I’m Going Nowhere – Mao
By John V Sserwaniko
Embattled DP boss Norbert Mao says that, having failed to defeat him politically detractors within DP now want to kill him.
“It’s them who hate me personally and they even had a party when Red Pepper reported that I had died in a Nairobi hospital,” Mao said when asked about criticisms that he celebrated when his former Vice President-turned foe Sebuliba Mutumba lost his Kawempe MP Seat in February 2016.
Mao added that having waited in vain to see him die of natural death, his DP adversaries had resorted to trying to kill him in cold blood. “I have just reported to police. They stupidly sent me an SMS saying we shall kill you and the person was naïve enough to send it using a registered number. It’s now a matter with police because I reported on Saturday about these death threats. This is real and I can even send you the screenshot of this threatening message I received while in Masaka.”
Mao couldn’t disclose who these potential assassins are and their motive but maintained that given the anger Nambooze supporters exhibited towards him at Nsambya; it’s not hard to estimate the senders’ motive. He said nobody should plan to liquidate him over the DP leadership “because it’s something I can do without; I always actively supported DP without having any leadership position and it’s something I can do without because it’s not a matter of life and death for me.”
In a wide ranging phone interview, Mao extensively spoke about the renewed crisis in DP. “This can’t be disguised anymore. It’s a full war and whoever wins will impose their agenda on DP but from my side there will be no more appeasement. We are firmly going to deal with whoever violates the DP Constitution. I have been lenient too long because we wanted party unity. We are certain we shall win this war. It will end in our favor. ” Mao said.
Asked if this confidence winning the DP war had anything to do with his alleged syndicate with Police and other state agencies determined to wipe out Bad DP remnants, Mao said it’s the Nambooze faction working with police and not the DP mainstream leadership he leads.
“It’s them who went to police and not us. We can’t use police because the Uganda Police isn’t an organ of DP. They were the first to go to police and we only came in as DP leaders to say this isn’t our meeting.”
This contradicts Masaka MP Mathias Mpuuga who during a Saturday radio talk show faulted Mao group for conniving with police to brutalize DP members including the very elderly at Nsambya. He also responded to Nambooze’s claims that he isn’t reliable when it comes to keeping his word and sticking to agreed positions.
Nambooze had previously referred to a meeting Cardinal Wamala arbitrated at his Rubaga residence where rival DP factions agreed to call off the Mbale DP Conference of 2010. She said Mao disregarded the prelate and proceeded with the meeting yet the Cardinal-brokered consensus was to call it off.
“That isn’t true about me. I know they want to impeach my character which is wrong. Yes I attended that meting but I wasn’t party to the dispute. It was between Sebaana Kizito and Sebaggala who had sued the party and I had no duty to implement what was agreed.” Mao also denied claims that the renewed DP wars related to his impending departure from top leadership.
“That is day dreaming because I have not even thought about it. I’m still eligible to serve and I have set myself a target to build the Ben Kiwanuka House [for DP in Mengo] and that alone could take me up to 2019. Thereafter I can begin thinking of when to leave,” Mao said downplaying claims many party leaders and members are unhappy he is preparing Mbidde to succeed him in a few months time.
“Nothing could be further from the truth because I’m still here and I’m not into that business of anointing successors,” Mao asserted. He urged Nambooze, whom he maintained was DP’s sole problem, to “realize the dangers of launching a missile using a canoe.”
Likening it to biting more than one can chew, Mao said all the others can be forgiven but not Nambooze whom he said was the one misleading everybody in DP to turn against him. “She doesn’t understand DP because she was never groomed properly and just joined DP opportunistically after we saved her from prison. She still has a lot to learn. You see she isn’t indispensable as she thinks; which serious ideas has she ever brought on table in a DP meeting? All she knows is being eloquent in Luganda on CBS and that is all I know about her,” the DP boss said.
We then asked why he and others begged her to become Vice President at Katomi in 2015 and this is how he answered: “Those are the falsehoods she has been peddling. We only let her in because we wanted to demonstrate reconciliation. She says we begged her yet the truth is she came crying saying I want the post but I’m unable to compete and win. We said okay because we had seen how vulnerable she was. She had nowhere else to go because all her supporters were at Katomi and she had no option but to join us or else she would become irrelevant even in Mukono. She is an opportunist and that is how she works. Leaders must have a backbone and be principled but that can’t be said of Nambooze.”
Nambooze had previously said that, desirous for credible people to legitimize their otherwise sham meeting at Katomi, organizers sent PK Semogerere and others begging her to join Mao’s executive. Mao says this is all untrue because they never sent anybody to plead with Nambooze who after all was already cracking politically. Mao rejected Nambooze’s earlier claims that he had a list at Katomi of leaders he wanted to work with and that the likes of Keneth Kakande (Publicist) and SG Matia Nsubuga weren’t his choices.
“That is also not true. How could I do that when even I had lost interest in the DP presidency on account of ill health? I’m not that naïve and for your information Kakande was my candidate just like [Legal Advisor] Sam Muyizi and ofcourse Nsubuga. He is someone I never had any problem with and it’s unconceivable for her to say I preferred Siranda: that can’t be because Siranda stood for DSG and never for SG.”
We also asked the DP boss about Mpuuga’s Saturday CBS utterances that he was a lame duck President who excelled at criticizing Besigye’s Defiance instead of coming up with political activities to make the party visible and relevant to the political situation in Uganda.
This is what Mao contemptuously said: “All those people Mpuuga and others will find their level. I think everyone all of a sudden is trying to become relevant in DP. The problem they think talking on CBS equals being visible and vibrant. I challenge them which activities have they had anywhere? I’m more active in the field than them who became MPs and thought that is all. For us we want to liberate the whole country and not just becoming MPs to get some money for ourselves. Even if we lowered standards and equated being vibrant to appearing to talk on CBS, none of them can beat me at that. I’m more articulate even in Luganda than any of them.”
Mao denied being hostile to Besigye’s defiance campaign saying: “In fact I’m one of the most defiant politicians you can find. That is why I refused to even register for the national ID and the Museveni EC used it to frustrate my candidature in Gulu.”
However, Mpuuga called this evidence of Mao-led DP’s unpreparedness to take power. Mao doesn’t think so and says: “this was something we had agreed upon with other leaders [to shun ID registration].”Mao sought to exonerate many of the DP Buganda leaders captured on TV at Nsambya. “Many of them were innocent bystanders having been misled by Nambooze. This is why I have no grudge against any of them. It was okay but the problem is Nambooze trying to mislead all of them,” Mao said when asked about Ali Nganda Mulyanyama and many others previously perceived to be his allies but were now with Nambooze.
Reflecting on Kato Lubwama, Sebuliba Mutumba, Sam Lubega, Charles Musoke Serunjogi, Brenda Nabukenya, Deo Kijjambu, Vincent Mayanja, Erias Lukwago and others who have previously fallen out with Mao, critics have argued the man from Gulu is the problem. We repeated this very charge to Mao and this is what he said: “It’s not me Norbert Mao insisting on being always right and everybody else being wrong. No. It’s the Party Constitution that is always right and I have always had problems with all those people you have mentioned for refusing to follow what the party Constitution says.”
Disgruntled DP members have accused Mao of refusing to convene party meetings such as National Council and DP Parliamentary Group but the party leader said he is being judged too early. “The requirement is to call at least two meetings a year and we are just in April. Let them complain in December but in any case we are soon going to call the National Council,” said Mao rejecting attacks that he is reluctant to call those meetings to fill the vacant positions in the Party.
“We have many vacant positions and members will fill them the way they want,” argued Mao who has been accused of plotting to keep his man Siranda in the post of SG without going for elections. Some critics say he doesn’t call these meetings because he fears scrutiny. Mao also denied reports that his chief strategist Issa Kikungwe had abandoned him protesting his curious closeness to Mbidde.
“That is not true because Kikungwe is our party treasurer and is doing well managing party finances. If they say he has abandoned me then who I’m I remaining with?” Mao sarcastically said. We also asked him about veteran DP activist John Sebuwufu saying Mao had become Museveni’s recruitment agent in opposition and this is what he said: “Those guys Sebuwufu and others are old UYD veterans who failed to move on and outgrow youth politics. They have always been around wielding a lot of power in the background. Its true they supported me in Mbale but gradually fell by the way side after realizing I wasn’t the puppet they expected. They started grumbling and that is why they are now jumping on Nambooze whom they don’t even like. They only think they can use her to get rid of Mao and resume their mischief in DP. They are opportunists and I have been resisting their machinations. Naturally I expected them to jump on the Nambooze bandwagon.”
The Sebuwufu group comprises of Sam Muyizi, DP Kampala chairman Vincent Mayanja (who recently called for Mao’s ouster), Brenda Nabukenya, Keneth Paul Kakande, DP’s only KCCA Councilor Moses Katabu and others. In contrast to their alleged opportunism, Mao said ex-Buikwe MP Lulume Bayiga is a leader in his own class. “He is one of the most graceful leaders we have in DP and I have competed with him before and I know what I’m talking about because Dr. Lulume is above their pettiness and sectarianism,” Mao said of the man who vigorously competed with him at Katomi.
He also rejected the critics’ claim that he has always been elected by fake DP delegates and that he is incapable of winning credible DP elections. “They are just envious because delegates like me very much. I won with 71% at Katomi and none of them has that record. They hate me because I’m the delegates’ favorite DP leader and they call them fake delegates because they failed to defeat me at Katomi. But let’s also apply equal standards. If they are fake delegates then we are all fake because they elected the entire executive and not just me Norbert Mao that day at Katomi. Those people are being parochial: what do they mean saying the entire West Nile delegates were from Arua Park?” Mao said.
We asked him if he thinks DP wrangles will ever end and his answer was: “I don’t see that happening; we are going for full war now and whoever wins will impose his or her agenda on DP.”
He denied being unforgiving and holding any vendetta against Nambooze’s predecessor Sebuliba Mutumba who seceded from mainstream DP to co-found TJ with Erias Lukwago. “I’m not that type. Why should I celebrate someone’s political defeat? I can’t do that type of revenge even when I know there are people among them who celebrated when Red Pepper published that I was dead,” Mao contended.
On the possibility of a mob of Nambooze supporters raiding City House and forcefully throw him out of office like was done to the Bwengye group in mid 2000s, Mao said: “That can’t happen. She likes exaggerating her importance yet she is actually a light weight politician only eloquent in Luganda on CBS radio. Which strong political ideas does she have on any matter? I hear she wants to be DP president yet she is so insignificant she can’t even be shortlisted for a job interview in a company like Red Pepper. So how can I have sleepless nights over such a person threatening my position? She is a light weight and I’m glad her nakedness will soon be exposed.”