New Vision (Kampala)

23 June 2012

Uganda: Museveni to Meet Kadaga, Mbabazi Over NRM Wrangles

The president will tomorrow (Sunday) meet the Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament in what is seen as a mending of fences after elections to the East A frican Legislative Assembly were not well coordinated within the ruling NRM party.

The government chief whip, Daudi Migereko, confirmed the meeting yesterday. "There will be an interactive session with the President. We expect to discuss a number of things, including smoothening some of the issues the party is facing," he said.

Although he declined to reveal the agenda of the meeting, the just concluded stormy EALA elections are expected to feature prominently as well as reports in media that the president had attacked the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabzi, and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

The issue of 'rebel' MPs within the NRM is also expected to be discussed in the meeting.On Thursday, the NRM party spokesperson, Karooro Okurut, advised MPs who are not content with the direction the party is taking to quit. Reacting to media reports about the emergence of a pressure group intent on taking charge of the NRM leadership before the 2016 elections, Okurut blasted the MPs behind it, asking any elements who are tired of the party to quit.

"People are not in NRM by conscription. Whoever feels dissatisfied is free to leave," Karooro told Saturday Vision in a phone interview.

She denied reports that the president had attacked the Prime minister and Speaker.

"Some quarters in the media are trying to blow the issue out of proportion and painting a picture that NRM is cracking up. But that is wishful thinking," she said. "The president spoke his mind about the recent happenings in the party the way a father would, to members of his family."

The minister's tough words have come hot on the heels of a stormy week for the party. Last week, a group of parliamentarians hijacked a jubilee celebration of a church in Sembabule and announced that they were forming alternative leadership because they disagree with what is going on in the party.

The legislators headed by Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, installed Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Ssekikubo as chairman to spearhead a coalition that was seeking to provide alternatives to the current leaders.

These MPs have scoffed at Okurut's call for them to leave the party. "We are members of NRM and we are going nowhere. What we are offering is guidance and reform," Theodore Ssekikubo, the supposed leader vowed.

He said they were in the process of drafting their action plan and they would announce it in due course, to encourage other NRM colleagues who share their vision to come on board.

"We are not breaking away from NRM, never. If your house is leaking, you don't abandon it. You fix it and life continues," Hudson Obua said.

Dokolo County MP, Felix Okot Ogong contends that the NRM has veered off course.

"The party has been hijacked because some people think it is personal property. They use it to drive their personal agenda, which explains paralysis of party structures. You cannot run a progressive party this way," Ogong noted.

Another MP, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, chided the Government for its apparent handling of graft with kids' gloves.

In a manner reminiscent of PAFO days, the political pressure group that preceded formation of the Forum for Democratic Change, a group of youthful NRM legislators in the ninth parliament have become bullish in their demand for their party to effect fundamental reforms.

MPs like Dr. Baryomunsi, Muhammad Nsereko, Vincent Kyamadidi, Cerinah Nebanda, Okot Ogong, and Wilfred Niwagaba have rubbed the high NRM echelons the wrong way over a host of issues ranging from the government's alleged feeble stance on corruption, to openly demanding for reinstatement of presidential term limits.

However, deputy chief whip David Bahati played down the events. "The differences are not fundamental. They're all about to do with people's ego and self-interest," he said.

The President told a caucus meeting early this week that intrigue and infighting is the major cause why the party had suffered losses in recent by-elections. The party has lost four of the five parliamentary elections in the past few months.

"The president enumerated eight issues that are responsible defeats we have suffered in the by-elections. In the coming week we are going to debate a paper to enrich them and discuss solutions to problems the party is facing," he said.

Political observers are drawing parallels between the current ruckuses in the NRM to the birth pangs that preceded the birth of the main opposition party - FDC.

The formation of FDC saw a number of senior NRM members - Richard Kaijuka, Miria Matembe, Guma Gumisiriza, Mugisha Muntu and Amanya Mushega - led by Dr. Kiiza Besigye, break ranks with NRM.

Will the latest rumpus lead to a second schism in the NRM, or is it a sign of a vibrant party, as David Bahati contends? It's hard to predict because a week in politics is always a life time.

But with the president yet to express his intention to continue on the saddle or hand over the baton to a party cadre in 2016, every subtle happening in the NRM will be viewed through the prism of a brewing succession contest.

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