The Observer (Kampala)

13 January 2013

Uganda: NRM Isolates Rebel MPs

More calls for Museveni succession

On day one of the NRM retreat in Kyankwanzi, the rebel MPs were conspicuously the odd men out. Most of their colleagues were careful to avoid contact or being seen talking to them especially at the official opening by President Yoweri Museveni, which was broadcast live on UBC, on Saturday.

MPs Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkiizi East), who attended, could not freely interact with fellow legislators throughout Museveni's stay at the retreat. In the main hall, the three MPs sat separately in a corner, and at lunch they were holed up on a separate table.

They were also not dressed in army uniform like the rest of their colleagues.

Museveni avoids talk on discipline

Apart from wishing the caucus members a prosperous and disciplined 2013, Museveni, who is also NRM party Chairman, tactfully avoided the thorny subject of the in-fighting within the party especially after the death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda. Discussion and adoption of rules the NRM leadership wants to use to rein in its errant MPs is key on the 10-day retreat agenda, and the president was expected to talk about discipline within the party, but he instead dwelled more on the country's economic development, asking the caucus meeting at Kyankwanzi to take a stand on the alleged sabotage of investors.

He cited the case of the delays in operationalising Amuru Sugar Works and Kilembe Mines as well as the struggling Dairy Corporation, which he felt were on the verge of collapse due to political interference and the inabilities of his ministers.

"For how long shall we go on with this incapacity? ... hiding under PPDA [Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets], then Ssekikubo ... who is Ssekikubo?" Museveni wondered.

"Ssekikubo is trying to be angry, I am also very angry, and we shall see who can get angrier than the other," he added, referring to the Lwemiyaga legislator's gestures in protest at the attacks.

Museveni said he had received five parties interested in investing in Kilembe mines but after being tossed around, the country risked losing them.

"Our only luck is that our neighbours are still having security problems. That is why these people want to invest in our copper; otherwise, Congo [DRC] has more copper than we do, and once they stabilize, the investors will go," he said.

He then asked the caucus to pass a resolution that will solve issues of political interference, high electricity bills and "disoriented" political leaders he described as part of the obstacles to the manufacturing sector.

Succession debate

Before Museveni addressed the caucus, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is also the party's Secretary General, outlined issues that the retreat would discuss and asked MPs to raise any other important issues that needed to be discussed at the retreat, to which Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasiimire shot up and proposed the issue of Museveni's succession.

"You can't say that somebody can rule up to 30 years without getting tired; we have to use this retreat to discuss the question of succession," he said.

Tinkasiimire's submission received mixed reactions with some members, led by the former East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) representative Lydia Wanyoto, jeering him, while others, notably in the rebel group, cheered him. Museveni, who was quietly watching, later gave Tinkasiimire a sarcastic response, telling him that he had been in the struggle for 50 years not 30 like he had suggested.

Days cut

On day one, the legislators proposed the number of days to be scaled back to at least six, to give them an opportunity to attend deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah's wedding. Museveni accepted the proposal on condition that the legislators attend another retreat in Entebbe to make up for any missing gaps.

Amama Mbabazi announced that they would be using up to 16 hours every day in order to exhaust the programme. This came as some of the 155 MPs including ministers at the retreat contemplated leaving the retreat.

"It has become a waste of time, we have other business to attend to, I will leave this place tomorrow [Sunday]," a minister who asked not to be named told The Observer.

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