KAMPALA. The National Resistance Movement (NRM) last night shook up its core leadership as a follow up of the resolutions of the national delegates conference held in Namboole on December 15 that changed the party’s constitution and mandated the chairman to directly appoint the party executive with the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC).
Yesterday, the party’s top decision making organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC) approved the nomination of Ms Justine Lumumba, the government chief whip, to the position of secretary general.
She will be deputised by Mr Richard Todwong, the minister without Portfolio in charge of Political Mobilisation.
Ms Lumumba succeeds ex-prime minister Amama Mbabazi currently on leave while Mr Todwong replaces Ms Dorothy Hyuha, Uganda’s ambassador-designate to Tanzania who has been the party’s caretaker secretary general.
Ms Rose Namayanja, the Information minister, will take over the party’s treasury from Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde while Dr Kenneth Omona, the Kaberamaido County MP, replaces Mr Singh Katongole as deputy treasurer. Former Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA)hairman Tanga Odoi replaces Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda as the new party electoral commission chairman.
His appointment has, however, been criticised in some quarters of the party’s top leadership as likely to foment discontent and divisive politics.
The changes create more space in the Cabinet as some of these office bearers, once approved by NEC will have to step down. Already the ministries of Water, East African Community Affairs and Health are vacant.
The head turning changes come after a long CEC meeting at State House that ended late in the evening yesterday where the President proposed the four names and asked Ms Lumumba, the only member who sits in CEC, to walk out.
The sharing point
The President, this newspaper learnt from sources that attended the meeting, asked the senior leadership to allocate the posts among the four members.
“He only brought up the names and told CEC to allocate the names accordingly among Lumumba, Todwong, Namayanja and Omona. There was a bit of debate but eventually the team felt Lumumba should take the top job,” our source said.
After debate, in 30 minutes, Ms Lumumba was called in and Mr Museveni said with a broad smile on his face, leading Ms Lumumba to her seat, “I congratulate you, all these members of CEC agree that you should become our secretary general.”
When contacted, Ms Lumumba who was on her way from Entebbe was elated and said: “The work is enormous, we should have started yesterday as a party.”
The Bugiri District woman MP sounded excited but challenged. She spoke with a tone that signaled the enormity of the task ahead in a party tearing apart thanks to a power rift between the chairman and embattled former prime minister and SG in a political contest whose story is still developing.
She said: “I call upon all members to work for the good of the party and request senior colleagues to aise the team. None of us is above 45, I am the oldest at 42.”
She added: “I call upon the youth who are the majority to direct your energy to build the party.”
Mr Mbabazi was conspicuously absent in the meeting as he sent apologies saying he had more pressing engagements while his wife who is the party’s Women’s League leader, Ms Jacqueline Mbabazi, too was absent on account of ill-health.
Ms Kyambadde, the current treasurer, welcomed the appointments saying: “I am excited because the party needs a full time treasurer who is not involved in politics. I congratulate them and supported that move. I am still in politics.”
Under the newly passed NRM constitutional amendments, the new appointments will be subject to approval of the party’s NEC and the new office bearers will have to lose their current postings.
Reacting to Ms Lumumba’s appointment, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati said: “She is a very hardworking person who can bring a lot of vigour and order that is highly needed to continue consolidating party cohesion and rejuvenating our party structures.”
The government deputy chief whip added: “If the nominations are appointed and approved by NEC it would be a good team that can do a lot of good to our party and breathe fresh air in the lungs of our democracy.”
However, a senior party member who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Some of these appointments will have to rub the people the wrong way. It will for instance be a miracle if NEC approves Dr Tanga Odoi as party EC chairperson because he is known for creating political camps wherever he goes.”
Ms Evelyn Anite, the party’s caucus deputy spokesperson, said the appointment will not distance the historicals from the party, arguing that the party needed a breath of fresh air.
“The chairman himself is a historical the party is still led by historicals. We needed fresh blood such as those just appointed,” Anite said.
Former cooperatives and marketing minister in the Obote II regime Yona Kanyomozi described the NRM’s surprise change of guards as, “a tactical move to strengthen the party’s support base in the northern, eastern and central parts of the country. Is there anybody from the west? The west is already a done deal to Museveni”.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor