23 February 2014

Uganda: Museveni Woos Mbabazi Youths

President Museveni is shifting his focus to calming the divided ranks of party youths, torn between supporting him and the presidential aspirations of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

Museveni, The Observer has learnt, is working with a group of NRM youth leaders on a two-pronged plan to neutralize party youths allied to Mbabazi.

First, they plan to lure the youths into the pro-Museveni camp with financial incentives. If that fails, then the pro-Mbabazi group would be isolated and pushed to the sidelines.

Museveni, sources say, has so far enlisted the help of youth MPs like Patrick Nakabale (Central), Evelyn Anite (Northern) and Peter Ogwang (Ogwang) plus Joseph Sewava, a pro-Museveni youth activist attached to State House.

According to sources, Museveni met Nakabale on February 19 at State House and tasked him to "stop the activities" of the pro-Mbabazi group.

Museveni is reportedly rattled by the mixed signals from the different sections of youths over the thorny issue of the party's presidential flag bearer, decided a few days ago by the NRM MPs' caucus in Kyankwanzi.

Museveni, sources say, has suggested that the pro-Mbabazi youths should be enrolled in the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), to ensure that they get "something" to do.

The YLP is a Shs 256bn fund under the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development intended to equip youths with skills and startup capital as a way of reducing unemployment levels in the country. The programme is intended to benefit youths in the age bracket of 18 to 30 years.

Our sources told us that before meeting Nakabale, the president met Sewava at Kapeeka, Nakaseke district, on February 18, where he had gone to launch several poverty alleviation projects. Our sources told us that Sewava assured the president that he would "handle" the pro-Mbabazi youth group.

When he came back to Kampala, Sewava telephoned some members of the pro-Mbabazi group, urging them to join "our side where there is sunshine."

Adam Buyinza Luzindana, the NRM youth vice chairperson for Kampala and a leading member of the pro-Mbabazi group, confirmed that Sewava had approached him. He told The Observer on Friday, February 21 that Sewava promised to broker a meeting between him and the president.

Sewava told Luzindana that Museveni was tired of disunity amongst the party's youths and wanted them to work together.

"I told him that if I want to meet the president, I do not need his [Sewava's] help," Luzindana told us. "We all know their tricks and we won't fall for them. What some of us are fighting for is internal democracy in the party and not cash hand-outs."

Another pro-Mbabazi youth, Omodo Omodo, the youth vice-chairperson for Northern Uganda, said he had been approached by Ogwang.

"He [Ogwang] told me that he [was] going to take me to State House and get me something but for me I told him I am not interested," Omodo Omodo said on Friday.

However, not all is gloom and doom for Nakabale and Sewava. Moses Kiwanuka, the NRM youth vice chairperson for-eastern Uganda, who originally belonged to the pro-Mbabazi group, last week defected to the pro-Museveni youth group.

Kiwanuka even addressed a pro-Museveni press conference at the Kampala Serena hotel on February 19, where he affirmed that youths would back Museveni as the party's sole candidate in 20l6. Sources told us that Kiwanuka, who attended the pro-Mbabazi press conference a day before on Tuesday, February 18, was lured by Sewava to switch camps.

He was reportedly promised cash and a degree course at a university in the Netherlands. The pro-Mbabazi group last week told journalists that they would back the premier if he offered himself as a willing challenger for NRM's presidential flag bearer for the 2016 elections.

They were responding to the Kyankwanzi endorsement of Museveni as NRM's sole flag bearer in the 2016 elections. Mbabazi later told journalists at Parliament that much as he was not behind the activities of the youths backing him, "as the secretary general of the party, he is supposed to be close to all the youths."

Nakabale confirmed to The Observer that indeed, he had tried to bring the pro-Mbabazi group into the mainstream adding that he was not doing so at the urging of President Museveni.

"I am a youth leader and I do not need anybody to tell me to foster unity among the youths [in the NRM]," Nakabale said.

Nakabale denied meeting Museveni and the planned recruitment of the pro-Mbabazi group, using YLP. He said all youths, irrespective of party affiliation would benefit from YLP.

Nakabale said what the NRM MPs decided at Kyankwanzi should be the position of the party youths if they are to work in harmony.

NRM youths: Museveni vs Mbabazi

At national level, the NRM youth league is the highest decision-making organ of all youth structures. It has 13 members, chaired by Denis Namara, who is also a presidential advisor on Youth Affairs.

Other members are: Omodo Omodo (northern Uganda), Adam Buyinza Luzindana (Kampala region), Patrick Kaahwa (Nakawa), Moses Kiwanuka (Eastern), William Seruyinda (Buganda) Peter Peex (Karamoja), Justus Nuwagira (Western), Robert Rutaro (Gen secretary), David Kisoro (deputy secretary general), Norah Akwir (treasurer), Edwin Agaba (deputy treasurer) and Alex Kaweesa (publicity).

Of the 13 members, four members: Namara, Nuwagira, Rutaro and Kiwanuka are said to belong to the pro-Museveni group. Mbabazi has the biggest share of eight youth backers, who include; Luzindana, Omodo Omodo, Seruyinda, Akwir, Kaahwa, Kaweesa, Kisoro and Peex). The allegiance of Agaba is not known.

Sources say Mbabazi has won over many youths using his daughter Nina Mbabazi. He has also given moral and financial support to some. Sources told us that Mbabazi, using his connections in China, secured a scholarship for Omodo Omodo at the South China Agricultural University (SCAU) in Guangdong Province, where he is pursuing a degree in Fertilizer Production and Application.

But Omodo Omodo said in an interview that he got the scholarship when he met Hu Jintao, the former Chinese leader during a visit there.

But at district level, the picture is different with Museveni having an edge. Each district has a party youth committee, headed by a chairperson, and it is from these committees that many of the youths, who appeared at the pro-Museveni press conference at Serena hotel on February 19 were drawn from.

Sources said that Museveni normally appoints RDCs from these structures ensuring that they remain loyal to him.

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