NRM Delegates Need to Think About Uganda [editorial]

The National Resistance Movement tomorrow holds a special delegates’ conference at Namboole stadium, with many Ugandans watching with bated breaths.

Much of the attention in the run-up to the conference has been on the strained relationship between emboldened party chairman Yoweri Museveni and estranged Secretary General Amama Mbabazi. Mr Mbabazi’s troubles, it can now be safely stated after months of speculation, have a lot to do with his own political ambitions, which appear mutually exclusive with those of the chairman.

It will, therefore, be interesting to see how the ruling party’s two biggest men leave the country’s biggest stadium.

Of course matters of a political party are, essentially, matters for party members. But when delegates of NRM meet today, the decisions they make are important for Uganda as a whole. They, therefore, need to think about Uganda, as they decide for the NRM.

Among the issues members are expected to grapple with is whether the party chairman should have powers to appoint the secretary general, as opposed to the present system where delegates elect the SG. There are persuasive arguments for either option, such as party cohesion and control on the one hand, and decentralising power on the other.

The momentum for the side pushing for an appointed secretary general is so immense that many now consider it a done deal. But as they vote on this and other key issues, delegates need to remember that Ugandans aspire for g democratic leadership.

They need not forget, also, that democratic leadership can only come from parties that have it internally. And they need to ask themselves whether creating a system that shields the chairman from meaningful competition strengthens or weakens the NRM’s democratic credentials.

To use the wisdom of the American writer Walter Lippmann, for democracy to thrive and to give us the leaders we desire, there must be a genuine contest among political forces, so that compromise becomes not only logical but also indispensable.

Political parties that aspire to restore the public faith in democratic political contestation need to guard against creating infrastructure that could easily mother institutionalised autocracy.

Source : The Observer

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