If you thought that the political differences between Uganda president Yoweri Museveni and Cord leader Raila Odinga were over, you are dead wrong.
This week, we reveal details of how the opponents of Ugandan strongman are secretly planning to reach out for Raila to unite them and front one candidate to face Museveni come next year’s do-or-die general elections. They are said to be working round the clock to bring Raila on their side on basis that it will be a revenge mission against Museveni who has backed Raila’s opponents in 2007 and 2013.
It is eagerly awaited to be seen if Raila will agree to try to reconcile the Ugandan opposition to field a single candidate to ouster Museveni. They have formed Democratic Alliance to achieve their political ambitions of dethroning Museveni in 2016 elections using the power of the ballot.
According to sources well-versed with the gameplan, the anti-Museveni forces believe if they are united, going by the current big fallout in the ruling National Resistance Movement and the general public mood that Museveni is overstaying in power, they can easily pull a fast one against him, ending his elaborate political career as a guerilla fighter-turned-president.
The man to unite them is Raila and who with his international connections both in Africa, Western and Eastern capitals, he will also be helping them win foreign funding to match Museveni’s enormous campaign kitty. Raila is close to new Nigerian president Mohamadu Buhari courtesy of Odinga’s family old time friend Olesegun Obasanjo, himself a former military ruler who handed over power to civilians and was later elected president.
The opposition is said to be trying to reach out to Raila via Miriam Obote, the wife of the late president Milton Obote. Miriam is close to the Odingas and attended the burial of Fidel Castro Odinga in Bondo where she addressed mourners. She was Uganda People’s Congress chairperson until 2010 when she replaced by Olara Otunnu. Otunnu defeated her son Jimmy Akena who is a member of parliament for Lira municipality.
A number of candidates are gearing to take Museveni headon come the next elections. Veteran Ugandan politician Kizza Besigye has also hinted he will be in the race. He had initially quit politics but has resurfaced going by the flurry of happenings on the ground.
Museveni is one of longest-serving African rulers after Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. He came to power through the barrel of the gun in 1986 while Mugabe became president in 1980 after kicking out the colonialiasts from power.
Sources say apart from Besigye, also sending shivers down Museveni political spine is Amama Mbabazi, a former ally whom Museveni dismissed as prime minister. The Mbabazi factor is causing ripples not only in NRM government, but also in the military. It is said never before is the Ugandan military divided as it is now since Museveni took over power. Gen David Sejusa, the former country’s spychief called for an inquest into reports of a plot to assassinate senior army officers.
Heads have rolled in the army with military officers; with talk within the military being that Museveni is grooming his son Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him.
The plan to have joint opposition presidential candidate will also bring on board key political players such as Norbert Mao and Otunnu.
Already, talks are at an advanced stage to bring on board Mbabazi to join the opposition. What is now required is a compromise on who between Mbabazi and Besigye will fly the opposition flag.
What is still not clear is between Mbabazi and Besigye who will carry the flag and who will play second fiddle. The task now is to convince either Besigye to step down for Mbabazi or vice-versa and have the other player land plum slots. It is even whispered that Besigye’s return is on the grounds that he wants to be the prime minister.
But one school of thought is also said to be pushing to have Mbabazi nominated to fly the opposition flag since Besigye has lost to Museveni three times since 2001.
The opposition has regularly accused the government of election irregularities and voter intimidation by security personnel. Those pushing for Mbabazi have dismissed Besigye as a spent force hence the need to have him as PM and Mbabazi as the flagbearer.
Back to Raila and Museveni political rivalry, the two have had a long history of being political foes. But their rivalry came to public limelight during the Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential elections in which Raila and ODM accused Museveni of assisting then president Mwai Kibaki to retain power illegally, using Ugandan forces.
As the disputed presidential elections were being handled by the Koffi Anan mediation team, Museveni hurriedly sent Kibaki congratulatory message despite the fact that violence had rocked the country and people were being killed in their hundreds.
What angered Raila most during the post-election violence was that Museveni had offered to mediate between him and Kibaki in the crisis that followed the controversial 2007 presidential elections. Raila rejected the offer saying Museveni could not be expected to be a neutral arbiter.
Museveni had flown to Nairobi at the height of the post-election violence to broker peace, but Raila was opposed to his involvement in the process and was forced to return to Kampala the same day.
“He had come on his own, but we thought he was conspiring with Kibaki. He had called me prior to leaving Uganda and told me Kibaki had said he could come, asking me if I had any objection, to which I said no,” said Raila.
“But I thought his role was to scuttle the mediation process. He wanted instead a judicial commission of inquiry, and with Commonwealth judges Kibaki would appoint and who would scrutinise the ballot papers. I told the team it was my view we should refuse any re-tallying exercise and also that Museveni could definitely not be part of the solution,” he said.
To show how bad the relationship between Raila and Museveni is, during the swearing in ceremony at Uhuru Park upon the formation of grand coalition government, both leaders deliberately forgot the details of the other. Museveni did not recall the name of Raila’s party, despite mentioning PNU clearly. Raila on the other hand called Museveni the president of the Republic of Tanzania.
During the post-election violence in which ODM youths in Kibera vandalised the railway line that links Nairobi and Kampala, Museveni during a radio interview called the Luos “mad”.
With Raila holding the position of prime minister and with Ugandan elections due in 2011, Museveni mended fences with Raila and during one of the campaigns in December 2011, Raila surprisingly joined Museveni during campaigns in Nawaninji subcounty, Iganga district where he told Ugandans that he had come to Uganda as a friend.
Raila also turned the gesture later by inviting Museveni to an event in Kisumu and later to his home in Bondo. But months later in the run-up to the 2013 elections, word had it that Museveni was secretly inviting Raila’s opponents to State House Kampala and giving them financial support.
The relationship between the two has now taken a new dimension in the run-up to Uganda’s 2016 elections. To endear himself to Raila, after losing to Uhuru, Museveni held talks with Raila in Uganda on what was said to be matters relating to East Africa Community.
Museveni at one time sensationally accused Mike Mukula, a senior NRM figure, of receiving large amounts of money from Raila to sabotage Museveni’s plans in the East African Legislative Assembly. However, Mukula denied receiving any money from Raila and stated that they were good friends.
Attempts to have a joint opposition candidate against Museveni is said to be at advanced stage. Sources say the opposition groups have formed a committee to spearhead the selection of a joint presidential candidate to contest against Museveni.
The opposition is to form a committee of 40 members, which includes eminent persons, opposition party leaders, civil society and religious leaders to lead the nomination process of a single joint opposition candidate to battle against Museveni in the February 2016 elections and should that fail, then they would strike a deal and pick a compromise candidate.
Initially, Besigye had vowed never to again participate in any elections organised under Museveni rule, where the president is both a contestant and judge.
When Besigye was brutally beaten by Ugandan soldiers during demonstrations against Museveni’s administration, it was Raila who intervened and had him flown to Nairobi where he was admitted at Nairobi Hospital.
Coincidentally, when he was admitted, Museveni was also in Nairobi attending a regional meeting but never bothered putting their political differences aside to visit him. It was, however, Raila again who visited Besigye at the hospital where he expressed grave concern at the brutality being meted on opposition leaders and civilians participating in the walk-to-work campaign to protest rising cost of living.
Raila’s visit to Besigye did not go down well with then president Kibaki and PNU loyalists who by then were close Museveni allies. PNU leaders claimed Raila was sympathetic to Uganda’s opposition and by virtue of being Kenya’s PM, he was supposed to be supportive to the government of Uganda and not the opposition.
Museveni’s support for Kibaki and PNU also played out during the border row in which Museveni claimed Migingo island is in Uganda as Raila said it was in Kenya.
Because of the PNU/ODM rivalry and considering that Museveni had soft spot for Kibaki, Raila’s ODM believed that Kibaki did not take strong action against Uganda for grabbing Migingo to politically undermine Raila.
According to Raila and his allies, Kibaki’s silence on the Migingo issue was a plot designed to embarrass Raila since it was directly affecting his ethnic Luo community.
While Raila was quick at the onset of the dispute to declare that the island was Kenya territory and suggested strong action to regain it, Kibaki always insisted on a diplomatic approach.
Investigations further reveal that it is not only Raila who has been involved in Uganda’s political affairs. During the runup to 2013 elections, Museveni intervened to settle political battles between Raila and then Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi.
After attempts by local politicians allied to both Raila and Mudavadi failed to broker a deal to have the two hold a meeting to settle political differences, it was Museveni who brought the two together at a meeting at Raila’s Bondo home.
Museveni was brokering the deal on the basis; Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were not going to run because of the ICC case. Raila was later to discover Museveni was comfortable with Mudavadi presidency than his. Infact, it is whispered that Museveni was part of those around Kibaki who started pushing for Mudavadi to succeed Kibaki outside ODM hence the formation of United Democratic Forum..
To show how Museveni meddled in Kenyan politics,he later was convinced that Uhuru and Ruto were the possible pair to win the 2013 elections and abandoned Raila and joined the UhuRuto bandwagon.
Ruto led a powerful delegation of ministers and MPs to see Museveni, who in turn spared no state expense to host them, even using his chopper to fly them to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from his Rwakitura farm in Mbarara.
During the meeting, Ruto pleaded with Museveni to arrange for him to meet Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete which he agreed. In Ruto’s team were then ministers Ali Chirau Mwakwere and Samuel Poghisio, former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo and MPs Eugene Wamalwa , Aden Dualle, Kazungu Kambi, Mithika Linturi and a former Rift Valley powerbroker in the Moi era, Mark Too.
Sources now say that Museveni is currently working on a scheme to have a key principal in Cord join Uhuru side so he can divert Raila from being engaged by the Ugandan opposition. Raila will be forced to handle the burning issue in Cord and forget foreign engagement.
It is not Raila’s first time to wade into opposition politics in the region. At the invitation of Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who on many occasions has tried to upstage Mugabe just like Besigye has tried against Museveni, Raila was in the thick of Zimbabwe’s politics.
Tsvangirai, a bitter political rival of Mugabe has like Besigye been subjected to humiliation by the ruling political class in Zimbabwe.
In May 2008, Raila also met Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change over the crisis in Zimbabwe. Raila had urged him to contest an election run-off against Mugabe. Odinga and Tsvangirai were considered in tune and in greed as they both resorted to demand 50-50 power sharing agreements in their respective countries making both of them prime ministers in the respective countries.
To lure Raila, the Uganda opposition is said be promising to back Raila for the presidency of the yet-to-be formed East Africa Community Federation a position also eyed by Museveni and Uhuru
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