Shocking details have emerged about why former Vice President, Professor Gilbert Bukenya defected from the opposition to President Yoweri Museveni’s camp.
As Ugandans marked 53 years since the country attained autonomy from Britain, the Former VP last Friday sent shockwaves in the political corridors after he announced his independence from the opposition and promised to support President Yoweri Museveni in next year’s general elections.
“There’s no other candidate with the qualifications to run this country other than the incumbent president.” Bukenya, the Busiro North MP, also NRM chairman for Wakiso district, said Friday while addressing members of the press at his home in Kakiri.
He added, “TDA was poisoned and people who are there are very greedy. President Museveni has the right qualifications to lead this country.” Bukenya was part of the Democratic Alliance, a group uniting opposition political parties even though he had not denounced his membership in the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. The alliance seeks to field a single joint opposition candidate against President Museveni in the 2016 elections.
TDA was created on June 10 at Katomi Kingdom Resort. The hotel is owned by Bukenya.
Bukenya’s decision to cross back to the Museveni camp did not go down well with members of the opposition Democratic Alliance (TDA) where he was a member even though the group issued a brief statement on the matter.
“The difference between TDA and Prof. Bukenya is that TDA is about a cause and many politicians are about themselves. Bukenya has made a conscious decision to betray the cause and focus on himself, which in my view is perfectly ok for him,” the alliance wrote on its Facebook page Friday.
However, we have learnt that some members of the alliance are not only unhappy with the fact that Bukenya had made the switch but that because the crossover could have involved the exchange of currency.
“Amama Mbabazi is not particularly happy that Bukenya made a deal with Museveni because the former premier had hoped that he would use the ex-VP to woo more NRM supporters,” a source told us yesterday.
Bukenya was appointed vice president in 2003, a position he held for eight years until 2011, when he was dropped and later briefly jailed at Luzira prison on charges related to the financial impropriety of the 2007 Commonwealth summit in Kampala.
WHY HE CROSSED
Our source in the Amama camp has intimated to us that Bukenya crossed to the Museveni camp after he disagreed with Amama over the funding of his campaigns for the position of MP in Busiro.
With the entry of Amama in the TDA, the former VP who had declared that he would run against Museveni in next year’s elections, knew he stood no chance and therefore refocused his energies on the Busiro county post.
“They disagreed with Amama on the funding of his campaigns in Busiro,” our source said. We have established that Bukenya had hoped that Amama would bankroll him in Busiro after his cash taps ran dry. The former VP had since dropped to a Premio car for his day to day business. Our source added that he switched political allegiance after a promise that he would have no impediments in his attempts to retain his parliamentary seat.
It is this very reason that forced Bukenya to even consider meeting people from the ruling NRM.
“On four occasions, I met four different people who came to ask me to go back to the NRM. On the first and second time, I was not convinced. I was convinced on the third and fourth time, when they told me president Museveni has some good ideas. President Museveni promised me to fight poverty and land matters,” he said.
In fact, in May this year, he met with President Museveni’s brother, General Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh at his Kapeeka residence and reportedly told the general how he had tried to meet Museveni in vain.
However, we have learnt that prior to Friday’s dramatic events, Bukenya had met the president thrice and the two discussed the possibility of Bukenya returning home.
Their first meeting was in London in November last year where the two agreed to work together even though we are told the meeting was not conclusive on how their new relationship would proceed .
During the meeting, Bukenya reportedly asked that all the corruption related cases he is facing be relaxed. After he was knifed in 2011, Bukenya was officially prosecuted for allegedly feasting on Chogm cash.
Early this year, the two reportedly met again and agreed that Bukenya would actively participate in the mobilization of support for the ruling party in the run up to next year’s general elections.
“Bukenya agreed that he would return back to the fold and requested that the cases where his name had appeared be relaxed,” a source privy to the details of their meeting intimated to us yesterday.
Last Tuesday, President Museveni and Bukenya reportedly met at State House where the final deal was hatched and the two reportedly agreed that it would be Independence Day that he would announce his autonomy from the opposition.
Sources stated that Museveni had always wanted Bukenya to go back to Busiro north and contest for MP seat in 2016 to give him mileage in the politically murkier Buganda region. This therefore explains why Bukenya had not officially declared that he is not standing for MP again.
Bukenya is said to be good friends with former Buganda premier Ssemwogerere Mulwanyamuli and during his time as VP, became a darling of the monarch. Our sources have told us that in his bid to galvanise enough support for his 2016 bid, Museveni is looking at completely endearing himself to influential institutions.
“Bukenya is a catholic and a Muganda who is friends with those at Mengo. Therefore, having him back on his team, Museveni hopes it could play in his favor bearing in mind how the region behaves during polls. The former VP may not guarantee victory for Museveni in the region but maintaining his seat in Busiro translates into support for Museveni and the NRM.