The Catholic Episcopal Conference has come out to demand that ministers named in the alleged oil bribery should step aside. The ministers implied in clergy’s statement are Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs minister Hillary Onek.
The two ministers have defied a parliamentary resolution that asked them to take leave from parliament until investigations into the allegations against them are concluded. However, the story behind the clergy’s demand for transparency from government in regard to oil management is as interesting and dramatic as Ugandan politics can be.
The object of the clergy’s statement read by the Chairman of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop John Baptist Odama is one man called Amama Mbabazi. And it boils down to the Mbabazi war against former VP Gilbert Bukenya.
This is how the statement was arrived at. After Bukenya got bail and left Luzira prison last month, he called President Museveni to inform him that he was going to compete for his Busiro North seat which he had lost through a court verdict.
But Bukenya was bold. He told Museveni that he was going to campaign as an Independent candidate because Mbabazi was doing all he could to fight him out of the party. Museveni was shocked by his former number two’s position to leave the party.
And knowing that the Luzira experience had earned Bukenya sympathy which would translate into victory, Museveni asked Bukenya to see him. Apparently, Museveni did not want Bukenya in parliament on an Independent ticket as that was tinker with the NRM dynamics in parliament. Bukenya would have no political obligation to agree with the government position in parliament even if he would still profess sympathy for the ruling party and Museveni, the individual.
But how tricky it would be, Mr Museveni demanded to have face to face talks with Bukenya. However, Bukenya had a better political move. He asked Museveni that he would be accompanied to the meeting by a few of his people. Museveni consented.
So, when Bukenya and his people arrived at State House, Museveni was shocked to see that the delegation included: Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, Lugazi Diocese Bishop Mathias Ssekamaanya and the Katikiro Eng. John Baptist Walusimbi. It was a senior Catholic Church entourage and a Buganda top delegation good enough to deliver a strong political message to Museveni.
After the exchange of pleasantries, Museveni asked Bukenya not to stand as an independent. But Bukenya’s entourage delivered a political message to Museveni: that Bukenya had suffered a lot yet he was not the only if not the most corrupt high ranking government official. While they supported the fight against corruption, they were unhappy that politics other than corruption fight informed Bukenya’s prosecution.
The clergy told Museveni not humiliate Bukenya the way Mbabazi was doing through the Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku. They were upset by the President’s inability to reign in Baku not to humiliate Bukenya.
A condition was given: If Bukenya was to stand on NRM ticket, the IGG was to withdraw charges of abuse of office against the former VP. A fly that was on the wall, says the President summoned Baku to the same meeting with immediate effect. And before the prelates, Baku was ordered to withdraw the charges against his former VP.
Apparently, when Baku fidgeted trying to justify is position, Museveni reportedly asked him: “Do you want to overthrow my government?” The man from West Nile got into a panic mode. He was told he would not leave the meeting until his letter withdrawing the case was received by court. Baku rings his officials to notify court of his office’s decision to discontinue prosecution against Bukenya.
With prelates’ mission achieved, Museveni demanded his political share. He reportedly lectured the clergy about the dangers of Col. Kizza Besigye’s walk-to-work protests. In fact he asked for their support to discourage the protest. As pay back, Bishop Lwanga was the first to come out openly condemning walk-to-work protests. He has maintained that stance since.
But the prelates still want Mbabazi to pay for his insidious war against the Catholic Church hence the call for transparency in oil management and the Episcopal statement demanding all ministers named in oil bribery to step aside. That real thing is that the Catholic Church has put Mbabazi on notice. As bystanders, we can only watch.