The successes and the challenges of NRM
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), marked Liberation Day January 26 in Ibanda District, western Uganda.
Liberation Day commemorates the NRM capture of power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war. The 34th anniversary was marked at St. George’s Core Primary Teacher College in Kagongo division, Ibanda municipality under the theme of “celebrating the NRM/National Resistance Army (NRA) patriotic struggle that ushered national unity and social economic transformation”.
This year’s commemoration comes at a time when the NRM and its leader President Yoweri Museveni are claiming an absolute hold on power, with control of the military and huge majorities in parliament and local electable offices.
At the same time, President Museveni’s government is battling unprecedented levels of crime in the community, corruption in high offices, and rebellion in its ranks.
Just a day to the celebrations, on Jan.25, the party was slated to hold a delegates conference. But the event has been clouded in misunderstanding over the fate of 30 MPs who refused to support the party when it moved to remove from the constitution the 75-year age-limit that could have barred Museveni from contesting in 2021.
Although the age-limit was expunged from the constitution and Museveni is free to run again, the bitter taste of the battles fought to achieve it remain.
The NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba sought to play the populist card of extremism by locking the 30 MPs out of the Jan.25 delegates’ conference.
But soberer minds, led by the party Legal Director, Oscar Kihiika, ruled Lumumba’s order to be outside the party laws and the MPs are now free to attend.
Patrick Oshabe Nsamba, the MP for Kassanda County North who is one of the MPs bearing the `rebel’ tag because he voted against the age limit amendment, says the Jan. 25 delegates’ conference is a ploy by NRM to subvert the court case filed by the NRM MPs challenging the legality of the decision by the party Central Executive Committee (CEC) endorsing Museveni as the unchallenged sole NRM presidential candidate for 2021.
Nsamba and others sued the CEC, which is the highest decision making organ of NRM. The decision by CEC was made in February 2019 and the Delegates Conference is expected to endorse it.
“We have been waiting for a judgment while we are protesting the decision by CEC,” he says. “Now the NRM delegates’ conference will endorse the sole candidature and they will say matters have been overtaken by events.”
“I don’t expect much debate or anybody to be given space to offer divergent views (during the conference).
He says, at 34, NRM should be debating transition and how to take the country forward.
“Instead of Mr. Museveni gifting this country a peaceful transition, he thinks he is the only one who can make a contribution. He appoints CEC, NEC and everybody else,” Nsamba told The Independent.
Solomon Silwany, MP for Bukooli Central and the vice chair of the NRM caucus denied the delegates conference is about endorsing Museveni as the sole candidate.
“We are not going to Namboole (venue) to endorse Museveni; we have a big agenda,” he told The Independent, “We are going to handle two issues; clauses on voting and NRM primaries. There will be another delegate’s conference in June after the new structure.”
Even after 34 years in power, Museveni appears to have a sense of his failing mission.
While in the bush, he and his senior fighters and colleagues, wrote a 10-Point programme that they pledged would guide their administration. Point Number 7 promised the elimination of corruption and abuse of power.
But just weeks to the Liberation Day anniversary, Museveni was leading a protest walk on Kampala city streets against runaway corruption. He was lashed by critics who said his walking on the streets Kampala while buffeted by heavily armed guards show his strategy against corruption has failed.
Soon after, he led another walk of 195km in the former `Luweero triangle’ where he fought his guerrilla war, and appeared appalled by the poverty, destitution of his former fighters and the lack of government services.