What Does Mbabazi Bring To The Opposition?

2639 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The Opposition hopes Mbabazis stature and character will attract new voters with the backing of most opposition political parties to win next years election.

Majority members of The Democratic Alliance last month backed former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi to be their candidate. Two other parties supported Forum for Democratic Change flag bearer, Dr. Kizza Besigye.

Mbabazi has been embraced by many opposition parties and leaders, despite him coming out of President Museveni's government just recently.

In September 2014 President dropped Amama Mbabazi in a cabinet reshuffle appointing Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda as Uganda's new Prime Minster. Mbabazi had been Prime Minister since June 2011.

But what does Mbabazi bring to the opposition? Is he the man to guide the opposition to power in 2016?

Prof. Ogenga Latigo, a founding member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and former Leader of Opposition in Parliament, told URN that Mbabazi's presidential bid will attract both NRM and new opposition voters, because the former prime minister has links in both NRM and the opposition.

According to Latigo, Mbabazi will act like a bridge to allow people to walk from either sides of the river freely.

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However, Latigo warned that Mbabazi's presidential bid will affect Kizza Besigye's chances - comparing it to when Besigye's presidential bid affected the traditional opposition in 2001. Latigo was a member of Paul Ssemogerere's campaign team for the 1996 elections before Besigye joined the opposition in 2001.

Ogenga Latigo compared Mbabazi's defection from the NRM to a cardinal in the Catholic Church questioning the work of the Pope - saying it would leave ordinary Christians with no choice but to follow suit.

While supporting Mbabazi's candidature for The Democratic Alliance, some members said the experience in government and in working with president Museveni that he comes with is worthy tapping into.

However, some political analysts remain skeptical about Mbabazi's moves because he insists he remains a member of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Dr. Aaron Mukwaya, a political scientist at Makerere University says Mbabazi is hoodwinking the opposition, because he still holds the NRM card. Dr. Mukwaya does not see Mbabazi holding the views of the opposition but rather, a person who is going to continue with the values and views of the NRM.

According to him, opposition parties are backing Mbabazi because they are disgruntled after years of failing to influence new developments or even take state power.

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Prof. Ndebesa Mwambusya, a senior lecturer at Makerere University's Department of History, says Mbabazi is bringing some value to democracy, in a sense that he is one step towards opening the political space for alternative views, policies and political size.  

He did not buy the view that majority parties back Mbabazi's candidature.  Prof. Ndebesa says it is possible that some political party heads in Kampala are backing Mbabazi given that he is new on the scene.

He however noted that there was no fundamental reason for shift of opposition support towards Mbabazi. 

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Amama Mbabazi signed the protocol after declaring he would not run for presidency under the NRM. Sections of the political divide see him as a better aspirant because of his diplomacy, hard work and good legal knowledge that will move the opposition.

The Democratic Alliance Summit continues to negotiate between Amama Mbabazi and Dr. Kizza Besigye on how they are going to handle the campaigns scheduled to start on 9th November 2015.

Besigye is among leaders in the alliance who say Mbabazi is not offering much because he does not have an established political organization, and can not point to individual supporters.

The opposition will hope that Mbabazi will attract the five million voters that did not bother to turn up for voting in the 2011 elections, while also eating away some votes from the ruling party.

After over three decades as President Museveni's right-hand man and the pivot of the ruling National Resistance Movement, the opposition will also bank on Mbabazi to attract some of the 10 million voters that are registered in the NRM Yellow Book.

Last week, Mbabazi told journalists at The Democratic Alliance offices in Naguru that five million NRM voters will not vote for President Museveni in next year's election.


About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.