a possible motivation for Balyeku to support Nabeta’s opponents and this script is replicated in many other constituencies – making the leading opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) and FDC parties the main beneficiaries of the decentralised intra-NRM wars.
The camps in Busoga took their battles in the media to an unprecedented level. The Balyeku-Mukula-Kadaga teams are now being accused by fellow party members of orchestrating the recent bad press targeting the NRM Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba. The media has been awash with stories ranging from Lumumba’s management of party finances to the unfortunate claims that she faked her COVID-19 status in order to avoid accountability questions and embarrassment that awaited her during the President’s campaign tour of Busoga sub-region.
Bobi Wine’s pro-Kadaga stance in Kamuli and his endorsement of Dr. Charles Ayume in Koboko are picked straight from the centuries-old political playbook that tells us to always avoid interrupting your enemy when they are making a mistake.
While appearing to be sympathising with some NRM candidates, Bobi Wine and his NUP party are well aware that they are going to reap big from the decentralised NRM in-fighting; and as a result, wrest many constituencies from the ruling party. Surely, the political gods are smiling over Bobi Wine. The powerful NRM is eating its own at the altar of money, greed and selfishness. Make no mistake, the script from Busoga is playing out in all other regions around the country and the outcome will be there for all to see.
Faced with the biggest political test of Museveni’s electoral life in the Bobi Wine youthful wave, one would have expected that the NRM would aim at total unity. Yet, like all institutions eaten up by corruption, it is staring at absolute disintegration and possible humiliation in the general elections.
Has reliance on patronage come to eat Museveni after him benefiting from it? Your guess is as good as mine.
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