President Yoweri Museveni has for the first time spoken out extensively on the cause of the rift with his once strong ally and closest friend, Amama Mbabazi, saying the former Prime Minister’s downfall was triggered by his family members.
Museveni said “ideologically,” he had no single reason to part with Mbabazi but quickly added that several “pushy” family members compelled the impeached NRM Secretary General to “make many mistakes.”
The head of state made the remarks on Tuesday while meeting members of the NRM Poor Youth Group, a splinter faction from the mainstream youth wing of the ruling party, at State House Entebbe.
“The president told us that he has no problem with Mbabazi but the problem is the two girls confusing him. It’s Hope Mwesigye and Jacqueline Mbabazi confusing and misleading Mbabazi,” said Isa Kato, the National Coordinator NRM Youth Forum who attended the meeting with the president.
Kato, whose political credentials have grown in leaps and bounds in recent years due to his boldness and ability to effectively articulate the grievances of the youth even in the presence of President Museveni, accepted to be quoted in this story “so that people know the truth.”
According to Kato, Museveni further stated that, “Mbabazi is a great leader.”
The President said, “I recruited him (Mbabazi) together with Otafiire in 1970s and Mbabazi has been very good in areas of law and Foreign Affairs.”
Insiders say had Mbabazi waited for more years before launching his presidential bid, Museveni would have given him space to run Uganda for some time.
However, Mbabazi’s allies say this was not likely and that the former powerful government official had waited longer than the likes of Col Kizza Besigye, Amanya Mushega, Augustine Luzindana and Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu among other former NRM members who quit, forming an opposition group.
At the Entebbe meeting, Museveni said, “Now you Poor Youth working for Mbabazi I don’t know how you are going to help him…I don’t want to see my brother Mbabazi in bad conditions.”
The youth looked on in awe, suspecting the president was referring to the possibility of imprisoning his former best friend. Mbabazi is reportedly being investigated over money laundering, charges his lawyers have since dismissed as “politically motivated.”
Stick and carrot
Museveni discussed several issues including youth economic empowerment but would tactfully return to the Mbabazi saga to drive key points home.
He for instance said the NRM Poor Youth Forum must focus more on advocacy and helping youth to benefit from government programmes such as Youth Livelihood Project.
Kato said the president recognised the Poor Youth as ‘small Historicals’ who have contributed a lot towards a strong NRM.
Museveni added: “You poor youth have made me to drive on rough road to organise NRM. You started fighting me in December 2013 and you made my work difficult but I have defeated the Poor Youth Movement by using soft and legal means but I had other means to finish the poor youth.”
Several members of the group were recently jailed for engaging in acts thought to be undermining president Museveni.
Museveni explained that he appointed Hope Mwesigye as Minister for Agriculture “but what did he do for Poor Youth and other people of Uganda? NAADS was inefficient when she was minister. I appointed Mbabazi Prime Minister but he spent all his time in parliament busy concentrating on Prime minister’s question time and interacting with people like Nandala Mafabi.”
Museveni emphasised that he doesn’t have any problem with Mbabazi “but the problem is Hope Mwesigye and Jacqueline Mbabazi who are confusing my brother Mbabazi. Mbabazi must be a strong man and he should not accept those two women to use him. You Poor Youth leaders you should know that I am not fighting Mbabazi at all. So why are you fighting me? Who are you working for?”
He further challenged them: “You leaders of Poor Youth, how are you going to help Mbabazi?”
One of the youth group’s leaders chipped in: “Mr President why don’t you reconcile with Mbabazi?” Museveni fried back: “I am ready to reconcile but he should first tame those girls -Jacqueline and Hope.”
Well known for using the carrot and stick policy in dealing with political opponents, Museveni dangled a carrot laced with a warning.
“You poor youth, I am a very humble and tolerant leader and I have used a soft approach on issues of Mbabazi but you are still fighting me. I don’t have problems; it is some people in government failing me. Now BIDCO wants to close operations in Kalangala. You people of Poor Youth I am sending you to BIDCO Kalangala for study visit and I am tasking statehouse comptroller to immediately organise the trip. I want you to know what I have tried to do.I have tried to get investors to invest in your country but some people are failing me,” said Museveni.
On their part, the youth said some of their colleagues including Kirekyankuba are detained at Luzira for reportedly planning to disrupt the recently-concluded NRM Delegates Conference.
“We told the president that over 100 poor youths were arrested by Kayihura and are now rotting in Luzira. The president immediately spoke to Kayihura to ensure that all members of Poor Youth are out of prison,” Kato told Chimpreports.