Democratic Party (DP) Chairman General Norbert Mao has been under attack since July 20, when his party signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The opinion of four of the party MPs – Mr. John Paul Lukwago (Kyotera), Mr. Richard Sebamala (Bukoto Central), Mr. Richard Lumu Kizito (Mityana South) and Dr. Lulume Bayiga (Buikwe South) – was that the agreement had left the party without leadership.
“There is no doubt that we no longer have a president; the head was cut off. We will now prepare and operate to put a new face in the party and the party will continue to function,” the MP for Mityana South said.
In the footsteps of Nasser Ntege Sebaggala, Mr. Mao walks a road that was ironically first taken by the former mayor of Kampala whom Mao beat to the DP hot seat in February 2010.
Seya – as Sebaggala was popularly known – came to light with the realization that Mr Museveni preferred to deal with opposition individuals and began to look beyond his fellow PDs.
On November 11, 2006, a few months after regaining his seat as mayor of Kampala, Sebaggala and Mr. Museveni were together at the launch of a drinking water project in Rubaga division.
Speaking on December 20, 2008, at the wedding of Seya’s son, Sulaimain Cobra, Mr Museveni praised Seya as “a shrewd politician who never allows differing opinions to result in enmity “.
Sebaggala’s campaign message also changed to “we will change if necessary”. As the Mbale conference of delegates approached, he began to tell DP supporters that it was necessary to start a dialogue with the NRM on the possibility of power sharing.
Many delegates voted against him because they were uncomfortable with the intimacy between him and Mr. Museveni. It looks like DP is back to where he was in February 2010.
Most of Mr. Mao’s critics, especially those on social media, have sought to portray him as a traitor and renegade who has abandoned the tumult of opposition politics for the comforts offered by the ruling party.
What is strange, however, is that some of Mr. Mao’s most vocal critics are among the very people who have praised the way politics is going in Kenya where there were opposition coalitions.
The first was the Rainbow Coalition government which led to the rise of Mwai Kibaki, who became the country’s third president.
The Jubilee Coalition was then formed with Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto at the top.
A handshake in March 2018 between President Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga helped ease tensions stemming from the acrimonious 2017 elections which Mr Odinga lost to Mr Kenyatta.
That handshake paved the way for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and has since culminated in Mr. Kenyatta’s decision to back Mr. Raila in next month’s general election, even when his deputy and former ally Mr. Ruto, is a candidate in the same race.
Why do Mr. Mao’s critics think that what is good for politicians in Kenya is not good for politicians in Uganda?
Compare oranges to apples
Professor Sabiti Makara, who teaches political science at Makerere University, says the co-operation pact between Mr Museveni and Mr Mao and their parties cannot be compared to coalitions unfolding in Kenya.
He argues that coalitions in Kenya are formed with a view to gaining power and not with a view to taking crumbs from what is offered by the ruling party.
“For Kenyans, this is a kind of principled coalition building. They form coalitions of three or four groups with the idea of taking power, but in any case most of these coalitions occur within the opposition. But here I think it really jumps on the bandwagon,” Prof Makara says.
Mr. Fred Oweyegha Afuna-adula, a retired professor from Makerere University, says it is highly unlikely that Mr. Mao’s critics would have criticized him if the deal with the NRM had been done in such a way transparent and in consultation with the party.
“It was between him and Museveni. He did not consult his party. Party organs should be used to inform a pact of this nature. Kenyans involve parties, not just individuals. Kenyans use coalitions, while Museveni uses co-optation,” says Afuna-adula.
At a DP press conference on Tuesday, Mao debunked the argument that he had not consulted his party, saying that one of the main bodies, the management committee, knew about it, but that members of the National Executive Council (NEC) have since disassociated themselves from the agreement.
A day after the agreement, the party’s legal adviser, Mr. Luyimbazi Nalukola, suggested that the decision taken by Mr. Mao, General Secretary Gerald Siranda and National President Kiwanuka Mayambala to join Mr. Museveni in putting the pen on paper was not approved by the party.
“At no time did the NEC debate or discuss this issue of co-operative alliance with Museveni’s government and indeed me as the party’s attorney general and my brother Lumu were never consulted. I challenge Mao to present evidence in this regard,” Mr. Luyimbazi said.
One of the main talking points surrounding the relationship between the NRM and the opposition has always been the former’s refusal to facilitate a process that would have created a structured way of engaging and cooperating.
Mr Museveni has so far preferred to strike deals with individual opposition actors. This is the first time we see him operate as president of a party engaging the principal of another party.
Mr. Yona Kanyomozi, who represented Bushenyi South in the 4th Parliament and also served as Minister of Cooperatives and Commercialization under the Obote II regime, does not think highly of the pact, insisting that it is an agreement between two individuals whose interest is power. . One seeks to obtain it, while the other seeks to keep it.
He is quick to add, however, that Mr. Mao should be credited with reaching a formal agreement with the NRM, which other politicians have never achieved.
“It’s a good starting point between individuals… I don’t know if DP knew what his leaders signed before he signed and if it was discussed with the second signatory before it was signed, which would be a limitation, but generally it’s an improvement over the 1986 gentleman’s agreement,” says Kanyomozi.
In 1999, while writing in the journal An Insider’s View of how NRM Lost the Broad-base, Colonel Dr Kizza Besigye pointed out that in 1986, NRM had appointed a committee headed by the late Eriya Kategaya to engage various political parties , but that commitments came to nothing.
“It would seem that once political party leaders got ‘good’ positions in the NRM government, their enthusiasm for the talks waned and the process ultimately failed,” Dr Besigye wrote in the article that triggered his departure from the NRM. .
The hard bit
For other developments at both DP and NRM, signing was the easy part. Implementing the provisions of the agreement is what they call the much harder part.
“I think there is some importance in having a written document, but the implementation is my concern,” Prof Makara says.
Professor Makara says Mr Mao would have no way of ensuring that Mr Museveni keeps his end of the bargain.
“I think the pact is superfluous because I don’t think it will bind Museveni in any meaningful way. As president, he always has the prerogative to apply it or not. I don’t see how the pact can bind him to this or that. You can’t sue him for this or that,” argues Professor Makara.
The question of whether Mr. Museveni will fulfill his part of the pact seems to be born of mistrust in the person of the president. This most likely has a lot to do with the way Mr. Museveni and the NRM/A behaved after the December 17, 1985 signing of the peace pact with the regime of Tito Okello.
Negotiations under the auspices of then Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi began on August 26, 1985, but the NRM/A had, during the negotiations, taken control of large swathes of territory in western Kenya. Uganda from where they launched an attack on Kampala and later the rest. from the country.
However, Dr Frank Nabwiso, who was a member of the party’s outer wing, explained in an earlier interview that the decision to disregard the Nairobi accord was precipitated by the outer wing, whose chairman , Mr. Mathew Rukikaire, issued a statement on December 28, 1985, urging the fighting forces to descend on Kampala.
“We feared that the violation of basic human rights would continue as the military junta was unable to prevent the various militias (UFM, FEDEMU, UNRF and FUNA) that were in Kampala from committing atrocities. We have not seen any organ capable of reigning in these armies,” Dr. Nabwiso said.
The NRM/A, however, appears to have honored subsequent agreements. In June 1998, for example, Mr. Museveni’s government signed a peace accord with the Ugandan People’s Democratic Movement, which resulted in the absorption of rebel fighters into the NRA. Many are still in service.
Remnants of the former Uganda National Army (FUNA) and Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) forces also remain active in the military and government.
Will he honor his deal with DP? This is the question and the fear.