The ruling party on February 7 huddles together at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi for another of its annual week-long retreats where President Museveni is expected to declare a “year of action” in the run-up to 2016 polls.
After celebrating 28 years in power last month, President Museveni, the party chairman, is also expected to rally his troops in Parliament to stand by him in his war against “structural bottlenecks” holding millions in abject poverty.
While the full agenda is still unclear, this newspaper understands that the lawmakers will be updated on the UPDF mission in South Sudan and also take a position on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Doctors will present their findings on whether homosexuality is a genetic abnormality or it’s a behavioural deviation developed through training and financial inducements.
The NRM caucus recently rejected the President’s narrative on issues of homosexuality, advised him to stop dillydallying and instead to learn from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who, in spite of pressure from western donors, signed a similar piece of legislation recently.
South Sudan’s troubles present a new dilemma. A former head of political intelligence at State House, Mr Charles Rwomushana, tells the Daily Monitor that the NRM’s greatest challenge was the “legitimisation” of military “occupation” of South Sudan. With increased insecurity and military challenges elsewhere, Mr Rwomushana said the war in South Sudan is going to strain the national budget and severely impact on service delivery.
Party members have also demanded for an agenda that will evaluate the performance of the NRM, focusing on the ‘slow’ implementation of the 2011-16 manifesto.
A report by NGO Forum last year indicated that the NRM has defaulted on promises it made to Ugandans in 10 crucial sectors. In its findings released in November, the Forum noted that out of the 50 campaign promises audited, the ruling party had made progress on 17, limited or no progress on 24 and backtracked or registered negative gains on nine commitments.
“There are visible and real reforms for those with eyes to see and there is no way NGO Forum can claim that the NRM party has failed to deliver on its promises,” Information Minister Rose Namayanja said.
Ms Namayanja said between August and November 2013, the government distributed five million coffee seedlings to farmers. She said the Shs250 billion Youth Livelihood Programme was also launched last month to help the jobless youth start businesses.
Other NRM leaders offer a rationalised response to criticism.
“Obviously, it is unfair for anyone to have expected us to solve all problems in 28 years,” said Government Chief Whip Justine Kasule Lumumba. She said there are noticeable government efforts to ensure that Uganda becomes a middle income country, focusing on the challenges “we are facing today”.
But a key concern remains: What legacy should the NRM government leave for the young people?
With one eye on his legacy, analysts say President Museveni is likely to seek to tell his parliamentary majority, warning that if they choose to continue colluding with the Opposition in blocking infrastructure projects, they will be frustrating the development agenda for Uganda.
This is a retreat where, probably for first time, members have been asking why previous resolutions are not being implemented and whether, as a result, it makes sense to “waste time and money” in a “talking shop”.
However, caucus spokesperson Evelyn Anite maintains that some resolutions have been implemented.
“It’s not true that we have not implemented the resolutions we made in Kyankwanzi last year. As a matter of fact, we have made a lot of progress in strategic areas such as roads, health, education, ICT and job creation” Ms Anite said.
Mr Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator at the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), a local agency, said political party retreats are supposed to be for planning purposes, to build consensus on sticking points and also to refresh members’ memories in respect to ideology, doctrine, aspirations, and objectives.
Last year, the retreat proposed measures to fix the economy, create jobs for Ugandans, provide affordable health care and ensure that no stone is left unturned in the war against poverty and corruption.
Although party leaders insist that they are moving in the right direction, most of the Kyankwanzi resolutions from that period remain on paper.
Now, some are turning to the opportunities which exploitation of Uganda’s oil resources present..
“The NRM caucus has a duty to discuss the management of oil revenue before it’s too late,” says Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo.
The other issue is the unresolved question of term limits which is embedded in the push for wide-ranging constitutional reforms ahead of the 2016 election.
Corruption too continues to rear its head as the single most disturbing constant to haunt President Museveni’s rule over Uganda. At least year’s retreat, the President re-committed himself to this fight.
But party members speaking to the Daily Monitor worry that graft appears to be abetted by the government’s ‘selective prosecution’ of suspects,
The mood is for the retreat to back a law that will punish culprits and ensure recovery of stolen money. They also want the IGG, DPP and CIID to be fully-freed of State interference. As minds concentrate on the President’s claim that Uganda is on track to become a middle income country by 2017, these and the undercurrent of agitation for political transition could yet light up the retreat.