What you need to know:
- For their part, most of the Opposition voters out there seem to support the boycott, exposing as it does, that, left on their own, the NRM legislators cannot express opinions contrary to the Executive’s.
Uganda switched from the (de facto one-party) ‘movement’ system in 2005, replacing its so-called ‘individual merit’ format with a multiparty arrangement. Until then, President Museveni had been very hostile to political pluralism. Heading into the 2006 General Election, he suddenly became a multiparty advocate.
He cheerfully talked of the God-sent opportunity to get rid of politicians who were tired of his rule.
Never mind the irony that he deployed the doctrine of pluralism to exclude his opponents on the ground that they had always believed in pluralism.
Mr Museveni’s camp appropriated the mutilated carcass of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ‘system’ and resurrected it as a political party.
Many lawyers were as baffled by this theft as the rest of us, unlearned people.
Anyhow, 18 years later, the people NRM/Museveni got rid of and their political offspring are protesting the human rights abuses that have refused to go away. Their MP’s are boycotting the plenary sittings of Parliament.
The merit (or lack of it) of the boycott is not my concern. Neither is my interest the solidity (or hollowness) of Speaker Anita Among’s threat to expel the protesting MPs from their seats.
My focus is on the NRM MPs that Among is freely working with when the Opposition MPs are away.
Back before 2005/6, Mr Museveni associated the champions of pluralism with tribalism, sectarianism and other narrow interests, characterising them as sources of evil, peddling ‘toxic’ politics.
If they were in Parliament, their narrow interests blinded them to national and pan-African issues. They could not see his ‘vision’.
Younger people may not know that the word ‘vision’ was once very big in the NRM’s political vocabulary.
You would then think that the ruling NRM wing in Parliament has used the last 18 years to grow in purpose, integrity and confidence.
Enjoying more than two-thirds of the seats in the House, with the Opposition MPs now absent, the NRM MPs should be free to debate issues and make good laws on the strength of sound arguments. They should not fear that if they took a sensible pro-citizen position on any issue, the Executive would accuse them of siding with the Opposition.
The NRM MPs would shine as enlightened individuals, with brains free from narrow partisan interests; people for whom you could rightly vote again in 2026 because of their integrity.
Unfortunately, that is not happening.
It is getting clearer that many of those who still back NRM rule, be it the jjajja Museveni wing or the son/MK wing, give their support because that is where they see fountains of patronage money and raw power, not wholesome policies or fruits of good governance.
They are trapped in a classic paradox, embracing an authority they don’t believe in.
Therefore, when NRM members, including Speaker Among, cry for Opposition MPs to abandon the boycott, it is not only about their desire to maintain the pretence of a working democracy, but also a need for a force to try restrain a cynical Executive, however small the effect, and for the NRM MPs to be able to say that they were not alone when Parliament passed bad laws; that both sides of the House shared responsibility.
For their part, most of the Opposition voters out there seem to support the boycott, exposing as it does, that, left on their own, the NRM legislators cannot express opinions contrary to the Executive’s.
They cannot risk looking less sectarian, less partisan, less narrow-minded or less ‘toxic’ than the Executive.
We have circled a long distance since 2005/6!
Mr Alan Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.