The Observer | Making Sense of the NRM Election Mess By Moses Khisa

Posted October 30, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 3,923 views


mini-NRM chaos

Tuesday’s primary elections for the ruling National Resistance Movement had twists and turns, some interesting, others a cause for trepidation for many Ugandans.

Now, I must start with a caveat. As I have argued in this column, the NRM does not meet the minimum criteria of a political party. But for argument’s sake, I will assume it is one.

On the lighter side, as of yesterday, there was confirmation that some big fish had been put to the electoral sword, including the indefatigable Kahinda Otafiire, at the hands of minnows and hitherto little-known opponents. Others include Education minister Jessica Alupo, junior ICT minister Nyombi Thembo, and Lands minister Daudi Migereko.

Otafiire is one of the heretofore ‘untouchables’ in General Yoweri Museveni’s government and has been minister and MP for most of the time the NRM has been in power. He was once reported to have remarked that he couldn’t be sacked because he was capable of causing trouble!

On the face of it, for someone of the stature and perceived political strength of Otafiire to lose in the NRM primaries would presumably point to internal democracy. But that is far from the truth. Otafiire’s defeat may well have been down to being outsmarted in the stratagems of electoral fraud, perhaps even engineered from the topmost level. It is known that Otafiire long expressed disquiet about the continued stay of the current tenant at State House.

On a more ominous side, however, two happenings offered instructive lessons. First, the extent of confusion about ballot papers going in wrong places, candidate names either missing on ballots or appearing on a ballot somewhere else, and total lack of voting materials in some places.

Second, the violence: a repeat of the 2010 party polls and perhaps on even a bigger scale. I return to the latter in a moment, but first is the mess with ballot papers and other voting materials.

The Observer comprehensively reported on the mess in its Wednesday edition. Here are a few vignettes. The woman MP elections in Sembabule were called off because one candidate’s name, Diana Nuwanyine, was missing on the ballot paper.

In Hoima municipality, Minister Henry Kajura’s name was written as ‘Kaganwa’ while that of his opponent, Ham Mugenyi, too, was misspelt. Beatrice Byenkya’s name appeared on the ballot paper of Hoima Woman MP, yet she is contesting for the Bugahya parliamentary seat.

In Bugangaizi East, one of the candidates, Aisha Agaba, was not on the ballot paper and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija’s name and photo appeared both on the ballot for Buyanja and Buyaga West constituencies. In the north, voting in Chua East, Kitgum, was postponed after the name of Lucy Rose Achan, instead, appeared on the ballot paper for Kitgum woman MP.

This mess and mix-up was across the country. One is tempted to conclude that there could have been a deliberate internal sabotage, either to taint the secretariat leadership or discredit the party altogether. The polls were postponed twice, perhaps to fix the logistical loopholes and avoid such an embarrassing mess. But in the end, it appears that the inevitable had to happen.

For a ruling party, with government resources and state infrastructure at its disposal, not to manage internal elections with minimal logistical hiccups speaks volumes. The pervasive mess suggests that the NRM lacks basic and critical organizational capabilities. The work of delivering the right voting materials to the right places is a bureaucratic task that requires a coherent system and competent personnel.

There is the pretension to being a ‘mass party’. This illusion led the NRM establishment to have more than twice the number of polling stations the national Electoral Commission has. They also purportedly registered 11 million voters, only four million short of what the EC has.

Then the violence: mostly in central and some parts of western and eastern Uganda. Interestingly, few reports of violent clashes came from the north, a region that has for long remained rather hostile to NRM rule. There were bloody scenes in Masaka, Ntungamo, and Sembabule.

Regime propagandists, with a sleight of hand, turn this around to mean that the NRM is a grassroots, popular party that generates stiff competition. The accurate explanation for the motivation to be in NRM was recently offered by none other than the party’s ousted secretary general, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi – it is all about fortune-hunting.

The scramble to be NRM flag bearer, at whatever costs, including spilling blood, has little to do with the organization’s popularity or its value and ideals. Rather, being the NRM flag bearer means you will be in the loop to benefit from the available state machinery, including a partisan police force and an ‘impartial’ electoral commission.

There is an acute urgency to pack the national parliament with a huge voting machine for General Museveni to stampede through whatever he wants; so, he needs whoever claims to be an NRM candidate to win the race for parliament.

To that end, he will share part of what he would have raided from the treasury and part of his special forces with those supposedly carrying the NRM flag.

 The author is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the department of Political Science, Northwestern University, USA.  

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Source — Weekly Observer.

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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.


    LJ Butungi

    or it could simply be a case of mass incompetence and lackadaisical attitudes as seen across all other aspects of life in our beloved motherland.

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