The Weekly Observer | NRM Faces New Dawn

Posted November 3, 2014 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Inside Politics ~ 2,368 views



How delegates’ conference will change ruling party

The political future of the NRM could greatly hinge on the outcome of the delegates’ conference on December 15, where the party is expected to make key changes to its constitution.

With the 2016 election just over 12 months away, the conference is expected to hand President Museveni, the NRM chairman, more power and, consequently, alter the ruling party’s internal political configuration. It is a move some political observers believe will put the party on a shakier ground.

“When you deny people political space to participate in an election, they get frustrated and this frustration could lead to anger,” Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a political historian at Makerere University, told The Observer on Saturday.

However, some party insiders believe the changes will make the party stronger and give it a clear sense of direction.

“This business of someone undermining the party well knowing they cannot easily be sacked will not be there,” one of the insiders, a minister, told The Observer last week.

The minister preferred to speak anonymously because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the NRM. Yet clearly, the minister was talking about former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Although he is the NRM secretary general, Mbabazi was recently forced to take leave, accused of mobilizing against the party chairman, President Museveni.

The upcoming delegates’ conference, expected to be attended by nearly 10,000 delegates, will be overseen by Dorothy Hyuha, the acting secretary general. The Mbabazi saga has lit a political fire within the NRM and the party hopes to use the Namboole conference to extinguish it by, among others, giving the chairman power to appoint the secretary general and the deputy.

By the time Mbabazi’s leave expires on December 31, it is highly probable that he will be just an ordinary member of the NRM.

An NRM insider told us last week that the party’s experience with Mbabazi as SG had taught them vital lessons. Mbabazi, also prime minister and MP, was often accused of failing to dedicate time for party work, before he was undone by his presidential ambitions.

Appointing the SG

Still, the insider said, it is not yet clear whether the chairman will appoint a secretary general basing on his/her discretion as he does while appointing ministers or whether the appointment will be ‘guided.’

The insider told us that the jockeying had already started, as hopefuls seek to curry favour with the chairman. This intense lobbying could lead to friction between some members, hence a suggestion that those interested in the post should write to the chairman through a party organ such as the Central Executive Committee.

CEC would then vet the applications and forward three names to the chairman to choose a secretary general and the deputy. The other suggestion is for Museveni to appoint anyone subject to CEC approval.

So far, according to our insider, at least four members are trying to catch the president’s eye regarding the job. They are; Richard Todwong (minister without portfolio), Rosemary Namayanja (minister for Information), Dorothy Hyuha (deputy secretary general) and Mike Mukula (vice-chairman, eastern Uganda).

Irrespective of who is appointed secretary general, one thing for sure is that the amendment will add an extra lever of power to someone who already holds sway on almost anything in the party.

“Time is going to come and members will begin eating each other like grasshoppers and even the chairman will not be spared,” Ndebesa said.

But Todwong, the minister without portfolio in charge of Political Mobilisation, disagrees.

“There will still be vibrant debate in the party. The party committees like NEC and CEC shall remain there to formulate ideas. So, it will not be a one-man show,” he told The Observer last week.


In his opening remarks, Museveni is expected to talk about how the party intends to deal with Independent MPs. He has suggested before, in a caucus meeting, that individuals who seek to be elected as Independents after losing in the party primaries be dismissed.

However, some party members think that if such a decision is adopted, it will be very harsh and could impact negatively on the party’s political fortunes. Independents present a precarious situation for the NRM. On one hand, the party sometimes needs their support to boost its numbers in Parliament.

On the other, they are not subject to party control and, therefore, can oscillate from one position to another without fear. In the 8th Parliament, the NRM signed a memorandum of standing with some of the independents to rent their cooperation. But it was reluctant to do so during the 9th Parliament, fearing that this could be legally challenged.

Other amendments

The conference will also consider the recommendations of a committee set up to investigate the chaos that characterised the 2010 party primaries. Headed by Wakiso Woman MP Rosemary Sseninde, the committee submitted its report during a NEC meeting in August.

Among its proposals, the committee wants those who want to contest for presidential flag bearer to pay Shs 20 million as nomination fee while contestants for parliamentary posts will pay Shs 5m each. Those seeking to vie for the district leadership on the party ticket are expected to pay Shs 2m each.

Another proposal by the committee is to decentralise the party primaries at district level as opposed to the national secretariat overseeing the process. This, it is hoped, will lead to less chaos, and will make the distribution of election materials smoother, compared to 2010 when some areas did not get the materials in time.

The conference will also discuss modalities of formulating a new party register. Mbabazi declined to hand over the old one until the party clears a debt that his daughter Nina incurred while compiling it.

UPC lessons

Some observers have suggested that NRM could do well to learn from what happened to UPC when it undertook a similar venture. In April, 1964, the then UPC leader and Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote disagreed with his secretary general John Kakonge and plotted his defeat at the party’s first delegates’ conference in Gulu.

Grace Ibingira, who now beat Kakonge to the secretary generalship by only two votes, also later disagreed with Obote. Later, trying to have UPC under his full control, Obote engineered the amendment of the party constitution, giving the party leader power to appoint his entire executive.

Since many supporters regarded Obote as charismatic and visionary –– in the same way many NRM supporters regard Museveni –– the proposal was warmly embraced. Yet after Obote’s demise in 2005, successive leaders (Miria Obote and Olara Otunnu) have failed to maintain the cohesiveness within the party.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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