By Ofwono Opondo
The ever jocular Norbert Mao a.k.a. Won kom, and venerable President General of Democratic Party – DP, Uganda’s oldest political party, finally capitulated to President Yoweri Museveni and NRM, isn’t surprising to keen watchers of Uganda’s recent history.
Mao, threw in the towel with a public display at State House Entebbe were he inked a ‘cooperation agreement’ and within hours got appointed into cabinet as Constitutional Affairs Minister, which has truly got his friends and foes like Kizza Besigye, Nandala Mafabi, Proscovia Salaamu Musumba and Mugisha Muntu among others turning him into fodder for derisive commentary.
President Yoweri Museveni, ever the strategist with a foot first forward, had left the portfolio vacant since May last year when he constituted the current government after elections, tells the protracted nature of wooing that has been on but under intense suspicion. For Mao, who since days at Makerere University as Students’ Guild President in 1990/91 academic year gave President Museveni, government and NRM nightmare including instigating violent strikes over student welfare to capitulate is such a dramatic public fashion, posing to be photographed, is remarkable if not embarrassing.
In 2018 Mao convened a “DP re-union” and formed a “Bloc” hoping to redirect the sails of internal party warfare, bring then People Power, and Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) in early election coalition possibly seeing himself kingmaker or crowned king which both crushed as many DP leaders in Buganda abandoned him for NUP.
Mao follows Beti Olive Kamya, now Inspector General of Government, who was earlier an erudite activist of FDC before founding the Uganda Federal Alliance political party which has apparently died. Kamya came on the heels of Daniel Omara Atubo (Otuke), Aggrey Siryoyi Awori (Busia), Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum), and Beti Amongi Ongom (Oyam), Owek. Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo, and more recently Anita Annet Among (Bukedea) and current Speaker of Parliament. In the ongoing Soroti City East by-election a former FDC MP Herbert Edmund Ariko has been handed the NRM flag to contest against an FDC candidate Moses Attan Okia.
Some join really at the low ebb of their political careers just as sheath of molten neediness that feeds on attention no matter of what kind, but perhaps because it’s better to be despised than being forgotten as has often happened to those who tried to run the full political course in opposition lost causes. And some may be right to ask if these people sometimes get round to have self-reflection on the many nasty things, often mendacity they said before against Museveni, government and NRM. As for Mao, reflecting on is student politics, Nobel Mayombo RIP [sic. Brig] with whom he contested for Guild president must be turning in his marble grave in Kabarole district although we are told the dead have no feeling.
To be fair to Mao, the list of strong, vocal and often abrasive, if not terribly insolent opposition leaders who have joined President Museveni’s government including DP National Chairman Mohammed Kezzala appointed duty ambassador in 2016 is really long to be listed here. There may be disquiet among some NRM members as to why newcomers take juicy positions ahead of them, but this has always been the ideological standpoint, culture, tradition, and practice of NRM since inception with the objective to build a broad-based and inclusive government of common purpose to serve Uganda. And only in the NRM do they usually find a level of good-mannered comfort because there no treachery.
Self-validation Mao says he has done all this u-turn as a patriot for the good of Uganda. Many from both political aisles will disagree perhaps with a pause, and the a shrug. Anyway who cares after all it’s now his partly his job as joins cabinet to fix what he used to call governance ‘deficit’, and the ‘broken Luwero Triangle Consensus’, and as well help Museveni fix non-functional public health and education systems, inflation, and escalating energy and commodity prices.
Mao, the wordsmith orator, may now find himself lost for appealing words, as people only hear the echoes accompanying him as he walks the government hallways. Whatever has been Mao’s political stratagem since joining the sixth parliament in 1996 and two presidential races under his belt in 2011 and 2021 is like the rope supporting a hanging man. Standing in the soggy political swamp as DP president since 2010, Mao has been vacillating, miserably failed to directly and effectively confront FDC, however browbeaten FDC has been. DP has been run-over by NUP in Buganda that was its main base by NUP, and so surrender, disguised as ‘cooperation’ is logical.
Having failed to formulate an attractive national policy platform, garner mass support at elections, and in his bid as candidate or kingmaker, pundits have been wondering how long, Mao stays the unhelpful placeholder, if not an active impediment to DP’s progress. It has been evident for a while now that most in DP and opposition actually hold Mao more in contempt than confidence, and NRM is a turbulent sea for one to sturdy own sail.
The writer is the Director –Uganda Media Centre