NRM must think about its dying democracy

Ambrose Nampwera 

What you need to know:

...NRM must think long and hard about the nature of the party that they are passing on to the younger generations

Early this week, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party was handed yet another ‘triumph’ by the judiciary, when a case filed challenging a blatant illegality by the top party leadership, was dismissed on what at best can be called flimsy grounds.

In the said case, a group of party members had petitioned the Kampala High Court calling into question the resolution of the Central Executive Committee to ring-fence all six elective positions of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) for the current holders.

The aggrieved prospective candidates in the race (which is due next month), clearly laid out these grounds before court, and even listed a number of provisions of both national and NRM party constitution breached by the CEC decision.

But on Tuesday, the Justice of the High Court in his wisdom ruled to throw the burden back on the petitioners, advising that they should instead seek justice from none other than the NRM party leadership.

This court decision, while quite unsurprising from our Judiciary today, lands as yet another punch to the gut of the NRM’s internal democracy.

It’s been said before that the death of democracy is unlikely to be an assassination from ambush but rather a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment.

All three murder weapons are seemingly at play and being groomed within our beloved party.

The court ruling, first and foremost, supplements the frustration and gagging of dissenting voices in the ruling party, which has been ongoing now for decades.

It goes without saying that the brute clampdown on democratic processes in the NRM is not new. The only difference is that today; it is increasingly being legitimised through court decisions as the one that was handed out this week.

And these tactics have been effective so far, one can say. Two years ago, we saw some of the party members (MPs) who had passionately raised some constitutional issues, being reeled back to apologise to the party leadership, when they ran out of all options to make their views heard.

On the other hand, the advice from the honourable judge of the High Court for aggrieved members to quit the NRM party, is also not unfamiliar. It has been suggested before to other unhappy members, and some have taken it and left the party.

But this hasn’t cured the virus that is gradually eating away on one of the key building blocks of the NRM.

Granted, the NRM has been a force to reckon with over the past several decades; a juggernaut of Uganda’s political history. But chock-holding all dissent and curtailing healthy internal competition within the party is unlikely to contribute to its long term sustainability.

It is more likely instead to inhibit development of political careers of many of its young members, it will negatively affect the extent of partisan loyalty among these members and to some extent some voters, all of which will leave it susceptible to collapse.

The NRM must make a decision on where it stands on intra-party democracy. It must make it known to members, whether or not there is interest at all in the NRM, to welcome new ideas, to nurture the political competences of its younger members or to produce more capable representatives.

On the surface, this is what is sold in the party’s founding principles; its law books and even manifestos. But in practice, there is very little room for democracy and the rule of law.

The current leadership of the NRM must think long and hard about the nature of the party that they are passing on to the younger generations and whether it is competitive and future-oriented enough to drive the socioeconomic development of Uganda.

In my opinion, this is all a fallacy; that some members of the party are more entitled to leadership than others, while the bigger number is doomed to the eternal queue.

The writer is an NRM cadre. [email protected]