MORNING BRIEFING: WHAT UGANDANS ARE NOT BEING TOLD ABOUT MAO-M7 DEAL
By Mulengera Reporters
As Norbert Mao moves towards consolidating his entry into Gen YK Museveni‘s Cabinet as Minister of Justice & Constitutional Affairs, his adversaries in DP continue to be isolated and brutalized by Police as we saw on Thursday at Kabuusu-based Tal Cottages where they tried to converge and discuss some way forward under the leadership of Buikwe MP Dr. Lulume Bayiga.
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The Lulumes are being obliterated using both money (Mao lately has a lot of cash) and Police violence. Even inside DP, as we reported earlier, Mao currently has some upper hand because the groceries he has have enabled his views to numerically dominate NEC, National Council and the Management Committee 9 of whose 11 members are solidly behind him.
All this victory notwithstanding, the DP boss has continued facing difficulties in convincing the larger public opinion that his deal with Gen Museveni was about benefiting the entire country and not him personally and a few cronies like Gerald Siranda and Mukasa Mbidde. Thursday night, Mao appeared for the last time as a member of NBS TV‘s Frontline program. You had Semujju Nganda, Chris Baryomunsi, Salaam Musumba and Miria Matembe who is supposed to be more objective since she officially doesn’t belong to any political party. Not even Gen Muntu‘s ANT.
Mao was here to bid farewell to millions of viewers and to also try one more time to make his case. At the end of the day, the otherwise very eloquent and persuasive Mao failed to convince anyone apart from Baryomunsi for obvious reasons. He was calm as always and Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi was a good moderator as can be expected.
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The panelists insisted this was an opportunity for hitherto struggling DP boss to officially begin accessing state groceries and lead a better life comprising of lucrative travel, hefty allowances and salary besides a convoy of several posh cars with some improvised right of way which the Uganda Police Force will always be at hand to enforce.
Like he said before, Mao unconvincingly talked of this being an opportunity for him finally persuade Gen Museveni to acquiesce to genuine national dialogue, to becoming more tolerant of divergent views and become more respectful of human rights besides finally bowing out to allow Uganda get another President. That, in his case, unlike Abdul Nadduli‘s Luwero kasaka stories, everything had been documented.
Panelists, with exception of Baryomunsi, didn’t believe him. They wondered what leverage an outsider like Mao will have to deliver on all these promises that Museveni‘s childhood friends like Eria Kategaya and former allies like Amama Mbabazi, Amanya Mushega, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, Mugisha Muntu, Mathew Rukikaire, Miria Matembe, Augustine Ruzindana, Richard Kaijuka and others lacked.
Yet the NBS panelists aren’t alone in rejecting the Norbert Mao narrative. Many other Ugandans are reluctant to accept the deal as genuine and destined to make politics in Uganda any better. And as the Mao debate rages, there are things we think aren’t being adequately reflected upon or even questions that aren’t being asked or answered. These are the basis of our submission contained in the following briefing.
Mao defenders like Ofwono Opondo have made reference to the fact that earlier leaders equally cut deals and cooperated with other politicians in power. That Ben Kiwanuka cooperated and became Chief Justice under Idi Amin just like PK Semogerere did becoming a big-name Minister in Gen Museveni‘s NRM for close to 10 years. What is not being said is the fact that none of these had a good ending.
In Kiwanuka‘s case, it ended in death and the former Chief Justice upto this day (50 years later) has no marked grave. In the case of PK Semogerere, who gratefully is still alive, it equally ended in total regret and sense of betrayal which saw PK challenge Gen Museveni in the elections of 1996. PK and many of the DP bosses he had joined with, walked away cursing and saying Gen Museveni was never genuine but only out to dishonestly use them to consolidate his power.
Today, 40 years later, Mao (who many celebrate for being very clever, calculative and insightful) is at minimum expected know better and be more apprehensive when required to trust the promises of a leader like Gen Museveni who has been around long enough for his undependability to be manifested for all to see.
Mao, nor his defenders, can’t be justified drawing inspiration from cooperations which his predecessors committed the party into but didn’t end well. The ending in both cases (PK & Kiwanuka‘s), as we all know, wasn’t good and should therefore not be the inspiration Mao, who is supposed to be learning from his predecessors’ mistakes, should be referring to.
In any case, modern DP leaders ought to learn from such history and anomalous decision-making to say never again as opposed to falling in bed with Gen Museveni while deceptively presenting the same as beneficial to DP. Some DP members are casually fearful that Mao, who by some coincidence has gone to the same Justice sector, might end up like Ben Kiwanuka in case of major governance-related disagreements with members of the deep state. It’s a possibility even Semujju Nganda casually made reference to during the Mao farewell NBS edition.
The other question, which we think Mao hasn’t been pressed hard enough about, relates to what exactly DP (which he claims to love and cherish very much) would lose if he honorably bows out regardless of whether the Party Constitution permits his stay or not. Why not ease out, since there is a significant fraction of the membership demanding his exit, so that the party gets an opportunity to get a new leader under whom more cohesion could be achieved?
By opting to cling on, even when it’s clear the same can only ferment more chaos, can only make Mao more misunderstood and more vulnerable to propaganda by adversaries whose view is the man has never wished well for DP.
He isn’t the first opposition person to fall in bed with Gen Museveni. Others like Stephen Mallinga, Henry Mayega, Aggrey Awori, Beti Kamya, Badru Wegulo, Sarah Nkonge, Nasser Sebaggala and more recently Anita Among and Thomas Tayebwa went in earlier and their decision perhaps didn’t raise as much or prolonged acrimony as Mao’s is going to. Refusal to abdicate the office of DP Party President is largely what has made the Mao story unique and more complicated. Many now rightly fault him for wishing to eat his cake and keep it at the same time.
His insistence to cling on has created plenty of suspicion yet Caesar’s wife is supposed to be above suspicion. What does Mao or even DP lose if those demanding his exit are allowed to have their way regardless of what the Party Constitution says? Letting go would lead to de-escalation so that those remaining behind can have the opportunity to heal, rebuild the party and move on.
Some of Mao supporters have made reference to the South African story likening their leader to Nelson Mandela yet the S African icon always prioritized the larger picture of things and knew when to let go. Clearly insisting on continuing to lead DP will only expose Mao to endless hostility and belligerent attacks or rejection from those he purports to lead similar to what awaits the newly inaugurated Soroti City East MP Herbert Edmond Ariko.
Norbert Mao has also repeatedly said Gen Museveni had been courting him for many years while making all sorts of offers to him yet those who have had the privilege to interview and ask him questions haven’t required the outgoing DP leader to disclose what some of those offers have been over the years. Had he been offered Speakership, Premiership or even Vice Presidency as the Red Pepper (whose stories Mao always dismissed as good for publication on Fools Day) kept reporting when it still used to come out actively? Or it had always been the Justice & Constitutional Affairs docket.
Talking about the timing of the unveiling of the DP–NRM cooperation, couldn’t it have been more helpful and saved the country more if the DP leader (who says is here to midwife the political transition from Museveni to someone else) had accepted and moved in earlier? Maybe Gen Museveni would have left by now. Does Mao regret not cooperating earlier? What about ending the ambiguities about the political transition the DP leader says he has been permitted to accelerate: what exactly are we being told? Are we talking about Gen Museveni easing out as early as 2026 and not seeking reelection again? Let’s have some specifics here bwana Mao.
We are told that the Museveni the DP leaders are going to be dealing with is older, fairer, and more dependable and a much changed person. Mbu he is finally damn serious about bowing out for a number of reasons including his age (as Tamale Mirundi, a new Mao publicist, has been saying). If indeed the contents of the 42 point MoU are so serious especially about transition, how come Gen Museveni never made any reference to the same as he presided over the swearing in and inauguration of Mao as his new Minister at State House?
And by the way, according to the impression the very insightful Mao got as he negotiated his MoU, what political pressure was Gen Museveni under that pushed him into the cooperation with the clearly declining DP (of all parties)? What would he lose if he didn’t sign? We hear that, driven by their exaggerated sense of self importance, the DP team initially demanded for 19 Cabinet slots which Gen Museveni declined indifferently offering them only two-one full Cabinet and the other State Minister. How true is all this? Will the insightful Mao clarify since he has practiced politics of openness and transparency all his life?
The outgoing DP PG has also talked about spearheading comprehensive political and constitutional reforms as disclosed in the MoU. What exactly are these going to be? Are we looking at term/age limits being reinstated? Broadly what are we talking about? What are some of those reforms that are going to be prioritized? Is the new Minister envisaging an upper chamber of Parliament? What personally would he like to see? Are there areas or incidents over which he will not be expected to defend the Museveni government just to avoid soiling or even contradicting his governance track record established over the years?
The new Minister has also said he consulted widely beyond just DP party organs. Yet elders who are supposed to be his like-minded have so far been apprehensive towards his political deal with Gen Museveni. If an opposition veteran like Mao didn’t consult Miria Matembe, GW Kanyeihamba or even PK Semogerere who then did he consult if at all? PK would be helpful to consult because he is one of Mao‘s predecessors and 40 years ago undertook similar cooperation with Gen Museveni which, as we indicated earlier, didn’t end well. If not such people, then who exactly did Hon Norbert Mao consult?
He also famously criticized Gen Museveni for over 30 years and so eloquently to the extent that many people, including yours truly, doubt that he even knows how to praise him at all. It would be interesting to hear Mao publicly explain what he exactly is going to do to adjust so that he very quickly learns how to find a lot of good things to keep saying about the same veteran leader from Rwakitura.
The truth is that Hon Mao is joining Gen Museveni‘s Cabinet at a time many consider it much easier to criticize than to praising him. What is he going to do to make sure he can equally sound eloquent and persuasive like he was when bashing the same man? Isn’t the outgoing DP President General supposed to be doing a lot of rehearsals to ensure he doesn’t end up saying what he isn’t supposed to be saying as required by his new political position? (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).