Local Councillors’ Body Sacks Its Chairman Over Mbabazi

A national association of local councillors has sacked its chairperson over accusations that he picked money from President Museveni to lure them into supporting the “sole candidature” project.

The sole candidature project refers to the ongoing campaign within the ruling NRM to bar anyone from challenging Museveni for the position of party chairperson and flag bearer in the 2016 presidential elections.

The Observer has learnt that the National Local Governments Councillors Association (NALCA), which brings together all councillors across the country, from sub-county to district level, resolved to sack its chairperson, Umar Muhanguzi, after a meeting last Thursday in which they rejected the sole candidature in the NRM.

In an interview with The Observer, the NALCA treasurer, Joseph Kiiza, confirmed the development. According to Kiiza, delegates at the Thursday meeting at Hotel Inter-Tropics in Nakulabye, Kampala, agreed that if Museveni enjoys as much support as he claims, he should allow other party members to contest against him.

“Every party position should be open. Let Museveni contest with whoever is interested to stand,” said Kiiza, a district councillor from Ntungamo in western Uganda.

At the Thursday meeting, NALCA replaced Muhanguzi with his deputy, Hilda Obote, who hails from Kitgum.

However, when contacted over the developments, Muhanguzi denied knowledge of the meeting and maintained that he is still chairperson of the association.

“Under our constitution, it is the chairman who convenes and chairs meetings. I have neither convened nor chaired any meeting of recent. So, who called and chaired that meeting? If they met, such a meeting is inconsequential,” said Muhanguzi, a district councillor representing Kakanju in Bushenyi.

Mbabazi factor:

Sources close to NALCA intimated that the association’s opposition to the sole candidature stems from the close links of some of its leaders and members to former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. After President Museveni intensified meetings with NRM delegates from around the country, according to our sources, Mbabazi, who is rumoured to harbour presidential ambitions, decided to counter the move by wooing the councillors.

The chosen vehicle to drive Mbabazi’s programme was NALCA, an association launched in January 2012 but which had largely been dormant since then due to lack of funds to finance its programmes and activities. Sources claim Mbabazi reached out to some NALCA leaders and pledged to provide the association with Shs 700 million over a six-month period to fund its activities.

NALCA was formed to provide a platform for councillors at district and sub-county levels to reflect on the challenges affecting the delivery of services at the local level and to lobby for the welfare of councillors. The councillors formed NALCA after realising that the chairpersons had nurtured their now g association, the Uganda Local Governments Association (ULGA), which was creating cohesion among them at national level.

NALCA, which is open to councillors from across the political spectrum, is supposed to be non-partisan. However, even they seemed unable to survive the intense lobbying in the present charged political times. During the Thursday meeting, all discussions revolved around NRM issues.

‘Yes. we got paid’:

When asked if Mbabazi had offered them support, Kiiza answered The Observer in the affirmative. He said the executive meeting drew a work plan and budget of Shs 778 million, which he claims Mbabazi pledged to fund.

“For us as councillors we shall support whoever supports us,” he said.

According to the association work plan and budget, a copy of which The Observer has seen, after getting the money, the association plans to establish 17 sub-regional committees of the association and hold regional conferences for all district and sub- county councillors at sub-regional level.

This exercise is expected to start in December and end in February next year. In total, the association expects to get 3,689 councillors country wide to various meetings by April next year. From April to June next year, according to the work plan, the association is to hold “small networking meetings” at the grassroots.

The association will break up into four regional teams and transverse the country conducting mobilisation and meeting all councillors. Sources who attended the Nakulabye meeting told The Observer that Mbabazi hopes to use the association as a springboard to reach out all sub-county and district councillors, as well as other local leaders across the country.

The councillors are seen as numerically ger than chairpersons, and much closer to the electorate than district chairpersons, who Museveni is courting. Kiiza said that while President Museveni has also not fulfilled his promises to increase councillors’ salaries, Mbabazi has given them a specific promise.

“Mbabazi has promised us that if we support him to be the NRM party chairman, he is going to increase our [councillors’] salaries to Shs 1.5m monthly,” he said, adding that councillors currently earn Shs 100,000, which includes a 30 per cent tax.

Meeting details:

Facilitators at the Thursday meeting included the retired assistant bishop of Kampala diocese, Dr Zac Niringiye, and Ellady Muyambi, the self-proclaimed chairman of “Mbabazi Western Brigade.”

Niringiye told The Observer on Saturday that he was invited by the association’s leaders to deliver a paper on the need to build institutions in the country.

“By the time they passed those resolutions, I had left,” he said. “But my personal view is that a sole candidature [for Museveni] doesn’t augur well with democracy. I believe that within NRM, if Mbabazi did anything wrong, he should be referred to the disciplinary committee.”

Although Mbabazi’s wife Jacqueline, who is also the chairperson of the NRM Women’s League, was expected to deliver a paper on the role of women in Uganda’s politics, she sent apologies and didn’t attend the meeting. During the meeting, representatives of councillors resolved that the sole candidature proposal is a dangerous path for the NRM.

They resolved to mobilise the grassroots electorate against the proposal because it takes away powers from the delegates to elect a leader of their choice. The meeting heard that Muhanguzi recently approached President Museveni and received Shs 40 million, saying he was going to mobilise NALCA members to back the sole candidature.

In the interview with The Observer, however, Muhanguzi denied ever getting money from the president to facilitate the association activities.

“I have never met President Museveni as chairman of NALCA, but as a councillor I have,” he said. “Even last week I was at State House as a councillor where we held a meeting with the president as leaders from western Uganda. Those people who are claiming that I picked money should give you evidence, not me.”

Source : The Observer

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