Last week was a big news week in Uganda, what with the surreptitious return of General David Sejusa and the breath taking machinations within the ruling NRM party. These our enough to keep were blood pressure ticking up the scale.
Drama aside both events will be major landmarks in the political evolution of our country.
Sejusa’s return was a bit of an anti-climax. After the General fled the country last year claiming there were plans to assassinate some of the army leadership for their opposition to a plot to manoever first son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed his father.
Just prior to his escape there had been a fire fight outside Mbuya baracks, which it was later suggested, was an attempted coup and somehow linked to the fleeing General.
Of course, once in the UK, Sejusa became the flavour of the month, hosted on radio and television, fraternising with the usual suspects, making serious allegations about Kampala and threatening to use whatever means necessary to oust President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Once the media moved on, Sejusa’s cause fizzled out and it came as little surprise to observers, when he slunk back into the country in the dead of the night.
Jostling for headline space was the unfolding saga of the reorganisation of the NRM, for all intents and purposes a done deal by the time the members turned for the delegates conference on Sunday. Meetings of the Central Executive Committee and the National Executive Committee the previous two days had endorsed proposals to the make the secretary general an appointee of the chairman as well as other key officials.
"The story, which had been simmering from the time Amama Mbabazi was made Prime Minister, came to a boil with the Kyankwanzi resolution of the NRM Parliamentary caucus to have Museveni as flag bearer in 2016, finally bubbled over with his being dropped from the cabinet and may have run its course with Mbabazi’s eventual dropping as secretary general of the ruling party...
Stranger things have happened, but the events of the last week may have sealed or will prove a major speed bump in the two men’s political ambitions.
Their travails as well as those of another major challenger for the top office of the land, Kiiza Besigye provide useful material in trying to tell what it would take to ascend to the presidency.
Two things stand in way of any challenger.
One, Museveni himself, naturally. Love or hate him he is the only politician with a record to run on, everybody else would have to refer to his record for lack of their own. Of course he has been at the helm for coming to 30 years and so none of the current crop of politicians has his credentials, but it can be argued that he has not held on to power for lack of trying by others to oust him.
One may question the elections he has won – 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011, but it is a hard argument to sustain since unlike his counterpart in Paul Biya, in Cameroon who is mostly out of the country only coming in to swear in as president, Museveni hits the campaign trail, pressing the flesh and kissing babies.
He has nationwide face recognition. Sometimes that’s all it takes when it comes to ticking your candidate of choice.
In the last three decades perfection or even excellence, has been far from a hall mark of this government’s programs and policies. No one is rushing to beatify the NRM and its leaders. But they have achieved enough to the point that 28 years down the line, it has not reached the point where the majority of the people would vote for a jerrycan rather than Museveni, as was the case with former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi at the end of his 24 year rule.
Secondly but more importantly, there is nothing comparable to the NRM in nationwide presence or organisational structure.
If the truth be told, the NRM often enough look like a house divided against itself and even manages to look very shambolic and clumsy most times, but when it swings into action every five years it assumes the stature of an irresistible force.
You may argue about how the party sustains itself but you can have all the money in the world, but with a solid organisation that money may count for little.
"There is a symbiotic relationship between Museveni and the NRM, but he would have an uphill task running roughshod over the opposition if he were to be divorced from the party...
And clearly that is what Mbabazi understood very well.
The NRM forged in the heat of the Luwero triangle and melded into multi-million person organisation since 1986, has made itself indispensable for anyone who has serious political aspirations in this country.
Which is a good thing, to an extent.
In the 1980s Milton Obote taunted opposition leader Paul Ssemogerere with the words “Where are your generals?” The generals are still important – even critical, but in addition you need a political structure and the numbers to back it up to lay claim to the ultimate prize.
That is where Sejusa went wrong in attempting to launch an opposition movement abroad. Not since Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran returned from exile to take over the leadership of Iran, has there been anyone who launches a credible challenge to power from abroad.
And his second capitulation doesn’t help the good General.
But as former UN secretary general Bhutros Bhutros Ghali said, “Only fools and God don’t change their minds!”