Sunday June 8 2014

Why NRM stuck to Museveni; Party primaries cause disunity

By Moses Byaruhanga

Following the famous Evelyn Anite resolution at Kyankwanzi in February this year, news have been awash with the NRM sole candidature of President Museveni, come 2016.

NRM MPs have been traversing the country popularising the resolution of the NRM presidential candidate for the next general elections.

On the other hand, the NRM youth leaders have also met the President and pledged their support come 2016.

The NRM ideology stands on four pillars of patriotism, pan Africanism, social-economic transformation and democracy. You can add on that the NRM goal is to address the concerns of the masses.

That’s why it goes for UPE, USE, Free Higher education and now, bursaries at university as opposed to the old elite education that only catered for the well to do, that’s why it goes for mass immunisation, prosperity for all, etc.

The idea of supporting President Museveni to offer himself is premised on the fact that majority of NRM supporters and Ugandans at large have confidence that he can propel this country to another level.

There are those who have been saying that supporting the sole candidature of President Museveni as the NRM’s presidential candidate negates democracy within the party. This is not true.

In many political parties, when it comes to deciding the national flag bearer, there is always a chance given to building a consensus. This is because parties which are forward looking avoid a stiff competition and the highest level which could easily result in a split of the party.

When you read about how former British Prime Minister Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour Party in 1994, replacing John Smith who had died of a heart attack, you see that he started by developing a consensus on his theme of new labour.

Although he was not a sole candidate, many others like Gordon Brown who would have stood against him were won over by Blair during his mobilisation, thus was able to lead his party in a resounding victory in 1997, wining two more elections under his leadership.
My understanding of the NRM Caucus resolution asking President Museveni to be a sole candidate during the NRM primaries that will decide on the NRM national flag bearer is an appeal by the NRM MPs to other NRM leaders and supporters that come the said primaries, support one person to stand for that office.

This is a democratic practice of building consensus within the party and it should be applauded. It’s not stifling democracy. What the NRM caucus basically told other NRM hopefuls was that we don’t want competition for that office which can bring unnecessary disharmony within the party.

How did the ANC arrive at the late Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Jaob Zuma? Basically through consensus, not that the ANC couldn’t hold competitive elections. How has the CCM arrived at its leaders; former Presidents; Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and the current President Jakaya Kikwete? Basically through consensus.

Back home, how have NRM leaders in the past agreed on Mr Museveni? Basically through consensus. In 2001, the National Conference passed a resolution urging Mr Museveni to offer himself as a presidential candidate.

At that time, we had no political parties but the National Conference built that consensus sitting at the Conference Centre in Kampala.

In the 2010, National Conference, the NRM leadership approved Mr Museveni after both NEC and CEC of the party had nominated only one candidate. Even then the NRM didn’t want to open up that office for competition so as to maintain cohesion within the party.

Therefore, the current campaigns urging Mr Museveni to offer himself as the party presidential candidate come 2015 in the party primaries are not new.

They are meant to build consensus within the party; and that’s healthy. They are not meant to stifle democracy within the party. You have seen how the election of the FDC party leader have moreorless left the party split between the pro-Muntu and pro-Mafabi factions. Within DP there are the pro-Mao and the anti-Mao factions.

This is because these parties never went for a consensus building candidate. For the NRM, wise as it has always been, the matter is being handled early enough so that the party goes in the next general elections united.

This is strength and I appeal to the NRM supporters to support the initiative. Those who have differences of opinion should present their views within the party.
Mr Bernard Tabaire returns next week