He had turned into one of President Yoweri Museveni’s sharp critics, but not anymore for former Prime Minister, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi. Mbabazi who contested for President in 2016 is not considering another run for the position in the forthcoming elections but will be part of Museveni’s backroom campaign team.
While Mbabazi had told some of his colleagues in the opposition that he had reached a point of “no return,” different sources close to both him and Museveni confirm that the two former confidants have struck a deal to work together again.
“They have a long plan together which will be effected after [the 2021] elections,” a source said, further revealing that, “He [Mbabazi] is to support Museveni for next year’s elections though indirectly.”
The former powerful secretary-general of the ruling NRM got sacked as Prime Minister in September 2014, after he developed ambitions to replace Museveni as president.
Months later, he was booted as NRM secretary-general in addition to being harshly treated by the security forces as he attempted to campaign against Museveni, a man he had closely worked with for over four decades.
After suffering a humiliating defeat in the 2016 elections, Mbabazi challenged Museveni’s re-election at the Supreme Court but failed to overturn the election results.
In August 2018, Mbabazi and Museveni appeared in public for the first time during a traditional wedding for Mbabazi’s niece, Bridget Birungi to Andile Ramaphosa, a son to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
During the wedding, Mbabazi vowed never to get back to the government but added that his political disagreements with Museveni cannot affect their decades’ long friendship.
The wedding happened about 20 months after Mbabazi’s eldest daughter, Rachael Kiconco, had made the first attempt to reconcile her father with Museveni.
Kiconco had had meetings with Museveni which led to the President agreeing to clear her mother, Jacqueline’s medical bills at a U.K hospital. But her efforts met stiff resistance from the family much as Museveni had involved Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali.
Playing the role of spokesman for the Mbabazi family during Birungi’s traditional marriage to Ramaphosa which Museveni attended from beginning to end, Rugunda saw another opportunity for reconciling Museveni and Mbabazi.
Some sources have told The Witness that all engagements started from this wedding ceremony which was held on August 4, 2018, at Mbabazi’s Kololo residence but what is not clear is whether the South African president had a hand as Rugunda had suggested.
“Most times, they have been speaking on phone but they have also had secret meetings,” a source said.
On December 31, 2019, the presidency released images of Museveni meeting Mbabazi at his Kisozi farm in Gomba district. It was later said that the meeting was connected to the Brazzaville Foundation, a London based charity organization that Mbabazi serves as a member of the advisory board.
The two appeared a month later in the Togolese capital, Lomé, during the heads of state summit on the trafficking of fake medicines in Africa which was organized by the charity organisation.
The two were to appear again in public during Tarehe Sita celebrations in Nakaseke district on February 6, 2020, and during the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby’s visit to State House, Entebbe, ahead of the enthronement of Dr. Samuel Stephen Kaziimba as the Church of Uganda Archbishop.
DP president Norbert Mao who was a key figure in Mbabazi’s 2016 presidential campaign expressed pessimism that the former premier can work with Museveni again.
“All the time I have talked to him, he has always said that there is no turning back. I will be very surprised if he did,” Mao said.
Senior Presidential Press Secretary Don Innocent Wanyama declined to comment because “that is a personal decision.”
A member of Mbabazi’s household who preferred not to be named said that “He is busy doing his own things. Do you want him to participate in elections when you are reporting that there will actually be no elections?”