NRM Namboole Conference Not About Mbabazi – Tumwebaze [interview]

As members of the ruling party gather at Namboole stadium ahead of Monday’s special delegates’ conference, the minister for the Presidency and Kampala, Frank Tumwebaze, tells Edris Kiggundu that the meeting is not about former premier Amama Mbabazi.

Tumwebaze, the deputy chairman of the publicity subcommittee of the organising committee, also argues that NRM is the most internally-competitive party in Uganda. Below are excerpts from the interview.

The organisation of the delegates’ conference appears to be tight. Are you afraid that some people may want to infiltrate the conference?

As the organising committee, we are trying to avoid the mistakes of the previous conferences, where non-delegates were allowed to enter. The delegates to be accredited to Namboole are not anybody else, but those categories defined in the party constitution.

The list of categories has been widely published in the media by the acting secretary general so as to give clarity to all.

We have also received reliable information that there are people mobilising and misinforming non-delegates to come and overwhelm us at Namboole (as party mobilisers) such that we can allow them in and thereafter give them an opportunity to challenge the outcome of the conference legally on pretext that non-delegates were used to make decisions they were not empowered to make. So, all these are well known to us and we shall take no chances.

There are reports that some people could cause chaos. How is the party prepared to deal with that?

It’s true we are getting those reports but whoever tries will be reprimanded and the conference will go on. And that tells you how some people are really panicking to think of resorting to causing chaos and therefore disrupt the proceedings.

Why not plan to engage logically and intellectually?

Those investing in hooliganism will be dealt with, I can assure you!

There have been reports that RDCs will do the vetting. Isn’t this irregular [given that] RDCs are public servants?

There is nothing unusual or illegal that the RDCs are engaged in. It’s the usual propaganda always cooked and spiced to make NRM and government look bad. An RDC is mandated by the constitution to be the head of the security committee in the district. Police and intelligence are under the coordination of the RDC’s office.

The security committee supports anybody or group on security matters irrespective of any political side they are on. When FDC or DP is conducting its meeting, security agencies don’t just look on. They give any possible security-related support whether solicited or unsolicited. So, security agencies will not be watching idly as NRM convenes a gathering of over 10,000 people.

It’s their constitutional mandate to make security arrangements including drawing security vetting and accreditation plans. That is not being partisan in any way. Whether it’s an NRM or FDC meeting, security agencies will be present and will have to make broad contingency operational plans.

As we gather at Namboole, our security is not the responsibility of the NRM party secretariat. It’s the responsibility of the state’s security apparatus. And RDCs are part of this security apparatus. Any political group can make use of it.

What is the total cost of organising this delegates’ conference?

We are still mobilising resources and as you know it’s not that easy to host an audience of 10,000 people for about two days. We shall establish our actual costs at the end. I don’t want to give you mere draft estimates.

Why is the NRM so determined to amend the constitution to have the secretary general appointed and not elected?

The position of secretary general is an administrative one. So, it was a big mistake in our party constitution to fuse the roles of an administrator together with the roles of an elected political leader. You can’t be a policy decision maker in an organisation and at the same time be an administrator of the same organisation. Conflict of interest there becomes inevitable.

The secretary general is the head of staff and administration at the national secretariat and that requires himher to be a full-time technical employee. It’s like having a chief administrative officer of a district who is elected and not full-time. It doesn’t make sense.

For example, when you read articles 16 and 18 of the NRM party constitution that provide for the positions of secretary general at the national level and administrative secretary at the district level respectively, you will clearly see that their functions are the same and purely administrative, yet again one sees the unexplainable difference as to why the secretary general is not appointed as it is for the administrative secretary at the district.

The functions of the administrative secretary at the district level are largely the same as those of the secretary general at the national level. For example, in article 16(7)g, the secretary general, (with the secretariat heshe leads), is mandated to provide administrative and secretarial services to the National Conference and National Executive Council (NEC).

On the other hand, the administrative secretary is also mandated in article 18(5)e to provide administrative and secretarial services to the district conference. How can an elected leader be the one to offer administrative and secretarial services?

Another example is: in article 16 (7) (i) the secretary general is mandated to maintain the national register of members while in article 18(5)(f): the administrative secretary is also mandated to keep and maintain a register of all members within the district.

Yet a party register is a major electoral tool necessary for smooth internal elections of the party. The big question then is how a secretary general who is also elected and therefore a direct beneficiary of that party member register, that heshe maintains, can be able to be an impartial umpire [neutral person] in this case and maintain a register of electoral integrity. Heshe is already conflicted with personal interest from the onset. This is one of the major anomalies to rectify!

Doesn’t this centralise a lot of power in the hands of the party chairman?

There is nothing being centralised. Already the directors of the secretariat are appointed by the chairman with approval of CEC. It’s not only the chairman appointing but the entire top party organ CEC.

And it’s those directors that make up the secretariat which is headed by the secretary general and deputy secretary general. So, it’s only logical that the head of the staff and administration is also appointed. This is a known and standard practice of corporate governance.

What effect will this have on the NRM as far as internal democracy is concerned?

That argument of internal democracy is very diversionary and irrelevant in this case. Administrators are not elected but appointed. It’s political leaders that are elected. All leadership positions in NRM party are contested and therefore elective.

There is no other party that organises the most stiffly-competed-for and highly-participatory internal elections as NRM does. All the other parties just handpick flag bearers. So, there is nothing like stifling internal democracy.

Some legal experts have said that even if the party constitution is amended at the conference, the changes will not take effect until after one year (i.e that the changes cannot apply retrospectively. That Mbabazi will continue being secretary general until the next delegates’ conference where all other leadership positions shall be renewed.

Well, we shall be properly aised by our party legal team. There is no situation that the law doesn’t envisage. The law can never create an absurdity. That is why precedents are looked at. So, that is not a problem.

What is important is the spirit of the amendment. It’s just not about an individual. And the spirit of the amendment is to strengthen our party’s institutional capacity for competitive group politics, period!

Mbabazi has said that he will attend the conference. Will he be safe?

The fact that he has told you himself tells you that he has full confidence in the arrangements and preparations going on. He will be welcome like all the other delegates and leaders.

Any final words?

I thank you as The Observer newspaper for looking for me to explain these issues. Quite often a lot of deliberate, speculative and wrong reporting about NRM goes on in various media outlets and our members feel so bad about it.

This is the way to go. Let the media generally try to always play the role of being impartial umpires especially as we approach [the] 2016 general elections. Ugandans will discern who is best among the many contenders for their interests.

Source : The Observer

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