By Joachim Buwembo
Whatever motivated Andrew Mwenda to join People Power whose registered version is called NUP, the veteran journalist has given his new leader, Bobi Wine a wonderful early Christmas present.
Now Andrew Mwenda has joined NUP, possibly the first political party whose card he is holding in his life, and he is gunning for its nomination as presidential candidate to stand in the next elections.
So unlike the ruling NRM with its perennial sole candidate, now NUP (trading as People Power) is taking off with a democratic face as Robert Kyagulanyi faces off Andrew Mwenda for the party’s leadership and candidature. With the possible exception of FDC whose leadership has been hotly, democratically contested since inception, NUP will now stand alone above all Uganda’s parties as far as internal democracy for the top post is concerned.
Did Andrew Mwenda set out with the intention of legitimizing People Power, a movement he has been criticizing sharply since Bobi Wine ‘became’ Robert Kyagulanyi and started his quest for the national presidency? Or has (more plausibly) Andrew just wanted to provoke People Power and sought to subject them to an academic/intellectual test? If this is the case, People Power has risen to Andrew’s challenge and graciously issued him their membership card without objecting to his stated objective of taking the party’s top job and candidature.
A third (highly unlikely) possibility is that Andrew and Bobi have secretly connived to create this challenge to cause serious competition, with the People Power founder being challenged by a man perceived as his worst critics How more Ugandan can the party’s face get, in comparison to most other parties which are seen as serving tribal interests and only using other tribes as in their ranks for window dressing?
Both Kyagulanyi and Mwenda are highly detribalized Ugandans with Andrew’s credential deeply rooted in the media and intellectual world while Kyagulanyi’s are in the struggle of the urban dispossessed and music.
A faceoff between the two could be the first genuine ideological political contest in independent Uganda.
Is Andrew Mwenda laying an obvious trap for Robert Kyagulanyi by calling for a presidential debate between the two of them? Andrew would be assuming that he would shred Kyagulanyi in a debate. He could be basing this on a question Kyagulanyi misheard or misunderstood in a certain TV interview. How big a deal was that? History is strewn with memorable answers given to misunderstood questions.
Che Guevarra is remembered for saying he was a good communist when Fidel Castro said he had no good economist in his team. Noble Mayombo was asked about Liverpool (an alleged water torture method) and he said he was not a football fan. People Power strategists and Kyagulanyi himself must already be warming up to the mental wrestling match between Mwenda and his new leader. That debate would certainly serve Kyagulanyi better than Mwenda. And (social) media will stop until it is over.
The worst thing People Power can do to themselves is to refuse the debate challenge.
And it is also too late for Mwenda to lose interest in the debate he has called.
Of course Ugandan elections are not based on issues. It is even hard to spell out what the issue of the 2021 election is about – and cynics will say it is not even about changing the presidency as there will be no change of president.
But the Kyagulanyi – Mwenda debate will at least present a view of the future options forward for the nation. For Mwenda is not really as old as he jokes about his age; he is the same generation as his new leader with just a ten-year difference.