I can only return as NRM chairman, Mbabazi tells Museveni.
Efforts by President Yoweri Museveni to get former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi back into government may not yield any fruit due to what is considered unrealistic demands by the former presidential candidate.
For more than a year, Museveni has been reaching out to his former confidant with whom they fell out in 2014 after he declared intentions to stand for president.
According to insider sources at State House, Mbabazi has indicated that he can only return as National chairman of the ruling party, a position that Museveni may not easily let go.
“He said that he doesn’t want a ministerial appointment because he is no longer interested in serving in government but wants to work for the party, and the only position he can take up is that of party chairman,” the source said.
Museveni’s efforts to reach out to Mbabazi begun late in 2017 when he met with one of Mbabazi’s daughters, Racheal Kiconco who offered to be the go between for the two former friends.
Museveni met with Mbabazi’s daughter within months after she had caused a stir in a family meeting in June 2016 when she suggested her father makes up with President Museveni who she described as an “uncle” they have known for long.
While the Mbabazi family didn’t warm up to Racheal’s idea, her interaction with Museveni brought some dividends to the family as Museveni agreed to unfreeze Mbabazi’s bank account that had been frozen ahead of the 2016 elections in order to cripple his presidential bid.
Museveni also cleared the hospital bill for Jacqueline, Mbabazi’s wife in a London hospital.
In months that followed, Museveni is understood to have tasked some operatives attached to Internal Security Organisation (ISO) known to be close to the former Prime Minister to make follow up contact.
One of the operatives, a son to one of the Baganda women who were influential in the bush war that thrust Museveni into power, met Mbabazi at his Kololo home.
This particular operative was also a key figure in Mbabazi’s unsuccessful presidential campaign but deserted him towards the election day when Museveni’s camp shopped for most of Mbabazi’s agents.
Mbabazi is understood to have told the ISO man that there is no problem with him working with Museveni again so long as Museveni is ready to give up the party leadership.
Museveni reportedly wants Mbabazi back in government as part of his desire to solve the infighting within cabinet as well as the NRM secretariat.
The developments excited many in NRM who saw it as a step towards solving the bitter feud at the NRM secretariat that pitted current secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba against NRM electoral commission chairman Tanga Odoi.
“During his (Mbabazi) time as secretary general, he had contained conflicts at the secretariat unlike now when the party is torn into cliques,” a staff at NRM secretariat said.
Similar sentiments were shared by a Parliamentary commissioner who is more concerned about the fights in government.
Museveni’s post-2016 election cabinet has witnessed bitter fights between ministers and later on among security chiefs notably former police chief Gen Kale Kayihura and former Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.
“We wouldn’t have witnessed such fights because there is a way he (Mbabazi) commanded respect. The good thing is that he is soon coming back,” the Parliamentary commissioner said.
While the Parliamentary commissioner told IntelPost that Museveni had personally met with Mbabazi, a source close to Mbabazi said there had been no face-to-face meetings between the two principals.
Mbabazi’s long relationship with Museveni which dates back to the early 1970s begun collapsing early in 2014 when word spread that the then Prime Minister was quietly mobilising for his 2016 presidential bid.
Museveni responded by mobilising NRM MPs against Mbabazi who was also the ruling party’s secretary general. This culminated into the passing of what came to be known as the sole candidate resolution, cushioning Museveni against an internal challenge for the top job.
Museveni later sacked Mbabazi as Prime Minister and later on ousted him from the then powerful position of NRM secretary general with an amendment to the party constitution that gave Museveni powers to appoint the secretary general.