Will NUP leadership overcome the biting Kibalama challenge?

Will NUP leadership overcome the biting Kibalama challenge?

Nkonge Kibalama (left) handing over the party to Robert Kyagulanyi alias BobiWine (Photo Courtesy Buzz Nation)

The current leadership of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party is being confronted by a storm of gigantic proportions that threatens to pulverize it. The storm is instigated by the party’s founding father, a one Nkonge Moses Kibalama. When Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu a.k.a Bobi Wine took over the leadership of the party in 2020 and pumped political oxygen into it, Kibalama relegated himself to the position of Head of the Elders Advisory Board.

By taking over the party’s leadership, Kyagulanyi and his team were able to mount a significant challenge during the 2021 general elections and subsequently took the party to the heights that Kibalama could only have dreamt of when he founded the party in 2004.

From previously being an unknown party, NUP is currently the leading opposition political party in Uganda with 57 legislators in Parliament and numerous councilors at district and local government levels.

Thus, NUP takes the second-largest share of public funding to political parties that have representation in Parliament.  The ruling National Resistance Movement party (NRM) takes the lion’s share of the funds (80%) leaving the six-opposition parties to share the remaining less than 20% of the funds.

In a surprise turn of events, Mzee Kibalama who accepted a peripheral role as Head of the Elders Advisory Board, reportedly convened an “impromptu” party Delegates Conference on May 27, 2022 at A4D Hotel, Mbalala, in Mukono district. SecretsKnown has learned that the current party leadership and membership that joined from the People Power movement, were neither invited nor informed, and did not participate. 

The conference reportedly overthrew Robert Kyagulanyi from the presidency of the party and relegated him to the position of Foreign Affairs Secretary. This has created a storm that has a destabilizing effect on the party’s strategic focus.

A review of the minutes from the said Delegates Conference finds that there is no attendance list attached to the minutes making it impossible to determine how many delegates participated in the conference.

This action begs a number of questions including whether or not the Head of the Elders Advisory Board has powers to convene a Delegates’ Conference. Why would Mzee Kibalama want to take the party back to the doldrums where Bobi Wine found it? Who stands to gain from this confusion? Could the actions of Mzee Kibalama have anything to do with the share of public funding to political parties that NUP has been receiving?

If public funding to political parties is partly the cause for elder Kibalama and his ilk’s dissatisfaction with the way the NUP party is being run, then the time has come for a review of the contribution of public funding to political parties. It is critical to make an assessment of the extent to which the public funds pumped into political parties since 2015 has made them stronger and more competitive. If the funds are a source of disharmony and polarization within the recipient political parties, then it has outlived its usefulness.

The secret known is that the funding formula of numerical strength that is used in disbursing the money only benefits the ruling NRM party which commands the tyranny of numbers in Parliament.

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