Last week, Andrew Mwenda stormed the offices of the freshly unveiled National Unity Party (NUP) and declared his intentions to contest against the Party President, Hon. Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi.
Although this move was considered a prank by serious observers, it also demonstrates that perhaps the motor-mouthed veteran journalist misses opposition politics which in the first place made him the biggest brand in the country.
Mwenda has been a bitter critic of the People Power Movement (a pressure group that metamorphosed into the National Unity Party) and considers them intolerant, uncouth, primitive and probably worse than Museveni. He actually once said that Bobi Wine would be the worst version of Museveni!
He considers them a terrorist group that has hallmarks of radical group similar to that of the Libyan rebel forces known as the Misratta Brigade that participated in the overthrow and eventual death of Libyan despot Col. Muamar Gadhafi. So for Andrew Mwenda to visit the offices of ‘the Misratta Brigade’ was indeed historic.
He later posted a very friendly post in which he said that he found them (NUP) more tolerant, and accommodative than he had expected. He also promised to contest against Bobi Wine with the hope of defeating him at the party’s delegate’s conference. Looking at him speak was like watching Mr. Bean, the legendary comedian.
All indications are that Mwenda misses the aura and the believability he used to enjoy when he was still associated with fighting for social justice. Although he was a mere journalist, Mwenda made his name by opposing most of the injustices occasioned by President Museveni’s regime.
While journalism presupposes objectivity, fairness and giving all sides the chance to give their opinions about a given issue, Mwenda had deliberately made it clear that he had an inclination for giving more traction and space to the opposition. He had become the voice of the opposition in the media. He made his name by not only criticizing but also by literally abusing the person of President Museveni.
Case in point; when Col. John Garang perished in a helicopter crash, Mwenda accused President Museveni for causing the death of the SPLA leader. He went on to call Museveni a villager who had failed to govern the country. He was incarcerated for a few days before he went back to his radio program on K-FM plus writing in the Daily Monitor.
Later on Mwenda quit the newspaper basing on the reason that it was no longer an objective vehicle for fighting social injustice in the country because the owner, the Agha Khan, was allegedly in bed with President Museveni.
He promptly started his own media house, The Independent Magazine in which he continued his attacks against the NRM regime, drawing attention to the nepotism that was being practiced by Museveni by mentioning all his relatives working for the government.
Off to Kigali
For reasons not known immediately, Mwenda started doing public relations for the Rwanda government. His job in Kigali was to do propaganda that would project rosy growth figures and ‘wonderful’ economic growth statistics which made Rwanda ‘the shining star’ in the region.
The project initially worked because everyone started believing in Rwanda and quoting it as the benchmark for better governance, sound polices etcetera. Mwenda also resurrected the Kisangani battles that had been fought in 1999-2003 between the UPDF and RDF by focusing more on the battles where UPDF was beaten badly by RDF.
He had totally sacrificed his mother country for the few pieces of silver from Kigali. Soon, the cold war erupted between the two countries and got to a breaking point. Trust vintage Mwenda, for he was the man who brokered the deal to reconcile Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni.
We have been reliably informed that Mwenda made dollars and pounds from that deal to reconcile the two leaders. But the contradiction of all is that both leaders have failed to fully reconcile. To-date- Rwanda has still not opened its borders with Uganda.
It’s believed that although the leaders of both countries loathed each other so much, they were also not ready to get to full-scale war against each other. Mwenda has however, always insisted that he cannot rule out that one day these countries will fight each other – notwithstanding the cover up diplomacy.
Ties with Kampala
Interestingly, while Mwenda was working for Kigali, the reality was that he had very close ties with almost the entire power brokers in Kampala. For instance he has very strong relations with the First Son, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and enjoys a comradely bond with Museveni’s brother, Gen Salim Saleh. He is also in an enviable position of being in talking terms with almost all the top UPDF Generals both in government and those who quit and are in opposition politics in the country.
A few years ago, it was rumored that Mwenda had been sacked by the Kigali establishment. But he immediately found a vacancy at State House Nakasero where, he is known to be one of the top informal advisors for President Museveni, a feat that makes him the only journalist who has worked for two states that are hostile to each other.
Association with Mafias
But working closely with the Ugandan State has come at a cost. Today Mwenda is associated with the mafia group that runs errands around the Ugandan President in State House. Although he holds no official position in government, he wields a lot of influence in the corridors of power. He can influence the deployment, appointment and sacking of public officials, influence policy and can influence or tilt decisions made by the President. All these machinations and contacts have made Mwenda one of the richest journalists in Uganda.
The Paranoia of losing it all
But Mwenda seems to suffer from the same disease that affects most Ugandans who have amassed a lot of wealth during Museveni’s 34 year reign – the paranoia of losing it all. Although they made the wealth through Museveni, they also find Museveni’s continued stay in power a big risk to their wealth.
Although Museveni has guaranteed peace and stability for the last three decades, his continued stay is becoming more of a liability than an asset for the wealthy class. The trends in world politics have demonstrated that regimes in third world countries cannot guarantee stability without sanitizing the politics.
In Uganda the agitation for regime change has grown to a level where it cannot be ignored because Museveni has failed to guarantee peaceful transfer of power amidst agitation for him to handover to another leader.
There are fears that the forces of change might violently sweep Museveni off power and endanger the stability of the country like it was with Sudan President Omar Bashir, Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, in Libya with Col. Muamar Gadhafi and many others who had failed to create peaceful transition of power. In such situations the masses have risen up and dethroned their intransigent leaders.
President Museveni’s failure to undertake a peaceful transfer of power has put him in the spotlight as one of the leaders to face the same fate like the aforementioned leaders. Interestingly, Mwenda chose to work with Kampala at a time when Museveni had lost the moral authority and respect after amending the constitution two times (lifting the term and age limits).
That has come with money and power, but attracted negative fame for him (M9). He is no longer believable and lacks the moral authority to direct debate like he used to do in the past when he was inclined to the fight against social injustice. That has put him in a catch twenty two situation. He is enjoying money and fraternizing with powerful members of the regime but lacks the believability of the society.
In fact, today Mwenda is considered a serious member of the mafia group that is fleecing State resources. His last mention in the media was when he was involved in withdrawing billions of shillings from bank of Uganda. The Mwenda who was a mere journalist is now in a position where he cannot influence debate, cannot be trusted as a journalist and cannot join the forces of change.
It’s a pity that Mwenda has reached a point where he can only make pranks about national issues. His comical visit at the NUP offices have not only demonstrated that he is indeed a lost brand but have also proved that he no longer takes himself seriously. Instead of making an objective analysis about the fate of NUP, he chose to go and make a mockery of himself!
It’s about time we ran a story narrating the rise and fall of the once great Andrew Mwenda, the man who used to talk and move the airwaves and leave Ugandans in awe about his intellect. Today he is widely regarded as one of the biggest sycophants for the regime he used to criticize so much. It’s totally uncertain whether Mwenda will ever rise again. What a waste of brain power!
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda