When message puts messenger between rock and hard place

Now, the irony is that the MPs, many of whom won their seats with a landslide in the February 2016 election, are asking for armed protection from their voters!


BY Nicholas Sengoba


Word came in that NRM members would consult district councils and not hold mass consultative meetings with voters on the lifting of the age limit in Article 102(b) of the Constitution.
Presumably, it was envisaged that dealing with a small number of people, many of whom are NRM-leaning, would be much easier than with crowds with varied opinions.
Yet many of the councillors are asking NRM legislators not to lift the age limit.

The example on camera is the consultative meeting held by Tourism and Antiquities state minister Godfrey Kiwanda, also MP of Mityana North Constituency.
He cajoled that his people should understand that he was bound by collective responsibility and that he would have to do his boss’ bidding.

Speaker after speaker reminded him (some with veiled threats) that his voters were his most important bosses and that they did not support his position “because of poor service delivery.”
In some instances uninvited angry masses gate-crash consultative meetings and disrupt them, saying they also need to be consulted because the matter affects them.
Some pro-age limit amendment MPs have been roughed-up at functions.

Now, the irony is that the MPs, many of whom won their seats with a landslide in the February 2016 election, are asking for armed protection from their voters!
This matter has put many NRM MPs between a rock and a hard place.

If you go with the masses, who voted you to Parliament, you risk not returning to the August House even as a ‘mere’ MP.
Yet when you stick with the voters, who do not want to lift the age limit, you risk the wrath of the NRM party.

NRM is known to be very vindictive and is not averse to putting its resources to good use to fight errant members who move out of the party line.
Some claim that MPs are merely feigning threats to either discourage the NRM from proceeding with the amendment project or to raise the stakes and force (blackmail) the party chairman to fork out huge sums of money to enable the MPs carry out the ‘herculean task’ whose benefit is President Museveni.
Whichever way you look at it, it is not going to be plain sailing - even when many believe that the NRM will amend the Constitution by hook or crook.

It is not very difficult to see why. Museveni’s mode of operation right from January 1986 has always been delivering a message of hope, relying on patronage networks and resorting to violence when all else fails.

Now over three decades later, it is becoming very difficult to convince many people that there will be a better tomorrow when most of them have lived on an undelivered promised in the past. More than half of the population is below 18 and over 85 percent of this group is unemployed. Many are relying on their parent who are retiring or have retired. Some have opted for crime for survival. The rhetoric promising the building of a strong economy, investing in agriculture and industry in most parts is just that, a promise without serious tangible results. For all intents and purposes, it has run its course.
Yet the social safety net has overtime developed huge holes leaving the majority to their own devices.

Two of the social needs - health and education that consume a large part of the household income are in dire need of funding and attention.
The hospitals without motivated medical workers (if they are present,) without medicine and equipment have become common place.

It is very risky yet unavoidable to fall sick.
The UPE is so poorly funded that the graduates leave a lot to be desired. Report after report details pupils aged 12, who cannot comprehend stories let alone read them, intended for seven-year-olds. These matters touch very many people who need answers, but have lost hope overtime. They hope that change may avert the situation that has deteriorated with what they have currently –a government led by Museveni.
The option of patronage is also becoming increasingly unsustainable.

Being appointed an ambassador, a presidential ddvisor, an RDC or a minister, etc, is also limited since there are many in need of placating as the network grows overtime.
Yet there is so much waste of public funds that people believe it is intended to disempower the majority by primitively enriching a few.

The land grabbers protected by security agents are a case in point. So are those named in the misuse and theft of public funds who are retained in office or even promoted.
These issues are informing the opposition to amending Article 102(b).

Obstructing those campaigning against it using security agents to deliver violence, is a pointer to the fact that NRM’s leadership knows that it is making a hard sale.
But violence in the long-run is not sustainable because the number of discontented people is on the rise. As an option, it stretches the tools of coercion and cause a fluid environment. You cannot be too sure that having armed men running all over the country on a daily basis like fire fighters may not lead to a breakdown of law and order, infiltration and eventually a coup.

Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. nicholassengoba@yahoo.com
Twitter: @nsengoba

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