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Uncertainty hangs over Bobi Wine's NUP as party ownership row deepens

By Charles Etukuri

Added 19th September 2020 12:09 PM

Uncertainty hangs over Bobi Wine's NUP as party ownership row deepens

NUP executive secretary David Lewis Rubongoya, Bobi Wine and NUP spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi during a court session at Twed Towers on Yusuf Lule Road in Kampala on Friday


With less than a week to the start of the official nomination process for candidates for the 2021 local government council elections by the Electoral Commission (EC), the fate of the National Unity Platform (NUP) members appears to hang in balance. This is after reports emerged that former party officials want their party back.

Saturday Vision has learnt that there is panic and anxiety after a video recording circulated, allegedly from the NUP former leaders, led by its president Moses Nkonge Kibalama and former secretary-general Paul Ssimbwa Kagombe, claiming that current NUP president Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, had reneged on his earlier promise to pay them $5m (sh18.5b) and also declined to respect their preferred candidates. 

Kyagulanyi, the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, is NUP's anointed flag-bearer in the 2021 presidential elections.

The video circulated amid complaints by NUP leaders that they had lost contact with Kibalama. They accused security operatives of having a hand in Kibalama's mysterious disappearance.

In the footage, Kibalama stated that sometime back in August 2019, they tried to change the name of the political party to shorten it so that their grassroots supporters could be able to pronounce the name easily.

"Instead of calling it National Unity and Reconciliation Party (NURP), we shortened it to National Unity Platform (NUP) to help our people grasp the name of the political party. We held a meeting of 41 members when we were changing the name, but that did not please some of them, who decided to take the matter to court," Kibalama said.

He stated that Kyagulanyi approached them with an offer of $5m (sh18.5b) and they quickly accepted because "any individual would fall into the trap and it was a good promise."

"We had not worked with this group and we did not know them," Kibalama stated. But he added that Kyagulanyi had not delivered on his part of the deal and that, among other things, they were promised that they will retain some of the party's key positions, which has not happened.

Kibalama regretted bringing Kyagulanyi and his team to NUP, saying they had messed up the party.

"If we had not brought in this People Power group, the party would be flourishing very well without incident or complaints," Kibalama said.

In the new video recording, Ssimbwa argues that he participated in the process that transpired and ended up in a deal with the People Power movement.

He said their marriage with NUP developed cracks when a number of promises in the MoU failed to materialise.

He accused Bobi Wine's group of abrogating the party constitution in the shortest time possible.

"What is disturbing is the internal mechanism, the party had its objectives and ways. When you look at the way things are being done, you realize it was a wrong move." 

The claims also come amid a raging court battle over the ownership of the party. Kibalama has reportedly filed documents in the High Court against Kyagulanyi.

Earlier claims

In August, two people petitioned court, seeking to deregister the NUP party.

Through Ogwado, Byamukama, Kaboneke and Acellam Collins Advocates, Difas Basile and Hassan Twala contend that the defendants changed the National Unity, Reconciliation and Development Party (NURP) to NUP, illegally. 

The two claim to be the founder members of NURP and filed the suit against Kyagulanyi, NUP, Kibalama, David Lewis Rubongoya, Aisha Kabanda, Joel Ssenyonyi, Flavia Kalule Nabagabe, Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu and Ssimbwa.

NUP leaders were sued alongside the EC and the Attorney General. The petitioners want the EC to stop recognising NUP and to degazette it. 

The hearing of the case was scheduled for yesterday, but was adjourned after NUP lawyers demanded that Kibalama and Ssimbwa be produced in court for cross-examination.

Bobi wine calls allegations shameful

Reacting to the development, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine issued a statement on Thursday, describing the allegations by Kibalama as very shameful. He also urged members to "treat this with the contempt it deserves."

"We are aware that, for a long time, the regime in Uganda has tried to portray us as people who get lots of money from foreigners," Kyagulanyi said. He also described the video as another attempt by the NRM regime to derail the party's progress in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Kyagulanyi insisted that Kibalama had been arrested and forced to make the statement under duress and that his phones have been off and that of Ssimbwa was on and off.

"Both Kibalama and Ssimbwa had sworn and signed affidavits opposing the case brought against us and the party. To our shock, when we went to court, we found another strange and suspicious lawyer, who had other two affidavits ostensibly signed by Kibalama and Ssimbwa. The learned judge wondered how the same individuals could sign two contradictory affidavits."

Sources confirmed to Saturday Vision that there were armed security operatives deployed at Kyagulanyi's home, but explained that they were for his personal security.

However, Kyagulanyi argued that Kibalama was under arrest and that "all indications are that Kibalama, whose house is being guarded by the army, has been compromised and coerced into disowning" them and to claim that whatever was done to change leadership was illegal.

Kyagulanyi said for now, they have opted to "leave the legal matters to court to resolve", arguing that "we are fortified that the law is fully on our side."

Kyagulanyi assured all NUP members and supporters that the party exists legally and firmly. "We are in advanced stages of selecting candidates and other party activities. There is no number of machinations and gimmicks that will save NRM from an inevitable and imminent fall," he said.

NUP members restless

Sources who spoke to Saturday Vision confirmed that the new claims complicate plans by the party members to vie for elective position on the party ticket in the 2021 elections.

Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze, who is seeking re-election on NUP ticket, said political parties are groups of people who share the same ideology.

"For all intent and purpose, NUP is a political party, led by Kyagulanyi, which government may choose to register or not register," Nambooze said.

She argued that what the party was going through is part of the struggle.

"Anybody who did not expect the Government to fight this new idea is just lazy. Sometimes they may go after Kyagulanyi as an individual, like they did with Mabirizi and then come for us as a group. We must face this and we do not have a shortcut, but we will push on.

I am happy this is happening and it shows our opponent is worried."

"One of these days, you will hear that I have also been kidnapped and you will see a video...," Nambooze said and urged members to register with the party and proceed for nomination, saying the law is on their side.

The NUP vice-president for Buganda region, who is also and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, who defected from the Democratic Party, on Friday admitted that the claims by Kibalama have greatly affected the party's mobilization campaigns.

He revealed that he had received numerous calls from their members who are worried about the future.

"This claim by Kibalama has a temporary diffusion effect on our mobilisation. But the claim has no basis in law and logic," Mpuuga argued

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