After initially planning to snub their invitation to the party retreat in Kyankwanzi, a group of outspoken NRM MPs, labeled rebels, had a last minute change of heart on Friday.
The MPs said they honoured the Kyankwanzi invitation largely to listen in on the proceedings and plot how to defeat the proposed punitive party rules that are expected to be adopted during the retreat. The rules, some of which seek to expel the "bad boys" from the party, had been shelved since October 2011. They are now finally coming up for adoption as the party leadership seeks ways to deal with the growing opposition and infighting within the party.
Acting NRM Chief Whip Rosemary Namayanja Nsereko recently confirmed that one of the retreat's 10 days will be dedicated to debating and adoption of the draft rules. Once adopted, party MPs that toe a different line from the official party position will be expelled as provided for in Rule 18 (1), which provides for a three-line whipping system categorized as Green light, White light and Red light, with the latter being the last resort.
"This is a strict instruction to attend and vote in a particular way, breach of which could have serious consequences, including expulsion from the party," the clause reads in part.
But Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo labelled the rule an infringement on their constitutional right of association.
"No, we must all be there; there is no better way we shall understand their plan of the game if we keep away," Ssekikubo told Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, who had been opposed to going to Kyankwanzi.
We have learnt that Niwagaba is already drawing the legal paper work to challenge the proposed rules, which they say are inconsistent with Article 29 of the Constitution, on freedom of speech, expression, thought, conscience, assembly and association.
"We are aware that they are up to some mischief, and we are ready and prepared to invoke all mechanisms at our disposal in the event that they attempt to infringe on our rights to belong and associate in the NRM," Ssekikubo told us.
Besides the court option, Ssekikubo also spoke of other mechanisms like political action against the party, including mobilization of NRM members to resist the party leadership.
"There is still more to talk about, these people [NRM leaders] are being diversionary. They want to divert us from the core issues and dwell more on the peripherals," he said.
The 'rebel' MPs accused President Museveni of playing double standards in his treatment of corruption cases, which Namayanja sees as a basis for invoking disciplinary action against them. Other charges include taking positions contrary to those of the party during parliamentary debates. The MPs have also indicated that they will not appear before the NRM disciplinary committee because they argue that Amama Mbabazi, on whose orders the party's disciplinary committee works, is holding the Secretary General's office illegally.
In the 2010 NRM delegates' conference that elected new party leaders, the party's top organ; National Executive Committee (NEC), resolved that whoever is elected secretary general should not be given an engaging political appointment. Despite that resolution, Mbabazi remains the NRM secretary general, while his deputy, Dorothy Hyuha has since been appointed Uganda's High Commissioner to Tanzania.
Ssekikubo says his group is not bothered about their planned expulsion from the party. He argues that whereas Museveni succeeded pushing out liberal minds like former Local Government Minister Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, former Ethics Minister Miria Matembe and the current FDC President, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, it would not be easy for the party to push them out.
"We can't stop talking about Museveni's double standards, he pretends to be fighting corruption, but acts on some, and defends others... and how can you blame me when I call him an advocate of thieves?" he asked.