By Ed Sentongo-Kironde
It all goes back to the time when the NRM caucus in Kyankwnzi was postponed a number of times. My suspicions are that the retreat had been stalled because party leaders needed to undergo vigorous discussions in a systematic way. Major reason for stalling the meeting could have been finding ways to resolve the impending internal party problems. Party elders must figure out ways how to harmoniously work with the new NRM Turks.
Some issues and proposals have been raised with intent to weaken top NRM leadership and eventually, the negative aspects of the ongoing internal squabbles, will destroy the party. This would be the result of unintended outcome. Some of the NRM’s new Turks could be driven by the desire to be visible on the national political landscape other than strengthening the NRM Party. All politics is local. One can authoritatively and reasonably tackle national politics only after strengthening the party’s responsibility towards the nation. For one to be able to solve national problems, one should be able to first solve problems surfacing within the party. If something good comes out of these squabbles, say, NRM elders and the young Turks get to see the light and go back on the drawing table, then hallelujah – It would be something good coming out accidentally, the correct English word is serendipity.
Corruption in Uganda is not limited to one party, region or tribe, it is overly homogenized and the corruption cancer does not only consume politicians. Whenever the government loses a court case, citizens say justice is served. One in ten cases when the government wins, it is the corrupt judges. Where the opposition lost in the National Elections, corruption and voters were bought, where the opposition won, the people have spoken. Are you kidding me? Should we support a law where aspiring candidates are prohibited to spend a penny during the campaign season for fear of being labeled as bribing voters?
Undoubtedly, the NRM Party is in an abnormal state. Anyone not seeing that is in abnegation (self-denial). The Party Chairman has talked of purging the party of those he called rebels. Then the crisis in the NRM Party is a fact. Other NRM leaders have talked of the Mafias among them. Now once the discord sinks further in CEC, NRM should not blame the opposition. I know it has now become fashionable for the opposition to blame NRM for its ills. UPC is blaming NRM for UPC youth wingers’ behaviors storming the Uganda House. Now Pulkol was sent by NRM to destroy the UPC party. Ahaj Ssebaggala was commissioned to leave the Democratic Party in disarray. FDC has a catalogue of misfortunes credited to NRM including one of its Vice Presidents knowing of a plot to assassinate Dr Besigye. Some of the top FDC leadership was convinced that their leader would not recover from the recent ailing and took it upon themselves to prepare the home ground ensuring a biblical national wide unrest. The have already written a death certificate for Dr Besigye. They said that the chemical sprayed in his eyes have now taken effect and those chemicals will be the cause of death and the government will be fully responsible. To their disappointment, Dr Besigye recovered from a “common flue” and he had only traveled to the USA to be with his family and other business engagements. Dr Besigye said that there are many who wish him dead, probably some from his own party who will not shine while he lives. Until we realize that we can do badly on our own without any foreign intervention, we will continue to sink.
For a better tomorrow, opposition parties need to be strengthened and respected. Of course respect is earned. Then, only then, we can look at them as partners in governance for checks and balances.
That said, if we regard the opposition within the country as business firms having branches, NRM cadres fighting their own leaders, are the ones supplying the opposition with merchandise and direct their customers to go shop from opposition stalls. NRM Turks need not be told that the decline in the ruling party means the rise in opposition.
The Right Honorable Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, as the NRM Secretary General, was tasked with a challenging assignment organizing NRM Candidates for public office and planning and executing a successful electoral campaign. Prior to the Ugandan General Election, NRM carried out her primaries and those who missed out on party endorsements, started fighting their own party, under the Independent label. The-not-so victorious in the NRM primaries decampaigned their own where maturity took a vacation. NRM was more scared of the Independent candidates than the established mainstream opposition – it was like fighting its own (but with gloves) and the adversary has never stopped. Whereas some Independents may have had genuine reasons, others were purely political opportunists. Some are still convinced that Alhaji Kaddunabbi Lubega, would have been reelected as an MP for Butambala had he opted to run as an Independent candidate – he chose party unity exhibiting a high level of maturity. Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere, after losing in the primaries, vowed to throw his support behind the NRM candidate who defeated him. NRM needs more of such cadres. There should not be victims in party primaries, but the not so victorious celebrating and rallying behind a team selected among them to vie for parliamentary seats. We could have eleven million Ugandans claiming to play soccer, but we only need 11of the best in the field at a time.
There are many who want to see Hon Amama Mbabazi fail, both within the party and the opposition, but he cannot fail without weakening the NRM leadership, he cannot fail as an individual. I do not blame the opposition because the NRM Secretary General has never lost a General Election.
The NRM Chairman is emphatically opposed to any dividing line being drawn between the Secretary General and those who want him fail within the party. The new NRM Turks, who have come to the forefront in the revolutionary struggle in the fight against corruption, must not confuse or combine the struggle of succession with corruption.
The new NRM Turks cannot be brushed off easily. They may luck the necessary revolution intuition, but have the intellectual prowess to lead a revolution movement.
Trained leaders do not fall from the skies; they mature only in the course of the struggle. They may stumble once or twice, but how they get back on their feet matters.
The NRM democracy must provide a mode of consistent representation of relatively stable alignments or modes of compromise in its polity. Whereas the party constitution spells out how party leaders are elected, party members put pressure on the chairman to name a successor.. That would contradict a democratic arrangement. Even on the national level, the people want the president to name a successor yet the constitution names the vice president as the first possible successor.
In desperation and frustration, some look at the opposition parties as alternatives to provide stability. Parties do not always promote political stability. In many countries, Uganda inclusive, parties mobilize movements against existing regimes and are a major force in bringing regimes down. This is done by depicting the regime in bad light. No wonder opposition groups work overtime to organize chaos.
Now citizens are told that the oil dollar meant for entire nation is only in a few hands of individuals in the NRM regime. Besides CHOGM, the opposition can use the information to rally the citizens behind them, and they have persuaded a number of NRM cadres to be on their side. Enough intrigue will create a continuous wedge within the party and the country as well. Constructively critiquing and faulting the government on the obvious failures in the Healthy Industry, UMEME and failed road network , by the opposition, can have instant attraction to voters whose lifestyles and occupational interests coincide closely with the common citizen.
When you force senior NRM cadres to resign from the government, it is like getting rid of all the old trees from the forest and a pruned forest is not worth its name. The NRM chairman is torn between two hats. His intervention to strengthen the NRM party is seen as intervention in parliamentary procedure and constitutionalism when he talks to the NRM caucus even outside parliament. The Chairman can instill discipline in his party and as the president; he can instill discipline in his cabinet.
NRM cadres who financed their parliamentary elections feel that they do not owe anything to the party hence the indiscipline. Independent MPs who once belonged to NRM and “lost” in the primaries then vied for their seats, have a point to prove that they thrive on individual merit and do not need party organs. NRM founding fathers should be scared of mass party indiscipline. To avoid an amorphous organization, it is now imperative that there should be a recognized NRM organ tasked with strategizing the party’s vision – NRM Strategists.
The attempts within the NRM party for individuals to improve their personal performances in the 9th parliament may actually have aggravated the situation. Individualism rather than party loyalty has taken an upper hand. Some of the individuals were recipients of party patronage to help them getting elected.