Wednesday February 19 2014

If NRM cannot deliver democracy to itself, how will it give it to Uganda?

By Matsiko wa Mucoori

The old chorus is back. But it won’t stop the tide. During the party retreat at Kyankwanzi, the NRM caucus endorsed President Museveni as the party’s flag bearer in the 2016 presidential elections.

This abrupt move was seemingly prompted by the fear that the party secretary general Amama Mbabazi had presidential ambitions for 2016. But he later came out to rule out his candidature and declared his undying support for Museveni. Whether Mbabazi did that out of fear or sincerity, only history will tell, soon.

People think the Museveni endorsement was a pre-emptive move to stop his perceived 2016 NRM rivals in their tracks.

It did not stop Paul Ssemogerere from breaking away and contesting against Museveni and

scooping 25 per cent of the vote. In 2000, similar endorsements were repeated, ostensibly to

subvert Col Kizza Besigye’s intended candidature in 2001.

As we all know, these pre-emptive manoeuvres did not deter Besigye’s ambitions. He broke

away from the NRM and stood against Museveni. These moves have been replicated in the run up

to every presidential election, but their futility has been as frequent as their occurrence.

So if Mbabazi, or any other person within the NRM, wants to stand against Museveni in 2016,

the Kyankwanzi endorsements will prevent nothing.

What is more surprising is that the 2016 NRM flag bearer issue was not even on the retreat’s

agenda. It was just smuggled in because some party members chanted Mbabazi’s name.

The NRM caucus could not even wait for the party’s delegates conference whose mandate is to

choose the flag bearer. They literally hijacked the work of the delegates conference.

It just confirms one thing; those still expecting NRM to deliver democratic free and fair elections in Uganda are bound to wait for quite a long time. If Museveni cannot have democracy in his own party to allow members freely contest for every position, how will he ensure democracy for the rest of the country? You cannot give what you don’t have.

If you can’t give yourself democracy, you will not give it to others. The NRM is setting a bad precedent. In future, Museveni’s successor will use the same precedent to lock out other party members from contesting for the party’s top position as long as he is still interested in it.

The interest of the architects of the Kyankwanzi declaration do not seem to be making the party democratic. Rather, they are consumed by the overzealousness to sing lullabies for Museveni, hoping to capture his eye for appointment opportunity to cabinet or other government office.

Many people who have sung lullabies for Museveni and NRM have been appointed resident district commissioners, presidential advisors etc. In the run up to 2006 elections, a group of elite women comically threatened to sue Museveni if he refused to stand for re-election, as if he would refuse any way. Some of them are now in Cabinet. Don’t be surprised if you see Anite in cabinet before 2016 or in Museveni’s post-2016 cabinet.

Museveni seems to enjoy this kind of political theatricals. When the Anite group begged him to stand in 2016, he feigned disinterest and did not show any emotion of excitement. But in the coming weeks and days, the country will be awash with calls from all kinds groups all over the country competing to endorse Museveni as their “sole NRM flag bearer” for 2016.

At the ripe time, probably in 2015 when Museveni deems the “urging” is sufficient, he will announce his acceptance of the “people’s call” as if he was initially disinterested but only yielded to public pressure because of his inexhaustible patriotism.

Telling Museveni to stand for re-election in 2016 is as laughable as urging a lion to eat meat. Does it need any persuasion?