What to make of Janet’s plunge into party politics

What to make of Janet’s plunge into party politics

What to make of Janet’s plunge into party politics

First Lady Janet Museveni has treaded the paths of compassion for the vulnerable, championing the cause of orphans through Uganda Women Efforts to Save Orphans (UWESO), working with women, name it.\r\n\r\nQuite a number of children (now adults) orphaned by HIV/Aids and civil strife across the country have benefited through the NGO.\r\n\r\nJanet professes to be a born-again Christian, speaks about decency and goodness among the youth and women. Her addresses in the countryside are always punctuated with preaching of the Word of God peppered with quotes from the Bible.\r\n\r\nWhile Ms Museveni’s footprints can be traced in the early fight against HIV/Aids in the country, she has also, over time, evolved as a politician. The Ruhaama County MP is serving a second term in parliament and is a cabinet minister in her husband’s government.\r\n\r\nPresident Museveni has said many times that he was opposed to her joining politics, he seems to have come around and routinely heaps praises on her for the handling of things in the Karamoja ministry docket.\r\n\r\nMs Museveni is the subject of intense political discussion like she was in 2006 when she declared to contest for Ruhaama, an decision which she said came to her as a vision from God.\r\n\r\nShe defeated Mr Augustine Ruzindana, who was one of Mr Museveni’s allies during the Front for National Salvation days as he fought dictator Idi Amin, and first Inspector General of Government in the NRM regime. Mr Ruzindana had just fallen out with NRM and joined Reform Agenda and consequently Forum for Democratic Change.\r\n\r\nMs Museveni again became a major topic of debate in May this year when announced she would not seek a third term as Ruhaama MP.\r\n\r\nMany praised her bold move and immediately started attacking Mr Museveni, in power for almost 30 years now, for not leaving the stage like her. But others read more into her pronouncment. They argued that her departure was probably part of a wider strategy; to climb another step of the political ladder in the NRM – probably up to the very top.\r\n\r\nFor now, there is no real evidence to support the theory but a number of political commentators have spoken quietly about a supposed Museveni political dynasty in Uganda with family member succeeding family member, hence the so-called ‘Muhoozi Project’ to get first son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba into the picture.\r\n\r\nThere are parallels from near and far: In USA Ms Hilary Clinton, wife to 42nd US President Bill Clinton wants to succeed President Barrack Obama. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe was last year elected head of ZANU PF women wing, and many say she has been put on the path to succeed her husband as the President.\r\n\r\nMs Museveni’s picking of forms to contest as Ntungamo district NRM chairperson has sparked off interesting speculations. Is she just interested only in this seat or she is eying a bigger one, so in Ntungamo she is looking for an entry into NRM party politics? Is a there leadership vacuum in the district? The public can only speculate.\r\n\r\nMr John Wycliffe Karazarwe the former Ntungamo LC5 chairperson who led the district from inception in 1993 to 2010 and the pioneer party chairman argues that Ms Museveni is coming in because leadership has been weak.\r\n\r\n“As we stand the current district party leadership cannot deliver party victory. The district would be divided beyond repair. In fact the lovers of the NRM must appreciate the coming of the first lady. These are the people who have never held a single party meeting for the district even that of the executive members since they were elected, they are even facing bigger political challenges now,” says Mr Karazarwe.\r\n\r\nWhile both President Museveni and first lady are born in the district, Ntungamo is amongst opposition strongholds in western Uganda. FDC icon, Dr Kizza Besigye, commands a big following in the district. He scored highly in both 2001 and 2006 especially in Kajara constituency.\r\n\r\nGiven that Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, the FDC party president, is also born in Kajara; there is an anticipated shift in voting in favour of the Opposition.\r\n\r\nMr Ruzindana and Karazarwe were the only trusted NRM politicians in the district. When Mr Ruzindana quit only Mr Karazarwe remained. He was trounced in 2010 NRM primaries by the current LC5 Chairperson Mr Denis Singahache.\r\n\r\nMr Karazarwe has retreated to his farm from where he plays a peripheral role as presidential advisor. Mr Steven Tashobya, the man who took over from him as the district NRM chairman, is not highly regarded. His constituency (Kajara) has been voting for the opposition. He was himself at some pointed linked to the Reform Agenda and later former PM Mr Amama Mbabazi who is running against Janet’s husband for president of Uganda.\r\n\r\nMr Karazarwe believes Ms Museveni commands respect and she has resources which makes it easy for her to mobilise for NRM. Ms Museveni is the lone contender for the NRM seat. Mr Tashobya bowed out to contest for the vice chairperson post. He is competing with Mr Gaston Kamugisha.\r\n\r\nMs Museveni is said to have picked her nomination forms from NRM headquarters in Kyadondo Road, Kampala. Ms Maria Mirembe, the Ntungamo district NRM registrar says candidates were free to pick forms from wherever they wanted.\r\n\r\n“There was no party rule that said candidates must pick forms from where they wanted to stand from. The First Lady was free to pick forms from anywhere, we are waiting to receive her forms back, we have her as a candidate who picked interest in the district NRM chairperson seat, and she is the only one who picked interest,” Ms Mirembe told Daily Monitor on Wednesday.\r\n\r\nMr Yona Musinguzi, the Ntungamo municipality MP was one of the people expected to contest for the seat but also fell out.\r\n“I did not pick forms, it is only first lady who picked the forms, I do not know why people are confusing this, I will only be standing as a party flag bearer for Ntungamo municipality, I can’t stand against the first lady,” he told Daily Monitor.\r\n\r\nMr Singahache believes Ms Museveni is the right candidate for the office for she can unite the factions whch have riven NRM apart in Ntungamo. “We are much honoured that we are getting her again and now as the district party chairperson. I have worked with her for the years she has been serving and I think she has the district at heart. She is a centre of reference, she will unite us because we give her much respect,” says Mr Singahache.\r\n\r\nBut Mr George Karamira, the Ntungamo district Forum for Democratic Change chairperson argues that her coming depicts how the First Family wants to dominate every important position in the country because they don’t trust others. Mr Odrek Rwabwogo, one of the presidential sons-in-law is also competing for NRM Vice chairman for Western region.\r\n\r\nIt is possible that like she was invited to curtail the growing influence of Mr Ruzindana in 2006 Ms Museveni could be on the mission to stop the growing support for Mr Mbabazi and other opposition members including Gen. Mugisha Muntu.\r\nPeople close to her, however, remain tight-lipped about what this could be all about.\r\n\r\nMr George Bakunda, political assistant to the first lady, said: “I am currently hearing it the way you are hearing it, she has not briefed us about her intentions and what she wants to do for the party in the district, I think when she comes here we shall be able to have a meeting and she will tell us what her intentions are.”\r\n\r\nOn the other hand, Mr Sebagyenzi Khassim, political assistant to Mr Tashobya states that “it was an initiative of the district leaders who asked her to come. Hon. Tashobya would not invite her and stand against her.”\r\n\r\n“We shall be behind her in her bid to become the district NRM Chairperson. We expect that she will maintain the party cohesion that we have built for the past nine years. This shall definitely keep her relevant to the district politics which she has been at the centre of since she became MP of Ruhaama.” Mr Tashobya, also the outgoing district NRM chairman, said on Thursday night.

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