President Museveni has managed to keep his movement cadres in line by instilling fear of a ruthless reprimand should any even dream of rebellion. The treatment meted out to NRM hotshots like Gilbert Bukenya and Gen. Henry Tumukunde just to teach them a lesson is enough reminder that the commander in chief is not to be slighted.
This tactic has never come in handier than now when the party feels threatened by the rising popularity of its former secretary general Amama Mbabazi who it is believed will be looking to score a good number of defections from the ruling party to bolster his presidential campaign
Amama Mbabazi’s open rebellion and breaking of ranks with the top General that many believed was grooming a successor in the now Go forward candidate has only heightened the paranoia and suspicion that has come to characterize the seat of power as Museveni attempts to extend his grip on power to 34 years.
Despite writing off the former premier NRM loyalists were dismayed when Amama managed to unhitch his wagon from the yellow bus and remain politically relevant. The meticulously organized former premier has not only managed to keep his head above water but has used the momentum of his much publicized ejection from the NRM fold to launch a formidable presidential bid that has seen the NRM leadership running around in circles to purge the party of any Amama influence.
During happier times
The fact that RDCs showed open support and even lent assistance (read soldiers) to certain preferred candidates in the chaotic NRM primaries is proof that the specter of Amama’s influence is seen as a real and much dreaded threat to the party’s success in 2016.
In the course of one week last month two NRM loyalists attributed their failure in the primaries to the undue influence or harassment from the RDCs of their respective districts. Omodo Omodo the NRM vice chairperson of the youth league blamed his loss in the Oyam North primary on the RDC of Oyam who deployed security personnel to oversee the theft of votes that would hand victory to Col. Okello Ongola.
Omodo has since pledged his allegiance to Amama Mbabazi along with a sizeable contingent of former contestants in the NRM primaries
While the Ibanda North MP Xavier Kyooma was reportedly shocked by the Ibanda RDCs complicity in the blatant vote rigging that was masterminded to ensure his rival Guma Gumisiriza won the primary election, Kyooma could only offer guesses as to which party boss was behind this kind of injustice, but what was clear is that he was being labelled as an Amama sympathizer.
Amama may or may not have any kind of sway over NRM members but the party top brass are not taking any chances, the rank and file seem to have latched onto this mood and are now conniving and scheming to take advantage of this state of affairs in order to malign and discredit opponents.
As if sensing that this trend was bound to flare into a major crisis the president moved to persuade party delegates at the recently concluded delegate’s conference not to label each other as Mbabazi stooges stating with emphasis that the former premier has no hold on party members.
The president may have sounded convincing but it is an open secret that this election will surpass all previous ones in the amount of resources the incumbent will employ to neutralize the threat posed by the presidential bids of two former comrades in arms.
This is why it is a matter of life and death for NRM party members to win the party flag in MP and local government races, this is why the primaries have been plagued by open rigging and ugly violence – the party’s blessing arrives with a considerable war chest and military musclemen that any politician will kill to possess.
But with two formidable opponents to defuse this time around how much money is enough? Could this be the year of the run off? Is what some analysts are asking – and if such a scenario were to materialise will one opposition candidate throw his weight behind the runner up to the incumbent? Is the question I’m posing as I muse over this fascinating election.
Anyway, as we normally say in Luganda at the start of an engaging contest – Zaabike emipiira