While at their ideological home in Kyankwanzi, thereby effectively abandoned any interests in the top most job.
And in the view of NRM Chief Whip Kasule Lumumba, Mbabazi’s presidential ambitions are all but over. “What will he now say?”asked Lumumba. “That he was forced to sign the document? He was not drunk.” “His fate is sealed. He is finished,” added the NRM caucus treasurer Naddamba.
By galvanising the support of its large membership in Parliament, the party has achieved a major victory in ensuring that members do not support any other person from the party well ahead of the 2016 elections.
Coming at a time when former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, is seriously considering standing for president, coupled with the growing emergence of independent-minded individuals in Parliament, the move can be seen as a major blow to Museveni’s opposition come 2016.
Perhaps realising the likely difficulties of overcoming NRM’s newly found solidarity, Soroti municipality MP Capt. Mike Mukula this week announced he was abandoning any presidential ambitions he previously harboured, something that annoyed his supporters.
There are some who even doubt that Mbabazi was ever a threat to Museveni and that his alleged underground operations to reach out to party members in the NRM grass-roots, was meant to create a false impression that there was a split in the party to excite the population.
However, the resolutions and the subsequent media coverage that the ‘Museveni endorsement’ scheme has received can not be under-estimated. In the view of the public, any NRM member who will come out to contest Museveni or stand as independent will be accused of hypocrisy and will be isolated to face the party machinery.
It also sends another powerful message to the electorate that despite his 30 years in power punctuated by numerous missteps, Museveni still has formidable support as shown by a near unanimous show of confidence in his leadership by the caucus.
NRM’s apparent rediscovered sense of cohesion gives them a psychological edge over their opponents who are seemingly unable to agree on a common candidate. In recent months, the main Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition has been embroiled in a power struggle, counter-accusations and negative publicity.
The squabbles seen in the replacement of Nandala Mafabi as the leader of Opposition in Parliament with Wafula Oguttu has been criticised in some parts as a needless power struggle. The FDC president has for example been embarrassed by some of his nominees turning down offers, while others like Jack Sabiiti has compared Mugisha Muntu to Museveni for ‘arrogantly’ appointing people without prior consultation.
As The Sunrise columnist Stephen Bwire pointed out recently, NRM has succeeded in disorganising the opposition by denying them space to hold rallies to mobilise for support at the grassroots.
“The common argument, which to a large extent is true, is that the NRM State machinery has made it impossible for the opposition to mobilise support, hold rallies, hold party meetings, fundraise, etc, as the State would often descend on them with the most lethal brutality,” Bwire wrote recently.
Besides donating brand new cars to every clergy that gets installed in Uganda, President Museveni is known to walk around with sacks of cash which he donates to desperate groups. Reports suggest that the President keeps dollars in State House or at his country home in Rwakitura, from which he donates to women’s groups, councillors or other politicians.
Reports emerged recently that KCCA councillors received each US$ 10,000 during a visit to state house shortly before they impeached Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.
As Bwire wrote, Museveni’s victory in 2016 seems a foregone conclusion, considering the way he has suppressed the opposition but also the way he has managed to use public funds for selfish political interests.