President puts Todwong under investigation after NRM delegates receive Shs 300,000 instead of Shs 500,000
At the end of Monday’s NRM delegates’ conference, two people were in unenviable positions Amama Mbabazi had been ousted as secretary general while Richard Todwong, the minister for mobilization, was under investigation for the mishaps in delegates’ allowances.
The Observer has learnt that President Museveni ordered an investigation into the mess that marred the accreditation of delegates at Kololo airstrip after making an impromptu visit on Sunday. Addressing delegates at Namboole later on Monday, Museveni offered an apology for the mishaps and assured them that the party would institute a probe.
“We are going to investigate what went wrong and take corrective measures,” Museveni said, as delegates cheered.
Todwong, who was vice chairman of the national organising committee for the conference, has been accused of failing to ensure that the delegates received their due facilitation. The youthful minister took a more central role in organising the conference after the chairperson of the national organising committee, Dorothy Hyuha, lost her husband last week.
Museveni is reported to have rushed to Kololo ceremorial grounds, the venue of the accreditation on Sunday evening, after receiving reports that some delegates were receiving Shs 300,000 each in facilitation, instead of the budgeted Shs 500,000. And yet they were being asked to sign against Shs 500,000. With tempers rising and a chaotic atmosphere building up, Museveni moved to calm the delegates.
He told them that the party had sanctioned Shs 500,000 per delegate and wondered why they were being given far less. Some delegates also complained that they had not received their name tags. Others complained about substandard food and poor accommodation.
“This cannot happen,” Museveni said, according to sources who witnessed the interaction.
“We budgeted for everything,” Museveni reportedly added, as Todwong attempted to offer an explanation only to be shut up by the livid party chairman.
Museveni reportedly told Todwong that Sunday was not the day for him to offer excuses. He said he would deal with the organisers after the conference. As Museveni left, he personally gave each of the delegates Shs 50,000 and assured them that he would provide a further Shs 150,000 to make it the agreed Shs 500,000 by the end of Monday.
Todwong defends self
Interviewed today for this story, Todwong confirmed that Museveni was indeed in “a foul mood” at Kololo. He said the organisers later explained to the president what had caused the mess.
“We told him that there had been a late upsurge in the number of delegates, which stretched our budget,” Todwong said.
He added that while they expected 10,000 delegates, they received at least 17,000 people. Todwong said districts like Tororo had two sets of delegates, all claiming to be genuine. He blamed some NRM district chairpersons of listing relatives and friends as delegates possibly for financial gain.
The disagreements over money, he said, had been set off by a rumour that delegates from central and western Uganda had received more money than delegates from east and northern Uganda. Todwong said they had also been let down by some service providers who offered substandard services.
Some genuine service providers, he said, had been dropped by the technical committee under unclear circumstances. He welcomed Museveni’s investigation, saying it would reveal the truth. The minister said he would also carry out a parallel investigation to establish what went wrong.
Todwong said he would then compile a report and hand it to the president. Overall, Todwong described the conference as a success.
“You cannot organise an event however small, without any glitches. That cannot happen. So, I think under the circumstances, we did a nice job,” he said.
No expense spared
At Mandela National Stadium Namboole on Monday, NRM spared no expense to ensure that the conference went without incident. In the run-up to the conference, there were fears that delegates sympathetic to former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, would cause chaos at the conference.
In response, there was heavy deployment of the police, military police and Special Forces Command, with armoured vehicles patrolling the stadium’s perimeter. Also on standby was a police truck, with a specialized nozzle for dispensing tear gas.
“It is like a war zone,” one journalist remarked.
Adam Luzindana, the NRM youth league vice chairman for Kampala and a well-known Mbabazi supporter, had his movements restricted within the stadium. Wherever he moved, security personnel tagged along. They feared he had a sinister plan up his sleeves. Journalists, too, became victims of this highly-restrictive environment.
First, for unclear reasons, the party turned down requests from some television stations (NTV and UBC) to cover the event live. Then the organisers came up with stringent, if not ridiculous, guidelines for journalists accredited to cover the event.
They were supposed to seek permission before talking to any delegate about anything and their movement was restricted to a given radius. Journalists were driven to Namboole from the Media Centre before being herded to one corner of the stadium from where they were supposed to observe and record proceedings.
The sound quality was poor and momentarily tempers flared between broadcast journalists and organisers. An improvisation was made. At lunch time, after Museveni’s speech, the organisers invited the journalists out of the stadium, saying the afternoon session was closed.
As journalists exited, the organisers told them to leave the tags behind and find their way to their workplaces, reneging on an earlier promise to drive them back to the media centre.
Ofwono Opondo, the deputy NRM spokesperson, had told journalists earlier that politicking had no place at the conference since it was meant to amend the party constitution. He warned they would deal with those bent on using the conference for politicking.
It turns out this rule did not apply to the party chairman or his supporters. Inside and outside the stadium, Museveni’s posters with the inscription “sole candidate” were pasted on the walls. Then after leading the opening prayer, youth delegate
Robert Rutaro began chanting: “Tajjagenda tajjagenda…”[ He won’t go! He won’t go!], attracting cheers from other delegates.
Museveni assured the delegates that NRM had registered tremendous achievements in the economic, social and political spheres. He said Uganda was on the verge of becoming a middle-income country but was still grappling with key bottlenecks such as delays in approving investment projects, lack of cohesion in budgeting, corruption in public institutions, failure to universalize the prosperity for all initiative, and failure to institute education reforms to promote technical education.
He said: “If we address these bottlenecks, Uganda will be unstoppable the sky will be the limit.”
Museveni added that Uganda must lower the cost of doing business if the economy is to modernize. He lamented the high cost of electricity which he said had affected the rate of industrialization.
With the construction of a standard gauge railway, Museveni told the delegates, the cost of transporting goods from Mombasa to Kampala and vice versa will reduce substantially. It will also take one day, as opposed to the current 21, to move a container between the two destinations, he pointed out.
As far as the substance of the conference was concerned, there was little debate as Adolf Mwesige, the chairman of the party’s legal committee, read out the proposed constitutional amendments. By acclamation, the delegates approved the key proposal to have the positions of secretary general, deputy secretary general, national treasurer and deputy national treasurer appointive.
The amendments were crafted in such a way that they take immediate effect, meaning that Mbabazi, Hyuha (deputy secretary general), Amelia Kyambadde (treasurer), and Singh Katongole (deputy treasurer) are no longer holders of those positions.
Yet the biggest loser among the four, as anticipated, was Mbabazi, who cut a sad figure as he observed the proceedings.
These positions will now be full-time jobs and their holders are not expected to hold another job in any government department, local government or to stand for any elective party or national office. However, the proposal to have voters line behind candidates in the party primaries was resisted by delegates and withdrawn.
“With appointed people at the secretariat, we will sack those who don’t perform,” Museveni said, attracting cheers, according to a source.
He said the names of people to fill the now vacant positions will be out in January. Museveni urged the delegates to contribute to the 27-storey Movement House. He said the party had so far raised Shs 7bn of the required Shs 30bn.
Source : The Observer