Saturday March 22 2014

Disquiet in NRM means so many meetings, but who pays for them?

By Bernard Tabaire

Disquiet in the NRM ranks continues. The Central Executive Committee is pushing back against the parliamentary wing of the party. At a meeting of the CEC a week ago, according to media reports, some members argued that the parliamentary caucus’ resolution ring-fencing the NRM flag-bearer slot for President Museveni has brought unnecessary dishonour upon the party.

The MPs, shall we say those opposed to party Secretary General Amama Mbabazi’s (unacknowledged) presidential ambitions, will hear none of it. Never mind that the CEC is one of the organs that decides who the party’s candidate in national presidential elections should be. The caucus has nothing to do with it, save expressing an opinion. But one wonders why the fury.

The MPs, in fact, want money to run around the country “popularising” the 20-plus resolutions reached at in Kyankwanzi, of which ring-fencing a job for the President is just one. It is not.

The whole purpose of the proposed countrywide popularisation tour aims at telling the delegates who will make up the NRM delegates conference some time around October 2015 that they should forget about Mr Mbabazi, who also is the prime minister. Mr Museveni is the man. No change.

Question: what is the source of the money the MPs will use to travel around their constituencies, and the much more they will use to buy off delegates to the national delegates conference that will choose the NRM’s presidential candidate? If only the Electoral Commission and the police and the Inspectorate of Government were interested!

Does some of the money come from the Bank of Uganda? Governor Tumusiime Mutebile keeps making darker noises about the (erosion of) independence of the institution he leads, the latest such grumbling occurring this past week at a meting of Africa’s central bankers in Kampala.

Before that the man had cried to the Financial Times of London about President Museveni raiding the central bank safe to pick money to buy jets from Tsar Vladimir Putin, the annexer of Crimea.

Uganda can now scare Gen Hassan al-Bashir over in Khartoum. See, Sudan may complain, even Ethiopia (new man Desalegn is one to watch), about the UPDF presence in South Sudan, but it cannot do much about it. Uganda’s firepower in the air – both offensive and defensive – has got awesome. To digress some more, the ongoing arms race along the Nile should concern some of you.

Things will get truly tricky once Uganda, under Gen Museveni, gets hold of petro-dollars. What Angola and Sudan have done with their oil cash stockpiling military equipment may pale in comparison. Geopolitical implications are massive.

Anyhow, could the money NRM throws around be coming from beholden investors, especially those from the far east of our world? Are some of these investors complicit in the running of an elaborate slush fund? Who knows, slush funds are a fact of politics the world over – except that in some places investigators are on the lookout and they do punish lawbreakers. Ask German unification Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

More tantalising are tales of dollars from friendly forces and countries in east, west and southern Africa being carted around in sacks aboard special, never-searched, jets.

Some intrepid journalist may want to sniff around. As they say, money does not grow on trees. It must come from some hole somewhere. But where?
Uganda is in an interesting political place today – at least academically speaking. President Museveni has always said he is a freedom fighter who defeated the fascist and “obscurantist” forces of Idi Amin and Milton Obote and the Generals Okello.

It is clear that his definition of freedom, or for that matter his conception of freedom in practice, is unique. Apparently to be free means not challenging Mr President for the job of leader of party and country.
In the party, we know that Mr Mbabazi and those who support him are considered a threat to party cohesion. Nobody says how. Assertions are enough. Those who support the President as NRM leader for life through “spontaneous” resolutions are apparently for party cohesion.

They are not engaged in factionalism and intrigue, but in cementing the revolution started some 40 long years ago. That is logic particular to the NRM.

Of course, if you are in the “clear” opposition, then you are fought with everything of which teargas is just the first weapon. That is what happens to non-patriots. A law is coming to catch all of you traitors.
As many Ugandans have groused on social media, is lack of patriotism applicable only to those with political views contrary to those in power or are people in government who steal and misuse public money and other resources also roped in? So much for freedom.
Mr Tabaire is a media consultant with the African Centre for Media Excellence.