Nzaramba’s attempts to change power from within

Vincent Nzaramba

What you need to know:

His background
Vincent Nzaramba, 37, is a student of Education at Makerere University. He was chiarman Mitchell Hall, Makerere University 2008/2009. He took a shot at becoming a member of parliament for Kawempe South last year. His attempts ended at the primaries. His life has likewise not been simple. He says he dropped out of school for a decade, from 1993 (while in S.3) to 2002, for a lack of fees, but returned all the same, to continue from where he left.

His manuscript People Power: Battle the Mighty General which hits at the President Museveni has landed him in trouble with the authorities but he does not seem bothered. Nzaramba believes he is actually giving solutions to NRM and maintains that he is still a loyal member of the party.

Vincent Nzaramba’s manuscript, People Power: Battle the Mighty General, comes as the third book of its kind - a literature of political dissent against President Yoweri Museveni’s regime - in the space of 12 months. The other two are The Correct Line?

by Dr Olive Kobusingye and Portrait of a Despot by Charles Ochen Okwir. Dr Kobusingye is a sister to Dr Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s strongest challenger while Okwir has written extensively criticising the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Nzaramba, however, says he is still a loyal member of the NRM, who wishes to see it remain in power for years to come.
And there, lies the twist that comes with his actions and book. Nzaramba seems to be part of a disgruntled part of the ruling party, which is dissatisfied with its leadership but at the same time is not impressed with the opposition parties, hence choosing to fight the regime from inside the ruling party itself.

Reason for the content in his manuscript
Nzaramba says his current views about the president and the ruling party are derived from failure to live up to the party’s original ideology based on the 10-point-programme that Museveni popularised after taking power. It could also be as a result of frustration.

“I had read Sowing The Mustard Seed and I saw a critique of Museveni against the Obote governments and how they had failed to organise internal elections democratically. To my surprise, that is what happened in the NRM preliminaries,” he says. His attempts at appealing were thwarted, he says. “That is when I saw that NRM is not a party. There are no structures and procedures to follow,” he adds.

Nzaramba runs a pressure group called Non Violent Revolution Uganda . He is elusive as to when exactly he started his pressure group, or, as to who exactly is a member of the group. He cites personalities like Martin Luther King and Gandhi as having had influences on him. The Arab spring is also a key influence. In fact, his manuscript covers how nonviolent protests brought down Tunisia’s president, Ben Ali.

He is, however, not shy about his intentions. He says the group’s aim is to “mobilise people power to overthrow the dictatorship and restore genuine democracy.” He even goes further, “If you care, you can go and watch a documentary called How to Bring down a Dictator and then you will understand what we are up to.”

Nzaramba does not seem to have any qualms about what he is doing, or even to harbour the slightest concern that he could be breaking the law. He instead sees his actions as a moral duty.

In the midst of all this however, he insists that he is still loyal to NRM. “I am NRM myself. I have not joined any political party. This Non Violent Revolution Uganda is like a pressure group, like you see A4C. It’s a platform for activism for change. We sit as friends with the same ideology who want reform within the party, and those who still want NRM to continue to be in this leadership and also for people who wish our chairman, President Yoweri Museveni well. I don’t want him to be swept like Mubarak or Gadaffi.”

A subtitle on the front page of his manuscript, just below Museveni’s portrait, reads, “He is finished.” He also includes a list of 198 weapons of nonviolent protest, which were propagated by political scientist, Gene Sharp. Asked whether he appreciated the police’s view that he was inciting the public with these items, Nzaramba replied, “It is not incitement. I am guiding the nation.”

He adds, “I was warning that if we do not pass through constitutional means of changing power, then he (Museveni) is finished.”
Nzaramba’s manuscript comes at a time when the NRM is facing a sudden increase in voices of dissent from inside. A section of its members of parliament, now baptised “young turks”, have publically disagreed with its leaders, on among other issues, disclosure of oil agreements and the proposed giveaway of Mabira forest.

On top of that, you add recent comments made by presidential advisor John Nagenda and those by NRM chairperson for eastern region, Mike Mukula, which show disagreement at the party’s top level on issues of succession. Efforts to get a comment from the party’s spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, were futile as he did not return our phone calls.

Before he was arrested on September17, Nzaramba had had brushes with security officials before. A large scar prominently features on the right side, at the top of his head - the remains of a wound inflicted by an anti-riot officer’s baton. He says this was when police officers mistook him for a rioter during the walk-to-work protests earlier this year.

He passes by as a simple albeit ambitious man. It remains to be seen what will become of the light skinned slim man with raised cheekbones and comparably large eyes.