Two separate private visits to the Holy See by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga have become the centrepiece of debate about the two politicians’ political ambitions in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections.

Some political pundits have suggested that the two politicians were in the Vatican not only to seek papal ‘blessings’ but also to widen their political appeal among Ugandan Catholics. The Kaberamaido MP, Dr Kenneth Omona, a strong President Museveni supporter, put an interesting spin to the visits.

“They are not going there for any blessings; they are courting the Catholic Church,” he told The Observer last December.

“The Catholic Church is well-organised and these two leaders have realised that they need to tap into this influential section of Ugandan voters, and perhaps join the rising club of influential lobbyists who gather every evening at the prestigious Pope Paul VI Memorial hotel (Ndeeba) to discuss matters of national interest,” he said.

On his part, Dr Sabiiti Makara of Makerere University believes the two politicians, who are Anglicans, went to the Pope “as a way of looking for political bases”.
Historically, Sabiiti explained, “the politics of Uganda has been entrenched in religion.”

Pictures of the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, and the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, meeting Pope Benedict XVI, recently appeared in the Ugandan press. What was most striking about them was one coming immediately after the other. Sources close to Mbabazi have told us that the premier planned the papal visit three months ago, and that he personally combed Kampala’s shopping malls looking for a gift to deliver to the Pontiff.

Mbabazi officially went to Italy to woo investors but also found time to pay a courtesy visit to the Pope. Kadaga, on the other hand, planned her visit the night before her speech at the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights in Rome Italy on December 10.

Sources close to her have told us that she personally phoned the Ugandan ambassador to the Vatican inquiring whether she could meet the Pope one-on-one. The ambassador, sources say, informed her that it would not be possible given her short schedule in Italy.

Uganda’s ambassador to the Holy See, however, told Kadaga that she could exploit the December 12 holy mass that is usually attended by thousands of pilgrims inside St Peter’s Basilica; where the Pope meets high-profile figures from around the world after prayers.

We have been told that the Pope had to meet a group of bishops first, after which Kadaga, who was in the company of Rubabo MP Paula Turyahikayo, was ushered in for papal blessings. The visit lasted about two minutes, but that was enough time for some prayers and a photo-opportunity that speaks - like the old adage - a thousand words.

After the meeting, an overwhelmed Kadaga said: “I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him [Pope], hearing stories about St Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically. I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a great moment and I thank God for this opportunity.”

Although there are indications that President Museveni is still around, the rumour mill in the NRM party has it that Kadaga and Mbabazi are weighing the option of running for president in 2016 when President Museveni’s fourth term expires. Both principals, however, have not come out publicly to say they are interested in the top job.

In fact, as a way of dampening the rumours, Mbabazi this year told family members that he was ‘retiring’ from politics in 2016 (see: Mbabazi to quit in 2016).

Kadaga, on the other hand, says she has never mentioned it anywhere that she wants to be president, adding that it’s her supporters who keep nudging her on.
Kadaga’s star shone brighter when she dismissed Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s attack of Uganda’s human rights record in respect to sexual minorities.

Kadaga caused diplomatic stir when she pointedly reminded Baird that Uganda was neither a colony nor protectorate of Canada and as such her sovereignty, societal and cultural norms were to be respected. Since then, we understand that the inter-religious council is planning to meet Kadaga over the Anti-Homosexuality bill.

“We want to lobby her and make sure that this bill passes,” said a source from the inter-religious council.

So, why should these two politicians’ visit to the Holy See be such a big deal?

Catholics make a big portion of the electorate - 41.9% of the Ugandan population, according to the latest housing survey from Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

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0 #1 Betty Long Cap 2013-01-02 02:51
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's private audience with the Pope was what American football fans call a Hail Mary pass.

A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary route in American football refers to any very long forward pass made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half.wikipedia
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-2 #2 DAVID 2013-01-02 02:52
Making a royal visit to the Banda Palace doesn't gaurantee any political aspirant the block vote of the Baganda and likewise, visiting the pope doesn't necessarily guarantee Mbabazi and Kadaga the block catholic vote just in case they're nursing presidential ambitions in 2016.

The writers of this news article a la David Tash Lumu and Sulaiman Kakaire oughtn't take the Ugandan catholic community for sheep who're there to be shepherded by the Vatican on issues pertaining to their political destiny.

Since meeting such influential international personalities is a rare life opportunity, you might discover that these politburo exploited the power that comes with their offices to make these pilgrimages to the Vatican just for reminiscence because i envisage another M7 administration in the post 2016 period.
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+2 #3 Jane 2013-01-02 04:14
@Observer, why make a mountain out of an ant hill? Really, a 2 minute 'meeting' (more like shaking the hand ) with the pope now equates to courting the pope for Kadaga's presidential ambitions?

The pope is not somebody you just walk off the vatican streets and go to meet. It takes months to plan such a one to one meeting, otherwise I think Kadaga's just went to attend mass and shook hands with the pope. I know many people with pictures shaking the hand of the pope, some of them children. Are they all trying to be presidents?
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0 #4 Baale 2013-01-02 04:34
Kadaga you need to keep the old man awake,may be he will stop taking ugandans for granted. I know he normally listens when he is cornered.

That is the good side of Museveni.
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0 #5 julius mbaine 2013-01-02 06:13
kadaga where is our end of year xmas gift you promised Ugandans? usual kiwani and politicking!!!
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-1 #6 Betty Long Cap 2013-01-02 08:04
Quoting DAVID:
... i envisage another M7 administration in the post 2016 period.

"Those days are over." President Francois Hollende.
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+2 #7 Apollo 2013-01-02 11:07
Do not underestimate the power of an institution that has survived more than 2500 years, first as a great imperial power and now as a great spiritual (imperial) power.

Believe it or not, it broke up the Soviet Union. Museveni too, when he got in trouble with the West in the late 80s, paid that important visit, and his fortunes turned round. Watch...
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0 #8 bob 2013-01-02 11:24
Ohh the protestants have messed this country for long, lets try others now. Catholics be careful in the next elections not to be herded by selfseekers.
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0 #9 Kisaakye 2013-01-02 12:06
Its really absurd that there are a many, of such reasoning as the Julius Mbaine(s)of this world.

so what?, can we just wait and look(like,to the,whom it may concern matter of fact way) while some of our so called good, brave patriotic brothers plunder,loot the country to the bone marrow of all that has been left of Uganda today? only because they were so willing to
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+1 #10 DAVID 2013-01-02 12:51
Quoting Betty Long Cap:
Quoting DAVID:
... i envisage another M7 administration in the post 2016 period.

"Those days are over." President Francois Hollende.

Uganda isn't a colony of France, my dear sister. The destiny of the Ugandans is decided by themselves not the Hollandes of this world. According to my political barometer, M7 is still popular and constitutionall y eligible to stand in 2016. However bitter you find this fact, he's gona come back.
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0 #11 Betty Long Cap 2013-01-02 15:23
According to my political barometer, M7 is still popular and constitutionally eligible to stand in 2016. However bitter you find this fact, he's gona come back.
You, DAVID, are the one who has the bitter pill to swallow. At this rate, Uganda will look back on white colonialism as no better or worse than black dictatorships.

Francois Hollende speaks for France and the west: Those days are over. You have played us long enough. We have our own hungry to feed and oil wells to drill.

Until you institute a better form of government, you will never be a match for good business.

Go ahead, David, and sing "Hail to the Chief" until the bitter end. You too have been outfoxed by the cunning old man with a hat.
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0 #12 Jim Kamezza 2013-01-02 17:17
there has been exchange of documents , Amama is retiring from politics soon , he looks tired and has little interest in Ugandan affairs ,
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-2 #13 Betty Long Cap 2013-01-02 23:19
Quoting DAVID:
Uganda isn't a colony of France, my dear sister.

France does not want CAR back even on a silver platter. THOSE DAYS ARE OVER.

Babylon is falling.
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0 #14 Kijinji 2013-01-03 08:43
Indeed Betty Long Cap it is a HailMary pass!!!
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+1 #15 Bossman 2013-01-04 05:01
Among all people Mbabazi and Kadaga goes to the Vatican to do what? You guys have identified yourself with a violent and reckless regime that a nation has seen, and you are looking for promotion?

It is a shame, but strong people are watching. We are weak and cannot do anything about it, but people with a better vision are watching, and will deliver us from two evil eyes.
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