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Museveni criticised, Kagame unveils fancy party headquarters

Kasule Lumumba, Richard Todwong and Tanga Odoi

But insiders say the most serious fundraising drive for the Movement House took place in 2015. That year, the party held two fundraisers and collected over Shs15 billion. But insider sources say these funds and what had been previously collected for the same cause, was diverted to finance the NRM campaigns for the 2016 elections and completely wiped out.

A report by the Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), a loose coalition of CSO activists, indicated that in the months of November and December 2016 alone, candidate Yoweri Museveni spent Shs 27 billion.

And just months after that election, the problems that had haunted the NRM leadership even back then appeared to run out of control. One of the bosses, Tanga Odoi who is the head of the party Electoral Commission, announced to journalists at the NRM headquarters that his team had not been paid for six months. Some sources said the party needed about Shs250 million to clear just its electoral commission staff. Apart from Odoi, several party district administrators also protested against the party SG over delayed pay and even called on the party chairman to relieve her of her duties.

To salvage the party image, Lumumba told journalists that the party was working very hard to make sure staffers got paid. She said there was no crisis as alleged.

Before the 2016 elections, Odoi was already fighting Lumumba, who was also accusing her deputy Richard Todwong of eyeing her seat.

Before long, several officials including Todwong and Robert Rutaro, the youth leader, had ganged up against Lumumba and petitioned Museveni, who is the party chairman, to sack her.

Insiders say the real fight was over power to control the meagre resources at the secretariat. The fight had been raging even before Lumumba was appointed in 2014. Her predecessor, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who was in charge until 2013 was always on tenterhooks regarding the owners of the Kyadondo Rd property who at the time were demanding over Shs160 million in unpaid rent arrears. By 2014, the rent owed had reportedly grown to Shs330 million. The Independent was unable to establish how much exactly is currently being demanded from the party. But the rent and salary problems have been remained a major fixture on the list of problems to the dismay of many.

Efforts to get a comment from Lumumba were futile—her assistant who picked our calls said she was too busy to speak to us. Her deputy, Richard Todwong declined to comment and instead referred us to Hassan Galiwango, the director of Finance and Administration, who was also not available.

When The Independent talked to Odoi on June 26, he noted that some of the money had been paid and the party administration had promised to work on paying the arrears.

“But you talk to the party treasurer,” Odoi said, “She is the one with that information. All I know is that the party has promised to address the issue.”

Party Treasurer Rose Namayanja said that the party leadership has been working on all “those issues”.

“The local circumstances and dynamics in which those other parties are operating are not the same as those of the NRM,” Namayanja said, “We are dealing with the challenges of a mass party.”

She noted that as mass party, NRM deals with big numbers.

“You have about 10 million members,” Namayanja said, “We also have several staff in several offices in Kampala and two staff at each one of the 115 districts across the country. While we have various sources of resources, they sometimes may not be enough to meet all the demands especially when you consider that other unplanned for demands like by-elections keep coming up.”

Nevertheless, Namayanja added that the party has been reducing and continuing to find means of addressing the financial constraints that have led to these challenges.

About the rent arrears, Namayanja said that she had not seen any indication that they are being sued but acknowledged that the party has unmet rent arrears.

“We are aware of our obligations across the country and we have been paying and are in touch with all our landlords,” the party treasurer said.

Even the politician, Namayanja said despite these challenges, “the party is forging ahead”.

“The good news is that of all the seven by-elections,” Namayanja said, “we have only lost one.” This was another confirmation that, in Museveni’s camp, spending to win elections trumps building beautiful headquarters. But critics are increasingly finding it problematic that year on year, Uganda’s biggest political party whose founder has been in power for the last 31 ones continues to fail to pick basic bills.

“It shows that the future of the party is bleak,” said a party official on condition of anonymity.


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