Writers and delegates scramble for cash

Maj.Gen. Kahinda Otafiire (C) addresses delegates at Namboole Stadium. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE


The NRM second national conference at Namboole stadium last evening turned into a cash bonanza when some delegates openly took money generously offered by rival candidates before and during voting. The high drama, however, played out when a group of journalists scribbled names of 47 colleagues and submitted it to the NRM party administrator, Dr Hassan Galiwango, to extort Shs4 million as their allowance.

Galiwango’s defence
“Usually when journalists do work, as friends, I normally give them something,” Dr Galiwango said when challenged by some of the journalists why he paid their colleagues. He added: “But this time they demanded; they pursued me into my car and I gave them Shs4 million in an envelope because I knew the next thing they were going to do would be start writing [bad stories] about me.”

A flurry of telephone calls from certain unnamed journalists demanding their share of the money, said Ms Pamela Ankunda of Uganda Media Centre, put them on the tenterhooks. At around 8:15pm, Ms Ankunda and NRM publicity secretary Mary Karooro Okurut, dragged Dr Galiwango to the central dais to explain to another group of journalists, who were unaware, how and why money exchanged hands.

This move, it later emerged, was partly to help Ms Ankunda clear her name after rumour started doing the rounds that she had skimmed Shs2 million off the contested money for paying journalists. “It is good everyone now knows I did not take the Shs2 million as alleged,” she said. The officials, however, declined to hand over the forged list as requested by other journalists so as to expose the masterminds of the mischief.

“It unethical to give cash to induce journalists to write public relation stories [and] newsmakers must know that journalists are not up for auction,” said New Vision’s Barbra Among.
Mr Justin Dralaze, who works with Reuters news agency, said journalists’ cash scramble discredits the noble profession and “people cannot take us as serious professionals”.

As the journalists’ story unfolded on the sidelines, chief agents of NRM candidates handed out crisp Shs10, 000 and Shs20,000 as well as Shs50,000 notes for undeclared purpose. This happened as other delegates queued to cast the ballot to pick a party secretary general, six regional vice chairpersons and deputy secretary general and deputy treasurer.

Voting for other top posts was dropped after the National Executive Council picked President Museveni unopposed for party chairmanship and flag bearer in the 2011 general elections.
Incumbent National Treasurer Ndaula Kaweesi stepped down at the last minute for Ms Amelia Kyambadde, the former principal private secretary to President Museveni.

Butambala County MP Ibrahim Kadunaabbi was knocked out at the last minute and secretary general Mbabazi said he was irregularly listed as a contestant when the Central Executive Committee had only endorsed incumbent Alhajji Moses Kigongo to retain the slot of national vice chairman.

Parliament Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and former junior health minister Mike Mukula sailed unopposed as second vice national chairperson and vice chairman for eastern region, respectively. For the competitive posts, the delegates voted according to their districts. Beneficiaries seated on white plastic chairs assembled in circular pattern received the cash hand out from people who appeared to be their leaders who kept ticking against names recorded in note books.
The NRM party constitution, like the national electoral law, criminalises the giving and taking of bribe to influence voting. President Museveni, speaking a day earlier, warned “dishonest politicians” who buy votes that they will be arrested and jailed.