The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: What NRM, Opposition Are Planning for 2014

From the opposition and the ruling NRM competing fiercely for influence in Kampala, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago being locked out of his office, street battles between the police and the opposition, to big fish in NRM clawing at each other publicly. Could 2014 be any different? The answer may be a qualified No, according to political watchers.

For the NRM and the opposition, 2014 may be busier and may border on open war, as politicians enter into campaign mode. Among other things, the NRM will have to identify its flag bearers for the 2016 general elections. For this, a roadmap has already been drawn, with party primaries expected between June and August this year.

"This is intended to give the party ample time to deal with emerging issues from the primaries, [and] find space to create harmony and reconciliation among members," said a party official.

In 2010, after the chaotic NRM primaries, sharp differences emerged within the NRM. Some losing party members in the primaries ended up standing against the party flag bearers.

"This worked in some cases in favour of the opposition and also led to the party losing some seats to independents. So, we want to avoid the repeat of this," the source said.

Although party officials say the proposed roadmap for the primaries will be debated at next week's NRM retreat in Kyankwanzi, Mary Karooro Okurut, the NRM spokesperson, was noncommittal.

"What I can say is that everything will be told to you after the party organs have taken a decision," Karooro told us. "You will know everything after the Central Executive Committee and others have discussed and taken the decision. As of this year, we want to continue with the implementation of the NRM manifesto."

Interviewed for this story, Dr Fredrick Golooba Mutebi, a political analyst, says 2014 is the right time for whoever wants to challenge the status quo to devise means of achieving such a plan.

"It makes a lot of sense for someone who wants to bring change to start preparations ahead of 2016," he said.

Golooba argues that this period will help the opposition convince the electorate about their agenda and policy alternatives.

"What the opposition needs to do is to make sure they are clear to the electorate... wanting to remove the president is one thing and changing the leadership is another. They have to convince the masses that they have a coherent agenda and policy alternative," he said.

In his New Year message last week, Former Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya hinted at unity.

"2014 will also be a year for uniting all political forces that are fighting this nepotistic regime. I appeal to all political parties not to be selfish about their individual desires but to forge one united front with one leader to compete for leadership," said Prof Bukenya, who has declared he will run for president in 2016.

There are strong suggestions Bukenya's rallying call is gaining acceptance, at least from people like Mathias Nsubuga, the DP secretary general.

"As the opposition in 2014, we will be working towards formalising a united front to challenge the NRM and possibly president Museveni in 2016," said Nsubuga, who is also Bukoto South MP.

However, Golooba is not betting on this.

"Since 1996 the opposition has been trying to build an alliance against Museveni but it has failed. What magic are they going to perform this year? For a principled alliance to happen, there must be a common agenda which does not only focus on an individual but also offers an alternative in policy if the change of leadership happens," Golooba said.

Opposition plans

As the NRM plots to consolidate power, the opposition is devising means to oust it out from power. And, among other things, they (opposition) plan to push through key electoral reforms.

"We think that the current electoral laws favour the ruling party but if they are reformed, the playing field will be levelled," said MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kyadondo East), the shadow minister for Information and National Guidance.

Ssemujju also hinted that the opposition would review its leadership - and performance - in Parliament.

"We understand that on January 14, the FDC leadership will be meeting to discuss the principles through which to choose our leaders and [after] this we will know who will play which role," he said.

FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso said that in 2014, the party would be strengthening its structures. The party plans to hold elections for party leaders, right from the village to the national level through a delegates' conference. The exception is Party President Mugisha Muntu, whose term of office runs up to 2017.

According to the FDC constitution, anyone who has served the party in one position for two terms is not eligible to stand for that particular office. Some party leaders like Alice Alaso, who is serving her second term as secretary general, will not return to that post, paving the way for a new office holder this year. FDC is also expected to get a new party chairperson following the death of Sam Njuba.

"In 2014, we shall also be identifying and training potential party flag bearers for all elective positions ahead of the 2016 general elections," Alaso said.

With internal elections on the calendar, the party may be eaten up by 'internal splits and bickering' since the elections are likely to pit party members against each other.

Given that the fallout from the party presidential elections in 2012 between the losing candidate Nathan Nandala-Mafabi and Muntu is yet to be resolved conclusively, 2014 could bring more instability for the main opposition party.

Democratic aspirations

The DP, Uganda's oldest political party, will be celebrating 60 years of existence, this year. Nsubuga says the party is planning many activities to mark 60 years, including political rallies and visiting living founding party members.

Beti Kamya, the president of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) believes that 2014 will be a 'politically-charged year'. Kamya has been collecting signatures to push for a referendum to trim the powers of the president and usher in federalism.

So far, Kamya reveals she has collected 850,000 signatures out of the 1.3 million signatures required to muscle through a referendum.

"This year, I'm sure by April, we [UFA] shall submit to the EC, a petition to call for a referendum which will be held in 2015. I have a feeling that we shall have a big fight with the executive that will be trying to undermine the referendum. And if the referendum is to be held in 2015, then it will change the entire landscape of the country," she said.

Constitutional amendments

Constitutional amendments will also dominate public discourse this year. According to Peter Nyombi, the attorney general, the executive is set to introduce proposed amendments to the Constitution.

"We have been working on those amendments and they are due in cabinet for consideration before they are introduced in Parliament," he said. We understand that the amendments, which will be introduced as a package, will cater for electoral reforms, term limits for MPs and presidency as well as other things.

KCCA affairs

Towards the end of 2013, the KCCA standoff has been a subject of debate and will spill over in 2014. Already, Lukwago has called a stakeholders' meeting for January 6, to make new strategies on how he can re-access his office, yet government is also bent on not recognizing him as lord mayor.

So far, it has been established that the minister for Kampala, Frank Tumwebaze, is slated to introduce amendments to the KCCA Act. "I may not guarantee on the time because this requires stakeholders' consultation but what I can say is that this year I will introduce the matter to cabinet before it is subsequently introduced to Parliament," he said.

It is not yet certain which amendments are scheduled to be introduced, though sources claim that the intended amendments will end adult-suffrage elections for the office of the lord mayor.

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