US embassy denies claims State Department is backing Kadaga to stand for president
President Museveni last Monday launched a scathing attack against the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, in an act many NRM insiders believe was inimical to cow her out of her presidential ambitions.
“A speaker isn’t supposed to be in dance halls, jumping up and down. A speaker should wear her wig and keep silent until something that needs her guidance comes up,” Museveni reportedly said in the full gallery of ruling party lawmakers during the NRM caucus meeting at State House, Entebbe.
Highly placed sources have told us that the fallout between Museveni and Kadaga reached fever-pitch after he was informed that the United States State Department is covertly courting Kadaga as a possible successor to the President. We have been made to understand that Kadaga would get the backing of the United States if she threw her hat in the presidential ring come 2016.
Our sources claim that this plan has been dovetailed with the support of the State Department, which also supports the campaign to restore term limits. If the term limits are restored, claims the source, Museveni would not be eligible to run for another term in office, leaving Kadaga as the favourite NRM candidate.
Other sources claim some US emissaries have met lawmakers to hammer out the finer details of this plan. President Museveni, on March 29, 2012, while meeting a UN delegation at State House Entebbe, warned western embassies against recruiting Ugandans as spies.
“We have reports that they invite our young Members of Parliament, give them funds which are not reported either in Parliament or the ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is corruption if they get money that they don’t declare. If it is to help our country, it should be reported. If it is not reported, it is looked at as some of our partners recruiting agents or spies in our country,” the President said.
On Thursday, the US embassy publicist, Daniel Travis, quashed talk of US drumming up support for Kadaga.
“The information you received is wrong. The United States is not involved in the internal politics of any political party in Uganda, and supports President Museveni as the democratically elected president of Uganda,” Travis wrote in an e-mail.
The speaker’s phone was switched off when we tried to contact her, as she was reportedly held up in meetings.
But of more concern are fears that barely two years into her role as speaker, Kadaga’s profile in the high octane rough and tumble of elective politics continues to grow. Sources have revealed that the problem between the speaker and the President first emerged last year when intelligence bosses penned a dossier alleging that Kadaga was building a power base across the country.
As part of the evidence, recordings were brought in during a Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting. Museveni asked his senior presidential advisor, Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso, to play back the recordings after Kadaga had made some statements that were aired on some FM stations in Busoga.
In one of the recordings, Kadaga was asked whether she was interested in the presidency. Although she had avoided the subject earlier on, she later put in her two cents. She said: “Who said the Basoga shall always be bridesmaids, and who said leaders should only come from one region?”
Otherwise, Kadaga has often brushed aside plans to succeed Museveni, saying she still backs the party chairman’s visionary leadership.
Other sources have told us that security agents are investigating Kadaga’s frequent foreign trips, her contacts in the Diaspora and her robust network across the grassroots. A group of MPs loyal to Kadaga is said to be working with district chairpersons to reach out to members of NRM’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
“Every region has a leader who is going to head the mobilisation,” said a source, who did not want to be named.
This, according to insiders in the camp, will reach out to the grassroots if Kadaga decides to stand for the primaries of the ruling party presidential flag-bearer in 2015. Others believe Kadaga will use her political gravitas and support across the political spectrum to form a new party, which will endorse her as flag-bearer in 2015 in case her bid is resisted internally.
The exponents of this view plan to woo some members of the opposition in case their candidate does not win the presidency, reasoning that at least the new party should send the majority of lawmakers to the next Parliament.
“This can weaken the President, especially because he will not have a majority in the House,” said one MP.
Another source has told The Observer that although most of the plans for the Kadaga presidency remain under wraps, she has been aggressive in seeking rapport with the international community. Kadaga, who is the current president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), has reportedly used this position to reach out to influential leaders outside Uganda.
The Observer has learnt the President has received intelligence briefings, indicating that Kadaga’s frequent travels abroad are to solicit for support for her presidential bid. Among the travels that have created suspicion is a trip Kadaga made to Turkey last month. The speaker is also expected to travel to Canada for IPU-related activities.
Amongst those backing her ambition, says a source, is the influential Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), some cultural leaders and women organisations like the Association of Uganda Women Lawyers (FIDA). In an interview with The Observer, Ndorwa East MP, Wilfred Niwagaba, said that Kadaga has presidential ambitions but fears to be frustrated by a mafia cartel in the NRM.
“When Kadaga came to Kigezi and we said that she can stand for the presidency, some people started threatening her,” Niwagaba said.
Some lawmakers, nevertheless, believe it will be a tall order destroying Kadaga’s power base.
“Her power base is natural and no one can just squash it,” argues Busiki County MP, Asupasa Mpongo.
Other lawmakers have poured pillory on Museveni’s criticism of the speaker.
“Maybe if the President is meaning something else, but attacking the speaker in the caucus was so unfortunate and I condemn it. Besides, placing her below Eriya Kategaya is unconstitutional. The President should know that she is the number three,” Niwagaba said.
In fact, we understand that the commissioners of Parliament will hold a media briefing today in which they will condemn the way Museveni spoke of Kadaga in the Monday caucus. The Busoga parliamentary caucus, which is chaired by the speaker, also met last week to discuss, among other things, the President’s attack on Kadaga.
We also understand that the President was scheduled to host Busoga MPs at his country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura district, yesterday, where they were expected to demand to know why he belittled Kadaga.