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MORNING BRIEFING: WHAT EXACTLY HAS HON KAZIBWE BASHIR DONE? 

Dr. Roy Ssemboga (R) must now be chest-thumping saying I saw it coming.

By Otim Nape

Riding on Robert Kyagulanyi‘s populist (umbrella) wave back in January 2021, Kazibwe Bashir easily won the 10 man race to become the Kawempe South MP for the next five years up to 2026. He polled 26,855 votes against NRM Solomon Mayanja‘s 6,818 votes and FDC Mubarak Sserunga Munyagwa‘s 3,788 votes. The others were EPU’s Nathan Justice Gahungu Makuregye (803), NUP-leaning independent Roy Sembogga (1,250), DP’s Sebuliba Mutumba (464), Edrisa Tenywa (240), Steady John Kennedy Makumbi (223), John Baptist Lumu (77) and Silas Anguzu (68). Kazibwe, who also benefited from the publicity and brand he had cultivated as a popular journalist working on both Bukedde and NBS TV, leveraged on his arsenal of words and promised voters to “kubayirawo omubiri.”

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This slogan, which quickly got replicated by NUP candidates elsewhere, was understood to imply the journalist (now new MP) would always be there for his electors. That he would always use the legislature platform to amplify and publicize the problems of his people. Perhaps because of linguistic limitations, a common constraint afflicting many legislators from Kazibwe’s part of Uganda, the vertically-challenged Member of Parliament has demonstrably not lived up to this promise.

Those who know say that they didn’t expect much and to such people, blame goes to whoever was in charge of deciding who becomes NUP flag bearer. Being a musician coming from the showbiz background, Bobi Wine seems to have preferred people who already had name-recognition through well-established media platforms regardless of their level of political sophistication.

That can be the only reason why a political novice like Kazibwe Bashir was considered over and above a more politically sophisticated Roy Semboga who had longer history in the anti-Museveni struggle having previously belonged to UYD on whose platform he had even campaigned to become Makerere Guild President less than 5 years earlier. Even in terms of academic qualifications, the flamboyant Dr. Roy Semboga was much more qualified having been a student at Makerere Medical School.

Yet that isn’t all. Dr. Semboga was also a pioneer leader of the study group/think tank to which Bobi Wine (who was struggling to remain on top as a musician having come under pressure from younger ones like Eddie Kenzo) belonged shortly before plunging into the Kyadondo East by-elections of August 2018.

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Semboga was therefore among the core group Bobi Wine started his politics with after being shunned by all major opposition political parties at that time. Semboga went ahead to initially serve as a defacto Secretary General of the original People Power way before David Lewis Rubongoya got to be thickly involved. It was this People Power, birthed from the original discussions they used to have with Bobi Wine at their Kagugube study group that morphed into the NUP party. Semboga only got sidelined after Rubongoya, the founding NUP SG, became uncomfortable with him fearing to be overshadowed. Semboga was eloquent, flamboyant and a more effective mobilizer and always considered himself a founder and a historical in the Kyagulanyi revolution.

Dr. Roy Ssemboga (R) must now be chest-thumping saying I saw it coming.

The NUP party‘s refusal to hand him the flag for Kawempe South was perceived by many of his peers as part of the broader efforts by the Rubongoya camp to sideline and deflate him away from the NUP politics. Because he perceived this as witch-hunt and part of the broader Fred Nyanzi vs. Rubongoya cold war at Kamwokya, Semboga (who is a Fred Nyanzi adherent) protested perceived injustice by coming as an independent candidate. And he indeed frightened Kazibwe for some good while notwithstanding the few votes he ended up getting as voters went about ticking merely the umbrella as was decreed by Bobi Wine.

All these great Semboga credentials in the end didn’t matter as the flag bearer was being chosen because Bobi Wine (not politically very sophisticated) was easily duped by the fact that Kazibwe had name-recognition having been a popular radio and TV personality.

Today, barely two years into office, Kazibwe who is now a businessman as well (owns Nyce TV) finds himself caught between a rock and hard place. He is arguably currently the most harangued MP in Uganda and this only escalated recently when Bobi Wine drove to his Kawempe South (where NUP is erecting its new state of art headquarters) and made some comments. While there, Mr. Wine publicly complained about leaders who betrayed the people and the struggle upon securing office in January 2021.

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He made veiled reference to Kazibwe as he indirectly incited the crowd to sort out such leaders in their own way. Mr. Wine had equally blown up Bbale County MP Charles Tebandeke during a public function in Kayunga over the Shs40m MPs are alleged to have received months earlier.

THE KAZIBWE DILEMMA:

But if we are to be sophisticated, what exactly has Bashir Kazibwe done? What has he not done that his other NUP peers have done? What has he skipped doing that his other NUP peers have excelled at doing? In our estimation, its not easy to come up with any and make a credible case against Kazibwe Bashir. The young man is merely ill-fated (just alina ebisirani n’olutwe) if we are to go by the standards the NUP-led opposition in Parliament has set. He has not come out to contradict his NUP caucus position (if any) on anything.

He hasn’t exhibited any conspicuous support for the Junta anywhere. He hasn’t been implicated in any leaked recordings similar to what Makindye Mayor Ali Nganda Mulyanyama endured some years ago. Kazibwe Bashir hasn’t come anywhere to being implicated in any leaked recordings similar to what Speaker Anita Among‘s people released about Gen Moses Bigirwa. Glaring as his scandal was, the NUP leaders (who by the way are supposed to resent corruption) never came out to take a stand on the Moses Bigirwa incident.

The gentleman from Kamuli continues with his duties and assignments as the NUP chief mobilizer for Eastern region as if nothing repugnant ever happened. His party hasn’t even done basic things such as requiring him to personally explain himself. He continues to loom large at their Kamwokya offices. Kazibwe Bashir hasn’t been recorded representing key ruling NRM party officials at public functions like some of his NUP caucus members or even leaders have been-and in the process inflicting emotional pain on the ordinary party supporters who sacrificed and paid heavy price to get them into office barely two years ago.

Kazibwe Bashir has simply not done anything that is so abominable. Yes granted, he rarely speaks in Parliament, (both plenary and committee) but this is something many of his contemporaries from NUP stronghold areas are equally culpable of. They are as guilty as charged. Having proved too timid and incoherent to make any useful contributions during Committee and plenary sittings, many of them specialize on corridor interviews which are actually procured as opposed to being organically being sought out by a journalist simply because you are the best or an authority on the subject at hand.

Kazibwe must equally be guilty for not expending part of his salary to secure invitations to radio and TV talks shows; otherwise anyone would struggle to make a compelling case showing how he is so odd and has diverted from the so-called NUP struggle in any fundamental way. As his immediate supervisor, Mathias Mpuuga (the LoP) must exhibit leadership by defending Kazibwe Bashir or telling the world exactly what he has done wrong.

RESISTING EXTORTION:

Kazibwe Bashir’s other crime relates to the fact that he has stayed away from NUP functions and party headquarters, something that has made it hard for any of the (jobless and unemployable) party henchmen to extort money from him. Through giving them what they call ‘the contempt card,’ Kazibwe Bashir has boldly refused to be blackmailed by some henchmen and bootlickers of top party officials who perennially extort money from elected leaders (who avail themselves) in return for favorable social media reviews.

To his credit, Kazibwe Bashir has, with alot of contempt, kept away from all that while preferring to peacefully enjoying his monthly salary and other allowances because even a child in Kawempe South now knows he doesn’t stand much chance at reelection come 2026. His best strategy must now be to remain incognito while enjoying his groceries that come with being MP. He can afford to ignore and stay away from all public functions to avoid being humiliated by blackmailers and extortionists from his own political party who must equally be humble enough to apologize to publicly Dr. Roy Semboga who demonstrably saw it coming and did what he could.

DEMOCRATIZING NUP:

For Mr. Wine, who currently doesn’t have to fall with any incumbent MPs (he simply has to apologize to the voters and front someone else), the Kazibwe Bashir fiasco is an opportunity to learn and govern NUP better while insisting on more inclusive decision-making. That is the silver lining for him. Many lessons have to be learnt including the need to deliberately deepen democratization and inclusiveness in decision making inside NUP. For instance, the Principal must learn that even when it could in some way diminish his influence, clout and authority as the owner of the party, he must allow elections. Members in a given constituency must be empowered, prepared and permitted to participate in deciding who becomes their flag beaerer for which position.

That implies that, going forward, credible party primaries must be organized so that flag bearers are elected (either through an electoral college or adult suffrage) as opposed to Kamwokya or Magere being the one to determine who carries the flag while using the Mercy Walukamba Elections Management Committee to merely sanitize things (yet in actual sense that Committee is merely a walking stick for the Principal, SG Rubongoya and other members of the powerful gang).

Those things of ‘Principal Alagidde (this is what the Principal wants)’ can only make things more complicated for Mr. Wine in the long term while diminishing the appeal of the party. In fact, insisting on having flag bearers who are hand-picked risks making NUP seem more autocratic than even the Junta itself.

Even in NRM, autocratic as many of its critics perceive it, flag bearers are elected and are arrived at through some electoral process (imperfect as it is). Those things of the ‘Junta 5th columnists will use primaries to infiltrate NUP’ can only frighten some well-intentioned and principled people about the future that can be envisaged in NUP-ruled Uganda. What will stop them, once in power, from banning even national elections for fear of the country getting infiltrated by foreign interests? This is the question many credibly keep pondering about the need for the NUP party to become more democratized than has been the case thus far.

Imagine Kazibwe Bashir had become the Kawempe South flag bearer through party primaries, the obligation on Mr. Kyagulanyi to explain for the anomalous politician the former journalist has turned out to be, would have been much less. He would simply have to advise party or electoral college members to act more prudently next time. Naturally, there are problems with that sort of thing too but that’s what democracy is all about: ending up with even undesirable outcomes sometimes and this exactly is what is implied when people say ‘democracy is expensive and complicated.’

Just imagine even in Church, one becomes Bishop through elections (refer to Kazimba Mugalu or even Namirembe Cathedral’s soon-retiring Kityo Luwalira). Even the Pontif, who globally heads the Catholic Church, is elected inspite of all the risks relating to possible mafia infiltration of the Church/vatican. Even Mubajje became Mufti through elections. Even in Kampala markets, elections is the only way through which one ascends vendors’ leadership and the same goes for taxi parks or even KACITA to which many Kyagulanyi supporters down town subscribe.

How then can NUP (which seeks to lead a new, fairer, more transparent and better-governed Uganda) be tolerated having leaders who are merely appointed and not competitively elected simply because the Junta will infiltrate them? We saw successful Junta infiltration in Gogonyo Pallisa District and in Kisoro’s Bukimbiri County (NUP flag bearers bowing out and walking away with the entire party structure) even when the two respective flag bearers (Joseph Okoboi Opolot & Joshua Mutabazi) weren’t determined through democratic party primaries.

The circumstances of the duo’s departure speak to clear infiltration and this upstaging of political opponents by Gen Museveni has happened before and will always happen regardless of whether internal party elections are held or not.

As he ponders embarking on that journey (aimed at leading to a stronger NUP institution while enduring a weakened and less authoritanian Presidency), it will be prudent for Mr. Kyagulanyi to benchmark on others like Dr. KB who has had to exercise painful restraint while letting go of many things inside the FDC party (sometimes leading to very absurd outcomes) simply because that’s what internal party democracy dictates.

There are equally useful lessons that can be shared or learned from leaders of DP, NRM and others who have had to adhere to democratic practices only to end up paying a huge price sometimes leading to foot dragging and stagnation of their respective political organizations.

It will simply not be tenable seeking to lead NUP where decision-making, on matters sensitive as elections, remains centralized. For his own good, Mr. Wine has to let go and allow more inclusiveness into decision-making on matters as sensitive as who becomes flag bearer. This is one of the many lessons that have to be learned from the anomalous conduct the likes of Kazibwe Bashir, and others yet to be unveiled, have ended up exhibiting and in the process damaging the reputation of NUP to which they claim to belong. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at mulengeranews@gmail.com).

 

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