The NRM special delegates’ conference that opens on Monday will produce at least one outstanding outcome – further alienation and isolation of sacked prime minister and estranged Secretary General Amama Mbabazi.
In turn, President Museveni, Mbabazi’s political rival within the party, will seek to emerge as the unchallenged leader of the ruling party and its sole candidate in the 2016 elections.
The power struggle between the two men that is set to play out at the Mandela National stadium in a matter of hours represents an anticlimax of significant proportions.
As a young revolutionary, Museveni was highly critical of UPC leader Apollo Milton Obote, accusing him of stifling democracy within his party and the country at large.
Now, the fear of losing his grip on NRM has forced President Museveni to resort to Obotesque methods. Top on the agenda of next week’s conference is a proposal to change the party constitution so that the NRM chairman appoints a secretary general of his choice, rather than work with an elected one like Mbabazi.
On Mbabazi’s part, until very recently, he was well regarded as the second most powerful politician in the NRM after Yoweri Museveni, the party chairman.
But his sacking as prime minister in September, the public disarmament that followed at his home, and the elite NRM CEC’s decision to force him to go on leave until after the conference, have left him with little, if any, political influence in the party.
The final nail is expected to come from the 10,000 delegates at Namboole when they approve the proposal to give their chairman powers to appoint a secretary general. Some say after this decision, Mbabazi’s future in the organisation which he helped found will all but be over.
Yet the Kinkiizi West MP has kept his cards close to his chest, leaving top Museveni supporters and strategists guessing what his plans might be. Rather than lie low as some had expected, he has made some eye-catching comments and public appearances, including the latest in Mbarara last Sunday, where the police made a futile attempt to gag him.
His reluctance to reveal his game plan has kept pro-Museveni forces on the edge and triggered widespread speculation around what the future holds for him. Analysts now believe the conference will answer some of the lingering questions.
“I cannot tell what will happen. But something is going to happen,” said Aaron Mukwaya, a senior political science lecturer at Makerere University.
Mukwaya said yesterday that he expects Museveni to “definitely get his way” but this does not mean that “we have seen the last of Mbabazi.”
Information minister Rose Namayanja, who chairs the publicity sub-committee of the conference, told The Observer on Wednesday that the delegates’ conference was not about Mbabazi but the future of NRM.
“There is no reason why anyone would want to fight Mbabazi. We just want to strengthen our party and to make the secretariat more vibrant and efficient,” she said.
All indications are that Mbabazi is not going down without a political fight. As we reported on Monday, he told some NRM delegates in Mbarara last week that he could sue, if the delegates move a vote of no-confidence against him (see, Mbabazi meets NRM delegates).
Mbabazi was categorical that he would remain secretary general until his term expires in September 2015. Some people have argued that legally, the anticipated constitution changes cannot work retrospectively–meaning that Mbabazi’s tenure as SG can only end with the terms of other executive members.
But Peter Walubiri, a constitutional lawyer, pointed out that the delegates’ conference, being the supreme organ of the party, can structure the amendment in such a way that it shortens Mbabazi’s tenure immediately.
“It [delegates’ conference]can literally turn water into alcohol. It can, for instance, create an avenue that makes it imperative for the secretary general to relinquish the post with immediate effect,” Walubiri said.
Edgar Tabaro, a member of the legal sub-committee for the meeting, said they are ready to deal with Mbabazi, legally speaking.
“If Mbabazi sues for whatever happens, we are prepared for him,” Tabaro said.
Yet even if Mbabazi is shunted aside by NRM, he could still reinvent himself on the bigger, national political stage. Although he has insisted in the past that no one can push him out of the ruling party, analysts believe one of Mbabazi’s options is to form his own political organisation or join the existing opposition parties to mount a united front against Museveni.
Taking no chances
Yet for someone who drew his political power from having the president’s ear and support, Mbabazi might not be willing to endure the risk that comes with opposing Museveni. Amid concerns that accreditation disputes might trigger chaos, the ruling party has massively deployed security officers at Namboole and at Kololo ceremonial grounds (where the accreditation took place).
Richard Todwong, vice chairperson of the organising committee, told journalists yesterday that the final list of delegates is out.
“Members can now visit their district chairmen, party secretariat, the organising committee and the security committee to confirm their attendance,” said Todwong, who is also minister without Portfolio in charge of Mobilisation.
The party also announced this week that the CEC would meet tomorrow, December 13, to debate and refine the proposals. On Sunday, December 14, NEC shall convene to further deliberate on the proposals. The stage will then have been set for the December 15 opening of the conference whose mandate will be to debate and adopt, reject or modify the proposals.
Besides seeking to have an appointed secretary general, other proposals include presumptive presidential flag bearers paying Shs 2 million in nomination fees while contestants for parliamentary posts pay Shs 500,000. Those seeking to vie for district leadership on the party ticket are to pay Shs 200,000 each.
NRM MPs on what they expect at Namboole
Three days to the NRM delegates’ conference, NRM MPs are upbeat that whatever ensues at Namboole, the party will emerge ger and united. Deo Walusimbi spoke to some of them and brings you their expectations.
Rosemary Nyakikongoro (Sheema Woman)
I expect the conference to streamline the NRM constitution and open up space for many people to join NRM. NRM will emerge extremely ger because if an institution goes through ups and downs, it becomes ger.
Xavier Kyooma (Ibanda North)
I expect to discuss and amend the party constitution to give the [party] chairperson more powers. NRM will become ger after the delegates’ conference.
Samuel Ssemugaba (Kiboga West)
I expect to leave Namboole with more cohesion amongst NRM members.
Peter Eriaku (Kapelebyong)
We shall look at our constitution and agree on the amendments and I expect to have a ger NRM after Namboole because we are at our weakest now.
Connie Galiwango (Mbale Woman)
We shall have a ger NRM after the whole process.
Nekesa Oundo (Busia)
Why should I talk about the expectations when the party chairman (Museveni) gave us the agenda? We see a ger NRM because the theme is about cohesion and we know what to do and if it’s about amending the [party] constitution, it should be in the interest of the party.
Robert Migadde (Buvuma)
I want to know about the preparations for [NRM] primaries which are supposed to be held next year, the infighting in the party and how it will be solved, and then the party’s plan beyond 2016 [elections].
Steven Tashobya (Kajara)
We shall discuss the agenda and I think we shall have a ger NRM as long as the process and decisions are made democratically, following our party rules and the constitution.
Anifa Kawooya, (Sembabule Woman)
We shall come out very g as a party and cohesion is going to be built because members will clearly understand the ideology of the party to retain power beyond 2016.
James Kakooza (Kabula)
NRM has never been weaker it’s a mass party and will be ger after the delegates’ conference.
Mariam Najjemba (Gomba county)
We are going to amend the constitution to give the chairman [Museveni] powers to appoint the secretary general who will focus more on building the party and so, we expect to have a much ger party thereafter.
Eddie Kwizera (Bufumbira East)
The amendment of the constitution must be done in line with the law. Any meeting must yield positive [results]. So, I expect a ger NRM if issues are addressed sufficiently, but if they are not addressed properly, it [NRM] will be weak.
Medard Bitekyerezo (Mbarara Municipality)
I expect the NRM constitution to be made clear. NRM is going to be ger because we are going to get an operational secretary general who is easily reachable.
Dr Jeremiah Twa-Twa (Iki-Iki)
I expect to get a fully-functioning secretariat with a well-maintained register which would be distributed in all parts of the country.
Nakato Kyabangi, (Gomba Woman)
I expect to leave Namboole when our party constitution [has been] amended and I expect all differences among party members to be sorted out.
Source : The Observer