Secret negotiations between President Yoweri Museveni and Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi are reported to be in high gear, with fresh details indicating that the two principals are soon harmonizing their alleged political differences.
Though presidency minister Frank Kagyigi Tumwebaze said he was not aware about the talks, insiders in state house told us that Museveni and Mbabazi are being mediated by General Caleb Akwandanaho better known as Salim Saleh.
“I am not aware of any talks between those people” Tumwebaze told us when contacted for a comment.
However, our sources told us that in these meetings, it was agreed that their wives including Jackie Mbabazi and Janet Kataha Museveni should be locked out completely.
“It is purely a men’s affair. The wives have been excluded. Mbabazi, Museveni and Saleh are in talks and things are moving towards a final positive conclusion” a source close to Gen. Saleh confirmed to us.
Sources stated that it is because of these behind the scenes talks that Museveni has even delayed to announce a new cabinet reshuffle. Of recent, there have been media speculations suggesting that Museveni was bound to dump Mbabazi from his cabinet job but because of these alleged talks, the changes in cabinet have been shelved temporarily.
We have been informed that it is actually out of those talks that Mbabazi last week agreed to attend the Kanungu function where Museveni had been invited to launch the Kanungu-Rukungiri road. Mbabazi’s presence was meant to show his positive gesture towards the president who thinks that the man from Kanungu is all out to challenge him in 2016.
Sources stated that according to the initial plan, the Mbabazi camp had planned to boycott Museveni’s visit in addition to wearing T-shirts that denounce the 5th term for Museveni.
“It is because of these secret talks that Mbabazi even attended the Kanungu fete. He [Mbabazi] even told the president that all the people who were there were fully supportive of the 5th term and NRM. This was not out of the blue but was part of the positive gesture by him towards Museveni. The talks are in advanced stages” sources stated.
According to sources, Saleh offered to mediate for two reasons. One was that, he feels Mbabazi is still relevant as far as Museveni’s stay in power is concerned.
“These two men have been working together for ages. They know each other and still need each other. Museveni still needs Mbabazi but it is Mbabazi who is trying to go! Museveni has no problem with him [Mbabazi]. Therefore any efforts aimed at reviving their relationship are vital” sources added.
Secondly, Saleh feels that allowing Mbabazi to join Besigye may be suicidal politically for NRM. Apparently, NRM is still struggling to contain the Besigye threat but adding on another person from his [Besigye] region may exacerbate trouble for NRM.
“The threat we have [NRM] are these veterans. There are many of them who are really suffering. They have worked for this country. They therefore need to be paid their gratuity and compensation. If we can sort out their issues, the better for NRM. We should not create other matters. I think this Mbabazi issue is a small matter that can be sorted and the two can still work together. Priority should be given to the veterans’ issues” sources quoted him as stating.
WHO IS SALEH
These alleged talks now raise Saleh’s negotiation credentials. This is going to be the second high ranking task he is handling after that of Kabaka-Museveni peace deal of 2009.
At the peak of the September riots after government blocked Katikkiro JB Walusimbi from travelling to Bugerere, Museveni allegedly engaged influential leaders from Buganda to sweet-talk Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II into softening on his planned travel to Bugerere [Kayunga]. The leaders including bishops tried but with little success.
Gen. Saleh who is a long time friend of Kabaka weighed in. The Kabaka according to sources finally accepted and called off the trip at last minute.
He [Saleh] went back and briefed his brother Museveni who was desperate for talks with Kabaka since he had even cut off phone communication with him. It was reported that those days, in case he wanted to talk to him, the president would go through his then PPS Amelia Kyambadde whose calls Kabaka was picking but not his. But the intervention of Saleh not only changed Kabaka’s heart to pick Museveni’s calls, but also made him [Kabaka] to visit state house for the first time in ages.
As a sign of respect, the Kabaka was accorded a state visit at state house like a visiting head of state. After that, the two principals began to revive their relationship culminating into the recent return of part of Buganda’s ‘Ebyaffe’!
We were told that Saleh all along had been talking to his elder brother [Museveni] to fulfill his promise of returning Ebyaffe. Actually, upon hearing about this return recently, General Saleh sat at his Kapeeka camp and dined, wined and smoked several cigars celebrating his dream come true!
Museveni not only returned Ebyaffe, but also allowed the katikkiro to traverse Uganda to collect ‘Ettoffaali’ without any hardship in addition to attending Kabaka’s coronation fete at Lubiri-Mmengo after years when he was not being invited for the do.
Secondly, during the LRA negotiations, the LRA chief Joseph Kony also demanded that for the talks to be meaningful he wanted to see Saleh or Mbabazi in those talks but this never happened leading to their collapse up
Museveni and Mbabazi are these days riding an icy boat politically after intelligence tabled reports to him that the prime minister was up to grab his state house job come 2016. The NRM caucus responded by passing the Kyankwanzi resolution declaring Museveni NRM sole candidate for 2016.
Mbabazi maintains that though he signed the resolution, this wasn’t binding and there is no crime for anyone to harbor presidential ambitions. He was two weeks ago endorsed by Kigezi leaders as their candidate to the extent of giving him symbols of power [spear and shield].
BY HENRY MULINDWA