Former Prime Minister Amama

Former Prime Minister Amama

He was later driven back to Kampala and taken to Kira Road police station where he was placed under temporary preventive arrest.

Mbabazi, who is also the ex-secretary general of the NRM, recently announced he was vying for the party chairmanship, in effect the presidential candidate for 2016 election. To put flesh to his declaration, he unveiled a countrywide programme to consult party officials in various districts beginning with Mbale.

Probably beginning in Mbale was going to be the wrong pick.

Mbale is located in Bugishu region which is a pro-Yoweri Museveni stronghold. Now a missed step has complicated the continuation of his programme which could easily pass for cowardice. Even though he has explained that it is the death of his brother that has forced him to suspend the timing has put him off a tour he was determined to make.

Mbabazi?s decision to start early campaigns is a bid to get early advantage and what probably is irking the party most is his assertion that he ?is now a sole candidate? given that no other person has expressed interest in the party chairman?s position.

As a calculative politician and lawyer this statement was probably intended to mock those who, in 2014, resolved President Yoweri Museveni be elected unopposed for the NRM chairmanship and presidential candidate. But he probably also under-estimated their response. What has happened is a party rising up against the once powerful man in the country nearly dashing his ambitions.

In those days he drew his power from his closeness to Museveni. The power was further enhanced by the ministerial appointments he received from the President. Certainly the Police would have not blocked and detained him for five hours if he were still so powerful.

And it also had no qualms about doing it after all it has done it to others. Therefore, it simply demonstrated its consistence in stopping rallies.

In the past, political parties and politicians like Dr. Kizza Besigye and embattled Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago have been blocked from addressing meetings and detained. However, last yearwhen the opposition groups accepted to follow the law they were able to hold town hall meetings to consult their supporters on electoral reforms. By not picking a leaf and seeking Police permission Mbabazi forgot he was powerless and vulnerable.

Having been stripped of party positions and left with nothing substantial to hold onto in the party other than the history of his contribution, Mbabazi is out on an uphill task. He was also misguided in provoking a fight and now three factors are conspiring against him.

One is his attempt to begin early campaigns, the other defying the party to begin consultation and being linked to the opposition. At the launch of the opposition party coalition, the Democratic Alliance (TDA), Hope Mwesigye, his sister-in-law claimed to represent some ?unhappy NRM members? and said the ?principals? were out of the country and would sign the agreement when they returned.

This has been interpreted as reference to Mbabazi who had travelled abroad then. Unless Mbabazi?s insistence to consult was to seek publicity he certainly knew the consequences. The pro-Museveni team running the party and want Museveni to be the party candidate in the next election is not going to let Mbabazi go unchallenged. It is politics so they know allowing him to do whatever he wants including flouting the rules would have elevated him above the party and the chairman.

NRM?s firm response to Mbabazi?s bid is a statement, typical of mass parties, that it cannot be bullied into allowing him operate outside its rules. Its action is seen in the anti-Mbabazi demonstrations which are likely to continue until party elections.

One happened in Mbale on Wednesday and another in Serere Thursday. Before that, there was one led by the youths in Kampala and another in Gulu. Party officials wrote to Police which gave them permission.

Mbabazi?s issue is clearly a party affair but it has also drawn in the Police, which is mandated to maintain law and order. But critics are accusing it of involvement in NRM affairs even though in the past few weeks the Police has been called to deal with internal party fights including one in Luwero where some Democratic Party (DP) officials attempted to hold an MP hostage over grassroots elections.

The Police will have to come clear and articulate the fact that it can get interested in any matter inside and outside any political party when it suspects a breach of the law. It is in the same way that it can pursue a public and domestic issue with equal vigour.

In a way, at least for now, it sound like the NRM has disowned Mbabazi and is associating him with the opposition. For him to successfully consult he would have to do so as a non-NRM, which for now is not a wise thing for him. It is possible he will stay in the party and run for the chairmanship. If he loses he will cry foul and walk out and either join the opposition or run as an independent.

David Mukholi, The New Vision

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