Over for Gen. Museveni? Papal-sized turnout for Mbabazi in Gulu
GULU–Presidential candidate and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi vowed to a mammoth crowd in the city of Gulu that he would work with them to prevent Ugandan ruler Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s from stealing the Feb. 18 presidential election.
He urged voters not to leave voting stations after casting their ballot until all votes are counted. He said he would personally take care of any rigging that may occur from the computer systems in Kampala, the capital. “We know that election cheating in Kampala,” he said. “Nobody will rig your votes, protect your votes, during the voting time, and nobody is going to rig the election.”
Rwot Rom, Pyenlyec, traditional leader, gave a customary shield and spear to Mbabazi.
The former premier promised to pay army veterans from the northern part of the country who have been ignored by the regime because they may have served in the army under previous governments, such as Milton Obote’s, or Gen. Idi Amin.
The crowd was so huge that it has been compared to when Pope John Paul II visited in 1993. Coincidentally, Pope Francis visits Uganda beginning Saturday and all presidential candidates are expected to attend a mass he will host Saturday.
Mbabazi was accompanied by prominent politicians from this region, Acholi, Dr. Olara Otunnu president of the Ugandan People’s Congress (UPC) and Norbert Mao, president of the Democratic Party (DP). Also welcoming Mbabazi was Martin Ojara Mapenduzi Chairman Gulu District Council 5.
Mbabazi is running under the “Go Forward” banner and was supported by a majority of parties in The Democratic Alliance (TDA) a loose umbrella which had tried to select one opposition candidate by consensus. The rally was at Kaunda Grounds.
A procession of supporters carried a huge cross with the likeness of Mbabazi affixed on it. The police prevented about 30 donning Gen. Museveni T-shirts from disrupting Mbabazi’s motorcade as it headed to the event. Museveni heads the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Mbabazi until last year was the party’s Secretary General in addition to being prime minister.
The former prime minister has been saying unless the regime stops harassing his campaign he will “spill” secrets discussed while he was a cabinet member.
Earlier this year Pro-Museveni NRM youth marched with a coffin and held a mock “funeral” for Mbabazi — the antics backfired because Acholi customs don’t condone such distasteful displays. Today, a new stage had to be constructed. The originally designated spot was flooded by raw sewage with supporters of the regime trying to disrupt the rally.
Norbert Mao deplored the act. Both Mao and Otunnu welcomed Mbabazi. Otunnu told the stadium audience, packed to capacity — ”My brother Amama, I want to welcome you in Gulu.” Otunnu mocked Gen. Museveni’s attempts to form an alliance with a breakaway wing of the UPC, led by Jimmy Akena, son of the late Milton Obote, as reportedly in several media accounts.
“All politicians in the parties under TDA, we have agreed that the son of Kigezi, Amama Mbabazi is our flag bearer, without unity we shall not remove Museveni,” Otunnu said. He recalled the suffering inflicted on the people of Acholi by Museveni’s regime.
There was dancing, whistleblowing and celebration when Mao also spoke. He said President Museveni had allocated Shs. 3,000,000,000 for his campaign leaders to canvas for votes but that most of the money had been stolen by Museveni’s own party’s leaders and only Shs. 350,000 distributed. Mao noted that politicians like himself, Otunnu and others were not running for president this year to unite in support of Mbabazi’s candidacy. He said Mbabazi “wants change, change without bloodshed; he wants only one term…”
“What I want you to do is this, give me your support,” Mbabazi said, adding that on Feb 18, 2016, “Uganda is going to experience free and fair change of government.” When he asked how conditions were for people of Acholi the overwhelming response from the crowd was that it was terrible. Mbabazi said as president he will address the land problem in Acholi.
For several years the Gen. Museveni regime has been trying to wrest land through various alleged land-grab schemes –displacing Acholi farmers– for outside investors and for the Madhvani Group of Companies who want to create sugar plantations. “Under my government no land will be taken from you,” Mbabazi said.
He apologized for past failings of the government of Gen. Museveni in which he served such as when the health minister at one point allegedly embezzled millions of dollars in aid money from the Global Fund meant to fight HIV/Aids and TB and malaria.
When the theft occurred the Health Minister was Jim Muhwezi, who is today one of Gen. Museveni’s key campaigners and minister of information and national guidance.
Mbabazi said allegations that he himself misappropriated funds meant for development in Acholi were unfounded He vowed that his government would create five million new jobs for Uganda’s youth. Some estimates place youth unemployment above 65% or 70%.
Mbabazi said resources would redirected to correct imbalance in development. In northern Uganda 46% lived below poverty line while national average is 30%. He promised to fight the poor state of quality healthcare delivery and lack of medicines.
He said all Uganda army veterans would get the pensions they were entitled to. “We reject the notion that these were Amin soldiers, these Obotes soldiers, these Okello Lutwa’s soldiers,” he said. “These are Ugandans who have worked diligently, they must get their pension.”
Mbabazi also has said he’s ready for a presidential debate on television, something Dr. Kizza Besigye has also called for. In a debate with a presidential advisor named Morrison Rwakakumba on Voice Of America’s Straight Talk Africa with host Shaka Ssali on November 11 the publisher of The Black Star News Milton Allimadi dared Gen. Museveni to debate his opponents. Gen. Museveni has since said he’s ready. Allimadi had proposed VOA and NTV as hosts — it’s not clear who will organize it.