Some of the 2011 losers have vowed to support Mbabazi
Prominent former ministers and MPs, some of them viewed within the NRM establishment as supporters of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, have been promised money by President Museveni.
The Observer has learnt that most of these are politicians who lost the 2011 elections despite being NRM flag bearers. Numbering 104, some of the national NRM parliamentary flag bearers 2011-2016 last month pledged to support Mbabazi’s perceived presidential bid in what was seen as a strategy to enhance their bargaining power (See: We’ll support Mbabazi, say ex-ministers, MPs; The Observer April 6).
Before their public declaration on April 2, the group is said to have met Museveni twice. The group includes ex-ministers Hope Mwesigye, Aggrey Awori, Beatrice Wabudeya, Gaggawala Wambuzi, Simon Ejua and Jovino Akaki. However, a number of them, including Awori, Gaggawala and Wabudeya, are opposed to the group’s strategy of courting Mbabazi, as well as its confrontational style, urging sober dialogue with Museveni.
During a meeting held at State House Entebbe on January 8, 2015, President Museveni reportedly agreed to give each of the 104 parliamentary losers at least Shs 150m. It is hoped that the cash would dissuade the group from supporting Mbabazi’s presidential bid.
The group is particularly important because by virtue of having been flag bearers, they are chairpersons of their constituencies and therefore members of NRM’s national executive committee (NEC).
Indeed many of them attended the NEC meeting during which the new party leadership led by secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba was approved. They are technically the chief ruling party mobilisers in their constituencies.
President Museveni is said to have elected to meet the group because he was surprised that Mbabazi, the ousted secretary general, had managed to secure 111 votes in the election of additional members of the expanded Central Executive Committee (CEC).
“Museveni is not an easy man; during that [NEC] meeting, he proposed Mbabazi’s name among the nominees for the CEC slots, not because he wanted him to join CEC but because he wanted to know whether amongst us, there were people who still liked him,” an NRM MP told us.
The former prime Minister’s 111 votes put him at number six, behind Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Huda Oleru (Yumbe Woman MP), Amelia Kyambadde and Dr Crispus Kiyonga. However, only five new members were required; so, Mbabazi dropped out.
During their January meeting, Museveni is understood to have assigned Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso and Maj Edith Nakalema to handle the former MPs financially. The farmers amongst them were to get seeds, goats and cattle, among others.
Museveni reportedly reminded the group that he had previously helped some of them, such as former Kalungu East MP Umar Lule Mawiya and former Butambala MP Faisal Kikulukunyu, to clear debts of Shs 60m and Shs 80m respectively.
To keep the group in the fold, Museveni’s aides and new secretary general Lumumba have been working with former Mawokota South MP John Bosco Lubyaayi, the group’s spokesman, and its chairman, Jackson Ojok (Oyam North).
However, the group accuses Lumumba and NRM treasurer Rosemary Namayanja of holding onto their bailout money. Lumumba denied this allegation on Monday, telling The Observer that her role was to link the group to the president.
“I know that they met the president, and my involvement with them is to fix another appointment for them,” Lumumba said.
She added that the actual amount to be paid out has not yet been agreed upon.
“They should be patient, they should wait for Mzee (the president),” Lumumba said.
But the group’s secretary, Richard Kalema (Makindye West), accused Lumumba of playing games.
“Brig Nalweyiso informed us that it was Lumumba to handle our payments much as she (Nalweyiso) was the one to release the money,” Kalema said.
The Observer understands that NRM is uncomfortable with the group’s blackmail tactics played out in the media and wants the members to stop it. They are also unhappy with the kind of rhetoric coming from members such as Ronald Tumwine Ssekitooleko (Busiro East), the group’s national coordinator, who is reported to have said that Museveni is using taxpayers’ money to bribe them.
Lumumba said she had interacted with Lubyaayi only at a personal level.
“I meet Lubyaayi because he is my friend; I only met Ojok just last week [on April 28] in Gulu when he came to ask me whether I had any message for him,” Lumumba said.
On Thursday, Ojok said he could not discuss the president’s promise to them in the media.
“That is something I wouldn’t want to discuss with newspapers but we are in constant touch with the president and Lumumba,” Ojok said.
Ojok added that Mbabazi has lost touch with the group since the majority of members have sworn to support the Museveni’s sole candidate resolution.