How Buganda loses in Bobi-Mpuuga fight

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How Buganda loses in Bobi-Mpuuga fight
Kyagulanyi, Mayiga and Mpuuga all playing a game of high stakes | Courtesy images

In the fight, Mpuuga and Bwanika appear to use the kingdom sentiments to tackle down Bobi Wine, whose supporters are not taking it lying down either

POLITICS | The last things a Muganda who prides so much in their culture would want to see or hear is suggestions that Bulange Mengo was being disparaged, and that their own can turn into coffin dancers.

Yet the events in Lwengo last weekend went beyond coffin dancing as estranged National Unity Platform (NUP) leaders tackled themselves at the funeral of a prominent businessman and one of their own.

Kimanya Kabonera MP Abed Bwanika unsheathed his sword first as he accused NUP principal Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of orchestrating attacks on Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga and Nyendo Mukungwe MP Mathias Mpuuga, among others.

These allegations had been simmering on social media since March when revelations that Mr Mpuuga had solicited and received Shs500 million in service award split NUP party.

When the smoke in the NUP kitchen became unbearable, Mpuuga ran to Bulange Mengo. It is here that his political collar had been starched and ironed stiff when, at 22, the Kabaka appointed him a youth representative in the Lukiiko. The youngest member in the Lukiiko history would impress the king, leading to his appointment as minister for the youth affairs in 2006.

At Bulange Mengo and in the Catholic Church enclave, Mpuuga has always found solace and reassurance. But things look different this time and having crossed the Rubicon when he opened war on NUP after the party announced that he had admitted to wrongdoing by receiving the service award and apologised, Mpuuga must realise his battle is one of all-or-nothing.

Katikkiro Mayiga appeared to mediate a truce between Kyagulanyi and Mpuuga but following the party's suspension of the latter from his position as deputy president for Buganda, the train left too.

Unfortunately for Buganda, the two are its most prominent politicians currently and politics is a game of pigs and mud - Buganda looks like the pigsty in the wrestling that is setting up.

In the 2021 general elections, NUP got 53 of its 56 total legislators in Buganda. Added to local elections, the Opposition party can rightly claim to have swept the central region where NRM  won 31 parliamentary seats and a handful of local councils.

A week after the January 2021 polls, Mpuuga, speaking on UBC TV, said NUP had a very popular candidate and that it was that popularity that had helped them pick low hanging fruits in very many areas of Buganda. The popular candidate Mpuuga meant was not himself but Kyagulanyi.

Yet the animal called politics can be so unforgiving in dragging its preys down the sty that just three years down the road, Mpuuga now believes it was all thanks to his own political shrewdness and Dr Bwanika's loud yelps and barks that NUP got the votes and Kyagulanyi the popularity.

"No one brought us into this struggle and they should know that we're the ones who taught them this game of politics," Mpuuga said hours after the infamous coffin dance in Lwengo.

"How bad is Mpuuga you are accusing? Are you the one who brought me to Parliament? Who is he working for? Any leader who despises his subjects is a bad leader - never allow such leaders to undermine others.

"What I will not accept are learners to teach us what to do and we have given them time to listen, understand, and we shall teach them what to do if they want to understand and the good thing you all know that I don't drink," Mpuuga added.

However, Kyagulanyi's measured response in Lwengo must have left those who attempted to draw him into the sty a little awkward. Even to his worst enemies, he came off too polished to fault.

“Bwanika, I am not sure whether you love Mpuuga more than I do; it was I who appointed him as my vice president, it was I who appointed him as the Leader of the Opposition, it was I who appointed him a the Commissioner of Parliament and you it was I who made you an MP," he said.

"I am not doing these because of hatred, I can disagree with you but let us look at the bigger picture. People have hope in us and whatever we are doing now, these young children are looking and it is what they are going to do in future because people do not listen on what you told them but they follow what you are doing."

Mayiga (left) with Kyagulanyi and Mpuuga

Mpuuga and Bwanika have dropped the notes that they plan to take a different direction away from NUP. It remains unclear what exactly it is but given Mpuuga's lifelong attachment to pressure groups, it is most likely the scenario.

Bwanika has previously left the Democratic Party and formed People's Development Party that, like Congolese rumba legend Jean de Dieu Bialu Makiese, aka Madilu System, he also abandoned to join NUP. Madilu abandoned so many bands he formed or joined before appearing to gain big with Franco's TPOK, only to jump off again.

With such Madilu-like hopping and hobnobbing, Bwanika would probably go for a new party formation unless he is joining another. There is no party that looks inviting enough for the unsettled politician at the moment. But Mpuuga, with his Uganda Young Democrats (UYD), Suubi and Action for Change genes, looks like one who would be itching for another pressure group.

Already, he has met UYD members and vowed to canvass "every village and parish here in Masaka" to spread the message that it was he who had been carrying Kyagulanyi on his back all along and that it is for him the voters should dance.

Politically, Mpuuga thrives behind other more popular leaders. He has yet to hold any reins and whip a political horse into gallop. Clocking 50 on October 12, Mpuuga would have to defy the old adage that dogs cannot learn new tricks to lead - unless he was leading Bwanika alone.

However, because in politics deep creases of wrinkles almost invariably translate to acumen, Mpuuga cannot be entirely be doubted either. The only challenge is that he must fight for the same loyal bloc with the party and nemesis he is forming in Kyagulanyi. It is a mountain to climb, politically.

Mpuuga has revealed plans for a Thanksgiving in June that Katikkiro Mayiga is said to be lined among the guests. After announcing that he would soon be making a major announcement, it appears like the Thanksgiving is the diarised date for his worst kept secret to come out.

The challenge for Buganda, Mengo, Kyagulanyi and Mpuuga is how the NUP rift has panned out. While the kingdom is supposed to be apolitical and has tried so much to not take sides, the two protagonists appear to show every step they are taking and that Buganda, including the kingdom, is the ultimate pie in their fight.

It is worse for their supporters. Or even Mpuuga and Bwanika to begin with. While Kyagulanyi has appeared to show weariness toward Mengo and Katikkiro Mayiga, Mpuuga and Bwanika look like they are determined to draw the kingdom into their side of the sty to appeal to the deep sentiment the Baganda have for their kingdom.

"We have 57 MPS in the country with 55 from Buganda but on a daily basis you undermine the cultural leaders and abusing the Katikkiro demanding the Kabaka in front of Nnalinya? That's not right and we shall not accept that in this new generation and I urge you to the calm," Mpuuga said.

The supporters of Mpuuga and Bwanika appear to buy into the idea the two politicians are painting, that Kyagulanyi is no longer "Muganda enough". It's unheard of to disparage the Katikkiro who represents the Kabaka, or make demands on the king.

But the NUP supporters pulling the tug of war rope behind Kyagulanyi cannot be taken lightly either. While Mpuuga and Bwanika will want to stake their hats on the gamble that the NUP 'riffraffs' will not be foolish enough to bite the kingdom, there appears to be tiny pebbles being thrown here and there already.

Politics brings the animal in humans and the low-hanging fruits Mpuuga alluded to in 2021 might be be too many and too rotten to bear when the tree is shaken too hard and they all come down in a torrent.

When that happens, Katikkiro Mayiga will realise that, in this feud, Mengo cannot have the cake and eat it too. Either he will win the truce battle or take the kingdom away from the pigsty the two warring factions are creating.

And lurking in the corner is the ruling National Resistance Movement, who will want to capitalise on the fight to take crucial victories that the whirlwind People Power Movement and NUP swept in 2021.

Already, it looks like some of the legislators who walked under what Mpuuga called a very popular candidate en route to sweeping victory in 2021 might not have the same support from Kyagulanyi this time round. This will expose many to NRM's deep resources.

But then how would Kyagulanyi and NUP gain if the fence is not mended and Mpuuga goes ahead with a new group? It looks like the NUP principal will have to prove that he has matured politically to keep his charges in place while conceding a few seats and still remaining with the longer end of the stick.

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