A bold and aggressive demand by Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasiimire for the ruling NRM to discuss President Museveni's succession at its six-day closed retreat in Kyankwanzi did not make everyone happy, but it definitely did much more good to ignite fierce debate.
Tinkasiimire shocked many at the ongoing NRM retreat at Kyankwanzi when he told Museveni to his face that his time was up.
"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 before Museveni reminded him that he had been in the struggle for 50 years, not just 30 like the MP had suggested.
Tom Butime, a historical of the same struggle and former cabinet minister, later told The Observer that the current tension within NRM, pitting a group of 'rebel MPs' and Museveni, points to the fact that the ruling party has abandoned its core revolutionary ideology and settled for what German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1862-90) described as "every man for himself and God for us all."
"You know that at that time (early years of NRM) we had ideological discipline. All of us were together. It was not about money or how many houses and buildings one had. We were all bound by one ideology--developing the country," Butime said.
He urged NRM to move towards "a minimum political programme" where "everybody must move to a neutral position from a position you are holding by trying to accommodate each other."
Butime, a retired colonel, added: "It is very sad to see the chairman of the High Command being shouted at by enlisted privates. It is also a pity that there is no senior party or political leader in whom young indignant MPs can confide and seek political solutions and comfort."
John Nagenda, senior presidential advisor on media, said it was healthy for dissenting voices to emerge in the party because it strengthens its democratic credentials.
"They [rebel MPs] feel frustrated because there is a gap between them and the top leadership," Nagenda said, adding that their views must not be completely dismissed lest they become "rowdy".
On his part, Capt Francis Babu, a member of NRM's Central Executive Committee, told The Observer that rebel MPs were using populist politics, which did not address the real issues that affect society.
"People became popular on these radios after peddling lies and then they went for elections. So, when they became MPs, they carried on with their behaviour and abandoned our subtle methods of channelling dissent that doesn't make you popular. They adopted open dissent that gives you popularity just like the radio," Babu said.
Babu added that this crop of young politicians was not the first and that people must know that this is "a small" and "misguided" group who think that "they can chase away Museveni".
He added that he did not understand the current crop of young politicians who are into buying posh cars such as Range Rover and Mercedes Benz--yet doing nothing concrete for their country.
"How can a minister for Youth have two women--each with a modern house, and then brag about it?" wondered Babu. He was referring to youthful Ronald Kibuule, who is openly polygamous and is said to be well to do.
But Dokolo MP, Felix Okot Ogong, who has in the past tried to challenge Museveni for the chairmanship of the party, said the current bare-knuckled exchange between some MPs and Museveni is a sign that everything, including power, has a limit.
"There is a limit to everything. Some people have reached this limit, and they don't see any opening. Personal interest and serious patronage has taken over the party. The party structures have died. People don't listen to others. They only call you when it is in their interest and not in the common man's interest," Ogong said.
The NRM Caucus currently on retreat at Kyankwanzi on Sunday endorsed a decision to have five party MPs face the disciplinary committee for continually opposing the positions of the party.
The five are Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) and Vincent Kyamadidi (Rwampara).
What 'rebel' MPs say
Hamson Obua Ogwal (Ajuri-NRM)
It is very important for the party to discuss Museveni's succession because it is within our interest to project the future beyond Museveni. By the way, if we shun this debate, it will be like running away from reality. Maybe the party looks at Museveni as the only person who can provide leadership but that's not true.
We have very many people who can provide leadership. Besides, it is also important to note that if this party is an institution that has nurtured leaders, it should give them space to exercise it. If the President has had his time, he should leave room for others.
For me I am looking at this debate from the perspective of political party competition, we should always look at making sure that we have a candidate who matches the demographics and this is not in the current leadership.
Sam Lyomoki (Workers-NRM)
We have looked at what he has done and what he has started to do and we have decided it is his time to go because he has lost the blessings of God. Some of us have decided to search for a leader who is going to guarantee democracy and good governance that we are yearning for.
I have been supporting him but I have realised that he can no longer change anything, maybe if God anoints him. And, we call upon everyone to be part of this struggle because we think this has become a collective struggle.
Barnabas Tinkasiimire (NRM-Buyaga west)
This nation is not a monarchy. We need to cut people's tenure short. We need other people who can help us bring change. Let's try to assess him [Museveni] by his manifesto, how much has he done?
How many promises did he make to the voters that he has managed to fulfill? As a party, it's time to discuss the succession.
Additional reporting by Sulaiman Kakaire