(Photo: New Vision)
A group of MPs, mainly the so-called NRM rebels as well as some opposition figures, used two church events and a rally in Butambala district on Sunday to rally the people against the continued rule of President Museveni.
The MPs in their bold speeches seemed to set the tone for the fights to come within the NRM establishment ahead of the 2016 elections. At the invitation of Butambala Woman MP Mariam Nalubega, several disenchanted NRM MPs denounced Museveni and proclaimed they would present another candidate in 2016.
Speaking to The Observer yesterday, Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, one of the MPs who visited Butambala, said: "It is obvious and it is no longer a secret that we shall support another candidate within the NRM, if Museveni attempts to stand again in 2016."
But the minister Without Portfolio in charge of Political Mobilisation, Richard Todwong, dismissed the outspoken MPs as insignificant.
"In fact, the NRM is much stronger without them. The decisions are personal and we wish them well," he said.
Tamale Mirundi, President Museveni's press secretary, poured more scorn on the lawmakers.
"The problem is arrogance. These MPs think they are cardinals who are going to enter the conclave and vote for the Pope. They are inconsequential and some of them will not be voted back to Parliament," he said.
They did not look that inconsequential on Sunday, as vehicles carrying almost 20 lawmakers hurtled down the narrow dusty paths to attend activities supported by area MPs Mariam Nalubega and Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi.
During one of the two events, at Kamugombwa and Mpanga in Kalamba sub-county, the first salvo was fired by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, one of those who have become increasingly critical of Museveni's leadership.
"I have been looking for the much-publicised 'Prosperity for All' everywhere I have passed in Butambala and I didn't see it even in a single homestead," he said in a sarcastic tone. "We are sorry for this situation that you are in".
Later in the afternoon, the MPs held a rally in Kibibi market. Here, not even the sweltering temperatures could keep away the large crowds.
First to arrive at the rally were MPs who attended the church service earlier on, including Kinkiizi East MP Chris Baryomunsi, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo, Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, Magyezi and Bubulo East MP Simon Mulongo. Others were Mpigi Woman MP Sarah Nakawunde Temulanda, and Gomba Woman MP Nakato Kyabangi Katusiime.
Another group of MPs, who had been playing football at Buwama, along the Kampala-Makasa Highway, with area councillors at the invitation of Mawokota South MP Kenneth Kiyingi Bbosa, arrived later. These included Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kyadondo East), Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East) and Peter Mugema (Iganga Municipality).
Others were Patrick Nsanja (Ntenjeru South), Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Joseph Mutebi Balikuddembe (Busiro South), Alero Tom Aza (West Moyo) and Andrew Baryayanga Aja (Kabale Municipality).
Two other MPs, Vincent Bagiire (Bunya West) and Kenneth Lubogo (Bulamogi) attended the church services but skipped the rally.
Some lawmakers were heard speaking in muted tones that the vitriol against the regime had made Bagiire, a fervent Museveni supporter, to "run away."
"Thirty years in power. What value can you add?" asked Tinkasiimire. "I even told him in Kyankwanzi that he is too tired to serve us any longer."
Tinkasiimire noted that Museveni seized power in 1986 when the MP was just 16 years old.
"When will our time to lead come?" he asked.
Tinkasiimire further told the cheering crowd that the road to Butambala will never be paved as long as they continue voting Museveni back.
"Mwe muli basiru?" he asked, meaning, "Are you stupid" [to continue voting for the same leader that cannot pave your road?]
Tinkasiimire, speaking in Luganda, further promised that his colleague, Nalubega, the Butambala Woman MP, would at an appropriate time show the people of Butambala the alternative presidential candidate to vote for.
In his remarks, outspoken Ssekikubo pleaded with President Museveni not to seek re-election in 2016. He told Butambala residents that since Museveni drives through their district on his way to his Kisozi farm, the locals should block him and put him to task.
When Magyezi's turn came, he told the crowd that being a Munyankore from Bushenyi, he is disturbed by the perception that all Banyankore are beneficiaries of corruption and abuse of office under the NRM, which is not true. On his part, Iganga Municipality MP Peter Mugema asked the Baganda to unite with Basoga to promote Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's presidential bid.
"Ffe tujja okuba mukintu," he said, meaning, it will be our turn to rule.
Patrick Nsanja, who lost in the NRM primaries and stood as an independent candidate, asked the people of Butambala not to vote for any person who has a bus as his/her symbol in the next round of elections in 2016.
"Enough is enough," Nsanja said.
The host, Nalubega, ticked off a list of all the money scams that senior government officials and technocrats have been involved in since 1986. The list included over Shs 200 billion lost in the 2007 Chogm preparations, the LC bicycles, the Shs 230 billion for national identity cards, Shs 50bn for northern Uganda reconstruction (PRDP), and over Shs 100bn for pensioners, etc.
These figures prompted Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda to make a cheeky comment, asking Butambala residents to keep an eye on their kitchens "because ministers who steal transmitters won't spare your food and saucepans."
Ssemujju further told the crowd that corruption manifests itself in different categories, citing actual theft on one hand and extravagance on the other, to illustrate his point.
"Museveni has a budget for inland travel of Shs 11.5bn a year, which means he spends Shs 30m a day on internal travel even when he has not left his home. He also has a budget of Shs 5bn for his compound and he employs 700 workers at his residence," Ssemujju said.
On his part, Wilfred Niwagaba told the people that the NRM chairman (Museveni) wants to expel him from the ruling party for speaking out against corruption.
"I think he can go ahead because I'm not ready to kneel down before him," he said amid thunderous applause.
Andrew Baryayanga of Kabale Municipality said he too supported the hunt for a presidential candidate.
"Look at this group before you, you think it will fail to produce a candidate?" he asked.
Baryomunsi, a commissioner in Parliament, spoke mainly about corruption and how it had hindered service delivery.
"We were promised that our road will be paved in 1988 but up to today we are still waiting," he said.
Baryomunsi then asked both Butambala MPs Nalubega and Kivumbi to join him at the podium.
"Do you want your MPs to speak out or to dose off?" he asked rhetorically.
Baryomunsi narrated his detention ordeal following his arrest on Christmas Eve last year for trying to pursue an investigation into what killed Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda on behalf of Parliament.
As the speeches got hotter, some of the MPs left. One of these was Kyabangi Katusiime, the Gomba Woman MP, a well-known Museveni supporter. The rest of the MPs present were overheard vowing to take such rallies to all districts of Uganda.