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TDA disagree on how to pick sole candidate

L-R: Kizza Besigye, Amama Mbabazi and Nobert Mao addressing journalists

Besigye has Shs 9.1bn and Mbabazi Shs 25bn

On Monday, The Democratic Alliance summit missed a second deadline to announce its consensus pick for a joint opposition presidential candidate. The missed deadline was an extension from an exhausting weekend TDA retreat at Royal suites in Bugolobi.

During the retreat, at the urging of the TDA top leadership (summit), the four aspiring presidential candidates; Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC), Amama Mbabazi (NRM Go Forward), DP president general Norbert Mao and former vice president Gilbert Bukenya (Pressure for National Unity, PNU), were confined to a room to agree amongst themselves who would fly the opposition flag in next year’s election.

Having tried and failed, the four asked for an extension of the deadline to Monday, which also came and went without a decision being made. Earlier, during the Monday meeting, Bukenya and Mao had formally bowed out of the race and urged the TDA summit to choose between Besigye and Mbabazi.

In the quartet’s report, according to sources, Bukenya and Mao said they were withdrawing from the race in the spirit of fostering change in Uganda’s politics.
All four pledged again to rally behind the final pick for flag bearer.

CAMPAIGN CASH

Sources have told The Observer that before Bukenya and Mao withdrew from the race, all contenders disclosed their financial ability to run a successful election campaign. Mao said he hadn’t raised any money but hoped that his friends would raise some funds for him. Bukenya said he had mobilized about $300,000 (Shs 1.09bn).

Besigye said he had raised $2.5m (Shs 9.1bn), while Mbabazi said his colleagues both within and outside the country had raised $7m (Shs 25.5bn). In the 2011 elections, the ruling NRM is reported to have spent about Shs 50bn. In addition, Mbabazi was asked to explain his claim to being in NRM.

Bukenya reportedly told the former premier that it would be risky for the opposition to endorse him without him denouncing NRM. Bukenya cited his experience dealing with some MPs who previously denounced NRM but made U-turns. He cited a minister hailing from the greater Masaka sub-region who was defeated in the 2010 NRM primaries.

Bukenya told the meeting that he personally urged the minister to stand as an independent. Bukenya then lobbied the politician to back his 2016 presidential election bid. However, the man, who is now a minister, having returned to NRM, never lived up to his promise to back Bukenya.

“In fact when I went to talk to him about my [presidential] ambitions, he did not want to listen,” Bukenya said.

Bukenya also advised the alliance to borrow a leaf from the Kenyan model. He said TDA should make the alliance a team with the pick for a joint presidential candidate being team leader. Mbabazi reportedly told the meeting that his sticking to NRM is tactical.

According to our sources, he said he wants to maintain a bond with aggrieved NRM supporters. This, Mbabazi said, is likely to help him win over to the alliance more than 2,400 disgruntled candidates in the ongoing NRM primaries. After Mao, the quartet’s spokesman, presented the retreat report to the summit, Besigye left the meeting. He felt unwell, sources said.

PROCEDURAL CONCERNS

We have been told that after Mao presented the report, a debate ensued on how the summit would choose a candidate following the failure of the aspirants themselves to break the deadlock.

When debate dragged on, Asuman Basalirwa, the chairman of TDA’s campaign coordination and strategy committee, proposed that each candidate speaks to the summit, making his case in 20 minutes.

Basalirwa’s proposal was for each summit member to name their preferred aspirant following the 20-minute presentation. However, this proposal was criticised by some who felt that it breached article 9 of the protocol, which provides that “the presidential candidate of the Alliance shall be agreed on by the summit by consensus.”

Basalirwa, however, argued that the word consensus is not defined by the protocol. In general terms, he said, it means agreement and as such the summit would adopt such procedure to generate agreement.

“So, his argument was that the summit can decide to define consensus through practice, which can be agreeing on the most supported candidate as premised on the summit members’ opinions,” the source said.

Eventually, Basalirwa’s motion was adopted but this did not go down well with some members, especially the pro-Besigye group. To that group, adoption of the above procedure meant that majority opinion would carry the day, which was believed to favour Mbabazi.

Ken Lukyamuzi of the Conservative Party, one of those opposed to Basalirwa’s proposal, later told The Observer that the proposal goes against the protocol.

“I am opposed to adopting any procedure that goes against the protocol. The protocol provides that choosing the candidate shall be by consensus, and not anything except that,” Lukyamuzi said.

Lukyamuzi has been critical of Mbabazi’s candidature. He, for instance, opposed his late admission into the race and has publicly said that a TDA candidate should be someone who belongs to the traditional opposition.

BESIGYE AND MBABAZI LEAVE

By the time (7pm) the proposal was adopted, Dr Besigye had left. Besigye refused to talk to the media. Bishop Zac Niringiye, the coordinator of the TDA secretariat, told The Observer on Tuesday that Besigye had not walked out as alleged.

“As opposed to what has been doing rounds in the news, Besigye didn’t walk out; he said he was not feeling well and had to go and see a doctor,” Niringiye said.

Before he left the room, Besigye reportedly told the summit he would respect its decision.

“If you want me, take me the way I am, if you don’t, then choose another person I will rally behind him provided the process is free and fair,” Besigye said.

Mbabazi was ready to address the summit but Basalirwa moved a motion urging the former premier to leave the meeting since, he argued, it would appear unfair to proceed in the absence of Besigye. But Mbabazi said the summit could still go ahead and take a decision minus getting presentations from the contenders since they were well known.

But Miria Matembe said there was so much the summit needed to know about the two contenders.

“We don’t know especially you [Mbabazi],” Matembe said.

At this point, the summit asked Mbabazi to leave. Asked by journalists whether he was walking out in protest, Mbabazi said; “How can I walk out? I can’t walk out...Don’t be hasty. I have told you before, patience is a virtue. We expect a decision. It does not matter when it will come. When the process is over, you will be informed,” Mbabazi said.

Subsequently, the summit proceeded to discuss the candidates. Speaking to journalists before adjourning the Monday meeting to Tuesday, Wafula Oguttu, the TDA publicist, said: “We have not moved closer to deciding...it could take a while before we take the decision.”

skakaire@observer.ug
sadabkk@observer.ug

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