Give us insight, depth on Mbabazi bid

By Peter G. Mwesige

For several months, the Ugandan media and political watchers have waited for the ‘big’ announcement from former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

He did it via YouTube on early Monday, announcing he would seek the position of “flag- bearer” of the ruling National Resistance Movement later this year and the presidency in the 2016 elections.

Given how much time the media have had on the potential Mbabazi bid, we should expect far more than run-of-the-mill reporting that will give us his bio and recount the highlights of his fallout with President Yoweri Museveni last year.

Political reporters and their editors have had enough time to think about this story.

So, I am hoping this evening’s TV news and tomorrow’s morning papers will give us some real insight and depth. Some of the questions that I hope will be answered include the following (in no particular order of importance).

  • Why is Mr Amama Mbabazi a big deal (I know many Museveni handlers who will argue he is not)?

  • Is Mr Mbabazi’s challenge similar to or different from that of Dr Kizza Besigye in 2001?

  • Why now? Why did Mr Mbabazi choose to announce his presidency in mid-June? Why not earlier, or later?

  • Why did he choose to do it via YouTube (I’ve been reminded that Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba beat him to it, so there was no novelty in announcing via social media) and not at a public rally or press conference?

  • Mr Mbabazi has in the past said he would not contest against President Museveni. Does he know something the rest of the country doesn’t know, for all indications are that President Museveni is still around?

  • What is Mr Mbabazi’s path to victory in both the NRM and the presidential elections? What is his plan?

  • Is Mr Mbabazi a strong candidate (his previous struggles to win the parliamentary seat, notwithstanding)? What makes him a strong candidate, if at all? Where will his support come from? Will he use his knowledge of the NRM’s electoral ‘tricks’ to steal President Museveni’s vote? Is he counting on the loyalty of the ‘cadres’ that he helped get into different jobs within the government, including the Electoral Commission? Does he have the money that he is rumoured to have piled up for the election?

  • What could undo Mr Mbabazi? Will the previous scandals in which he has been named stick? Can he present himself as the “new life” that Uganda deserves? How does he distance himself from the “weak and inefficient system” that he has helped perpetuate?

  • It was reported earlier that Mr Mbabazi had embraced the new opposition coalition, the Democratic Alliance. Where does his announcement that he would challenge President Museveni from within the NRM leave him in the Alliance?

  • How will Mr Museveni deal with Mr Mbabazi? Will he drag him to court over corruption and/or illicit spying charges (for Dr Besigye it was rape and treason)?

I can’t wait.


Peter G. Mwesige

Dr Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) Email:; Twitter: @pmwesige

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