Norbert Mao has finally apologised to fellow opposition leader retired Dr. Kizza Besigye.

Democratic Party President Nobert Mao and Dr Kizza Besigye have had a rasping relationship with the pair through their parties pointing accusing fingers at one another.

Mao is famous for coming out to allege that Dr. Besigye who has rivalled President Yoweri Museveni four times as Presidential candidate for his party Forum for Democratic Change FDC, as the principle who moved the motion in the National Resistance Council NRC in 1989 to keep the President in power.

Dr. Besigye then came out to out-rightly dismiss the allegations as an ‘unfounded and baseless’ demanding the DP President withdraws them with apology.

DP Bloc signing ceremony

Mao stood by his claims and continued to keep arms distance at his opposition rival. A meeting he organised at Hotel Africana in 2019 to sign a memorandum of understanding with his opposing Democratic Party Block members, saw himself and some leaders including then Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi attack Dr. Besigye.

DP Leaders seated from left to right Samuel Mukaku Lubega, Norbert Mao, Abed Bwanika and Michael Mabike at the signing ceremony at Hotel Africana in 2019

Mao opened the signing ceremony which also attracted retired Major Gen. Mugisha Muntu who had cut ties with FDC, by blasting: “I want to try my best to be as conciliatory as possible as to reduce combativeness. I had returned by guns to Gombolola, but again recently I was provoked and I was forced to collect them.”

He was followed by Abed Bwanika, the President of Peoples Development Party, who also attacked Dr. Besigye: “I have heard one person who has now perpetually become a presidential candidate and wants to become one again. I have decided wherever I remain alone. I will ensure that Ugandans don’t vote that presidential candidate again.”

Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine then summed it up by blasting the founding FDC President: “Don’t talk about Democracy and then you stand at the fifth time, and then you tell people democracy does not work. we believe democracy works.”

FDC Concern

FDC party did not let the DP President have his cake and eat it. The party at their weekly news conference at Najjanankumbi demanded he apologises to Dr. Besigye and the party.

John Kikonyogo, Deputy spokesman of FDC who addressed the media, took Mao by the horn.

Kikonyogo ranted: “Someone spends their money to organise a nice signing ceremony, but when you are given a microphone, you spend three quarters of your time attacking another party instead of telling people of Uganda what you are going to do after the signing. You have not even yet waited FDC to have its delegates conference and choose a flag bearer. The flag bearer may be Besigye or somebody else. Even Besigye may opt out to stand again. I think they are putting the cart before the horse.”

Mao Apology

Two years on, Mao has had a change of heart and met with the FDC chief Dr. Besigye over a cup of coffee. The DP President in a message he tweeted from his official account has reconciled with his counterpart over the 1989 allegations he labelled against him.

His tweet shared on the early hours of 23rd July 2021, reads;

Norbert Mao@norbertmao: “On the #NBSFrontline show I stated that in 1989, @kizzabesigye1 then NRM National Political Commissar was a mover of the NRC resolution to extend the NRM rule. I’ve spoken to him and he told me that the mover of the motion was Justice Kanyeihamba. I apologize and stand corrected.”

Mao, Dr. Besigye Friction

Below is a write up by FDC spokesman Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda who did in 19 May 2010; that explains the friction between Dr. Besigye and Mao.

I had restrained myself from commenting about the recent election of Gulu District Chairman Norbert Mao as President General of one of the Democratic Party (DP) factions. Not because I didn’t have ideas to contribute to the debate on whether Mao was the most suitable person to lead DP; but, rather, because I thought commenting about Mao endlessly would be falling into Mr. Yoweri Museveni’s 2011 trap.
The scheme involved keeping the name of Mao in the media to raise his profile for future use. Once the name had gained enough feasibility, it would then be unleashed to the country as a presidential candidate for only one purpose: to attack the IPC and Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye in order to scatter all combined efforts to oust Museveni.

And Mao has lived up to expectations. He has already attacked the IPC and Kizza Besigye. Col. Besigye is not an automatic IPC flag bearer but both Mao and Museveni have made him their target. Before I make any conclusions, I want to share with you three incidents that shook my faith in Norbert Mao.

But before I do, I want to confess that as a parliamentary journalist during the time Mao was MP, I enjoyed listening to him. He was probably one of the best 20 speakers in the 6th and 7th parliaments. About two years ago, I went to Gulu Town to present findings of a research commissioned by ACODE and was booked in Acholi Inn.

After making my presentation, I took a walk and on my return, I found Norbert Mao talking to Prof. Elijah Mushemeza and ACODE’s Arthur Bainomugisha. I heard Mao telling these two gentlemen that if Museveni “handled us properly, we can even help him defeat FDC in Acholi.”

I didn’t want to mention the names of these two gentlemen but I have to in order for people not to think my assertion is a concoction. The conversation was not meant for me; it stopped when I arrived. Up to now I have never known why Mao wanted to help Museveni defeat FDC in Acholi and I also don’t know whether he has given up this desire.

Secondly, again in the evening I went to town and on return I found Mao, Gulu RDC Col. Walter Ochora and Brig. Otema Awany swimming in the same pool. It was a bit strange but Mao later told us that such was the politics of the Acholi and his Gulu in particular.

For them, serving Acholi transcended their petty political differences. But the Otema Awany I knew was the one who was harassing other Acholi leaders, especially MP Ronald Reagan Okumu. How come Awany is enjoying the same waters and breathing the same air with Mao? Why were they not mistreating Mao the same way they were harassing other Acholi?

The third incident is when a group of Ugandan leaders together with senior officials of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) flew to the jungles of DR. Congo to meet with rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I am told Mao struggled to get onto the plane which was flying the GOSS leaders back to Juba for an urgent meeting, yet the same plane was to collect the Ugandan team the following day.

The reason Mao wanted to return ahead of his other Ugandan colleagues was because he wanted to be the one to break news of the Kony meeting to Museveni. In fact Mao arrived in Kampala ahead of Col. Walter Ochora but failed to secure an appointment with Museveni.

Because Col. Walter Ochora is an RDC, upon his return he drove straight to State House and spoke to Museveni ahead of Mao. Why was Mao competing with Ochora over who meets Museveni first?

The most recent incident is that of confirming the existence of a new rebel group in Acholi for which some people are now in prison. You all recall when Mao wrote an article in The New Vision confirming the army’s claim that some Acholi in the Diaspora were working on establishing a new rebel group.

Now that I have shared with you these four incidents, allow me to make one brief conclusion. Mao might be fulfilling his long desired ambition of helping Museveni defeat FDC, not only in Acholi but in other areas as well.

All I can promise him and his clique that leads a DP faction is that 1% is all they can get. As national coordinator of Elect John Ssebaana Kizito in 2006, Mao’s efforts yielded only 1%. I am saying all this for God and my country.

The author is the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) Spokesman.