Nambooze to Mao: Which DP do you belong to?
February 24, 2017Written by Baker Batte Lule
BETTY NAMBOOZE, the Mukono municipality MP and Democratic Party regional president for Buganda, has challenged her party president general Norbert Mao to speak out openly about which DP, "the good or bad," he belongs to.
Her challenge follows a recent reference by President Museveni to Fred Mukasa Mbidde as a good DP. Mbidde is the DP national vice president. Speaking to Baker Batte Lule at her home, Nambooze said it was high time Mao worked to rid the party of all 'NRM' members who are passing themselves off as DP. Below are excerpts.
What do you make of the recent appointment of your former DP national chairman Muhammad Kezaala as an ambassador?
You know [President] Museveni has been having these people in the opposition working for him. Like any other leader, he carried out a reshuffle and made some redeployments; so, Kezaala was called back to serve at his party’s headquarters.
You mean he has been NRM all along?
Yes, he has always been NRM but what I don’t know is at what point he joined the NRM. But if you see the way they have been running DP, you would realize that they were no longer running it in the interest of the party. I’m happy that Museveni has chosen to redeploy Kezaala in another position. My only worry is, I don’t know who has now taken on his [Kezaala] role in DP.
If you knew he was NRM, why did you accept to work with him all this time?
I have never accepted to work with him but I accepted to work for my party. Even in very bad communities, there are a few good individuals who work for the good of that community.
Why didn’t you say Kezaala was NRM before he was ‘redeployed’?
Actually I did; go and ask him whether, as DP chairman, he chaired any meeting where Nambooze sat. Not everything we do, we publicize. I have never attended any meeting chaired by Kezaala because I knew I couldn’t sit under his chairmanship to deliberate for DP. I don’t want to sit with NRM people to plot against NRM.
Before you became a leader in DP, you knew the kind of people you were going to work with. Why are you complaining now?
Everybody who was at Katomi [Kingdom hotel, where the DP delegates’ conference took place in 2015] knows that Nambooze has never sought a leadership position. I decided to go to Katomi because people had gathered in the name of the party I support.
At Katomi we had different groups of people. There were those who genuinely believe in DP, there were some rented audiences [crowds] from Arua park who posed as delegates from Western and Northern Uganda. Then there were those from Kampala who go to any gathering to spy, and security guys from government.
When people saw me, they pleaded that I take up that office [president Buganda region]. The requirement was that to be a leader, you had to apply days before and pay Shs 300,000. I didn’t do any of those things but DP needs leadership.
It’s unfortunate that I have been sick for a year but you are going to see how I’m going to use that position. I hope that the good DP doesn’t chase me away. What I intend to do for DP in Buganda, even people working for Museveni are going to know that their time is up. After all, DP is in Buganda.
What do you say of Norbert Mao’s leadership as DP president?
Mao knows he became DP president general through a coup that was facilitated by foreign forces. For me, I gave him all my support hoping that he would repent and allow the party to go through a process that would produce legitimate and legally elected leaders.
When I see him on NBS TV’s frontline talking about Museveni’s problems, I say maybe this man knows what he is talking about. I don’t know where he gets that temptation to do wrong things yet when you talk to him you hear a democrat talking. But eventually he ends up [to be] just a talker. When you listen to Mao talk, you can say this is a leader but wait until he leaves the microphone, he can’t even kill a fly if that fly is the problem of Uganda.
But you said he has killed DP.
Mao hasn’t killed DP. But people who wanted to kill DP installed him to stop an able leader from taking that office. But DP is an idea that can’t be killed, what Mao has done is stall it.
I have heard you amplify the idea of good and bad DP; where does Mao belong?
It is up to him to tell the country where he belongs. I didn’t coin that word; it was Museveni who said there are some good DP members who work for NRM. For us who stick to the ideals of DP on which the party was founded, we are bad before Museveni and any other dictator.
For now, we will leave the good DP to Museveni and take the bad DP because that is what offers bad news to dictators like Museveni. For the time being, I have offered to lead that group and if Mao is part of us, let him come over, I will be very happy to hand over to him.
So, are you carrying out a coup against Mao?
I’m carrying out a coup against Museveni’s DP. I hope Mao will be very happy with me for re-emphasizing his position. What I’m doing is leading a new voice that calls for sanity in the party. A president who loves his party will support any member who calls for sanity.
Have you talked to him?
I have decided to write to him and very soon he will get my letter. I’m suggesting that it’s high time we carried out major reforms in the party. We need to rebrand, come up with a code of conduct for members, re-discuss the term of office for leaders; one year is so short a term. It’s high time we also separated the DP leadership from the party’s flag bearers.
Are you considering standing as DP president general?
Even if I’m to stand as DP president general in the current arrangement, I will also be defeated. We should first talk about reforms in the party, then we will get the right leaders. You don’t go to Kampala and pick up people and then line them up to vote for you as president general; that is mob justice.
Why did you go to Katomi yet you were privy to all this detail?
How could I have known this if I had kept away? I kept away from the Mao mob for five years [from] 2011 to 2016. It did not work; it is only a mad man who does the same thing and every time he expects different results.
If I had travelled with the Maos to Mbale [for the 2010 DP delegates’ conference], I would have been given a very big office but I didn’t go. For five years, I waited to see whether my keeping away would yield any results; it didn’t. This time I decided I will take the bull by the horns. I went to Katomi and found the mob good enough. I also found a delegation from Buganda who said they wanted me to lead them.
Do you see anyone in DP with capacity to lead the party to another level? There is talk that the lord mayor [Erias Lukwago] has some interest.
The struggle we have undertaken will be misunderstood if I started pointing at individuals as possible leaders. I don’t want to discuss my good friend Erias Lukwago but I will be comforted if people like him return to offer the party their energies.
Speaking about Lukwago, you fell out with him when you decided to side with Mao’s DP. What is your current relationship with him like?
That is a question you can also answer. Is Lukwago my enemy; he is not. This time round we differed in strategy. In 2010 we agreed that we should not go to Mbale.
In 2016, I was for confronting Mao and for him he chose to keep away. I think that is a small contradiction for politicians to keep as a grudge. The principle was the same; for me I was for confronting Mao and for him, he said let’s start TJ [Truth and Justice], a breakaway faction we would use to reform DP. How successful that has been is a discussion for another day.
Has it occurred to you that some people might interpret this as a Buganda strategy to dislodge Mao?
So, do they want me to denounce my being a Muganda? Mao has always cited these tribal sentiments; that he is being fought because he is not a Muganda. I will never be made to explain myself over my tribe. My issues are very clear; nowhere in my submission have I said that things in DP are not moving well because of a tribe.
But they always raise the issue of tribes as a tool of blackmail. Should I go and hang myself because I was born a Muganda? I’m not a Muganda by application, neither is Mao an Acholi by application.
When it comes to issues of either building a hospital or shrine in Mengo palace, I don’t expect Mao to turn up. However, we are talking about the Democratic Party and nobody should use the tribal card to intimidate people raising pertinent issues about the party. Blackmail as a tool is outdated to be used on modern politicians like me; my issues are very clear.
Earlier you said DP is only in Buganda; wouldn’t one be right to conclude that because the party is in Buganda, you feel it should be led by a Muganda?
Those are your words, for me what I said is that when we go for elections, it is only here in Buganda that you find organized DP structures. In other areas people rent delegates. I traveled to Karamoja and I kept asking who is DP here; you couldn’t even find an LC-I chairman belonging to DP.
You have also termed as machinations, dealings between NRM and DP over Eala [East African Legislative Assembly]. Can you throw more light?
There is a clear syndicate between the two parties. The fact of the matter is that NRM is going to vote for itself and DP. But frankly for me Eala is just a small matter. After all, it is just a mock parliament; so, Mbidde can go. There is no problem with that. Let him go without any pretence; he is going there to represent the interest of Museveni in that mock parliament.
So, you say Mbidde is NRM?
I’m saying he is going there to represent the interests of Museveni. Leaders in these East African countries have interests they want to export to the regional body; so, Museveni thinks that his interests can only be catered for if all the nine MPs are people he can relate with and [they] take orders nicely.
It so happens that our own Mbidde has been identified as one of those people who fit within Museveni’s context. You know Mbidde struggled to join parliament; he did everything, including standing in different constituencies, and he didn’t make it. So, out of desperation, he entered a deal with not even the NRM but Museveni as a person.
Which kind of deal did he make with Museveni?
You scratch my back and I scratch yours. When he goes to that international forum, he will not do things that antagonize Museveni’s leadership. Leaders in Africa got worried by the example set by Ecowas, [West African regional grouping that ousted long-serving Gambia leader Yahya Jammeh]; so, they are no longer taking these regional groupings for granted. Museveni wants to be sure that people he sends to Eala don’t build up pillars as strong as those of Ecowas.
So, Mbidde is not any different from the other NRM six members?
In fact, he is more important to Museveni than those other six members. He feels that NRM has done him a favor and in politics it is those people who occupy positions out of favor who will outdo themselves to please their masters. There is no bigger prize than when you are being praised by somebody who is supposed to critique you.
You say FDC has no chance whatsoever of sending a representative to Eala?
Unless they learn the tricks that produce Eala MPs.
You go silently and kneel before the man who gives; the one with the majority in parliament and swear that you will not do anything directly or indirectly that will put his interests at stake.
In your view, has Museveni succeeded in annihilating the opposition like he vowed to do last year?
On the surface it appears as if he has succeeded in destroying the opposition. But let me tell you, the darkest hour of the night is the first hour of the new day; dictators always collapse when they appear to be at their strongest.
Yes, I admit that we might appear to be at our weakest but this gives us the reason to go and reorganize. It’s through these challenging times that we will build a strong opposition. The biggest asset we have is that the population is solidly together saying they have had enough of Museveni.