23 February 2014

Uganda: Amama Job At Stake

Some NRM MPs are experimenting with an amendment to the party constitution, which would allow President Museveni to get rid of Secretary General Amama Mbabazi.

In the amendment, underwritten by MP James Kakooza, the MPs want the secretary general appointed by the chairman and not elected by the delegates' conference.

This would essentially hand the chairman, Museveni, the opportunity to fire the secretary general, who has refused to willingly relinquish the post.

Through their new Club 999, which they claim is the party's "think tank and patriotic force... " the MPs believe that their amendment is the only guaranteed tool to get rid of Mbabazi, who has on many occasions dismissed calls to relinquish the secretary generalship by party officials, including President Museveni.

"It's clear and true that we had factions within the party but it had been brought by the mistake we made in the NRM constitution when we were making it. We made a mistake to make a provision that the secretary general should be elected by the delegates' conference," Kakooza told us on February 20. "This provision created factions, which, up to now, have never healed. So, we must cure it this time."

Kakooza, who has been linked to many pro-Museveni projects, including the third term bid in 2005, said: "If the constitution gave the chairman of the party powers to appoint the secretary general, that person could have concentrated on party work."

"When Cec [Central Executive Committee] calls the secretary general, who is just an appointee of the chairman, he/she can be reprimanded, but right now, Cec can't reprimand the current SG [Mbabazi] neither can the chairman of the party [Museveni] because he [SG] has the mandate of the electorate," Kakooza argued.

He said: "Some of us, me in particular, think we should amend the party constitution to provide that the chairperson of the party, with the approval of Cec, shall appoint the secretary general, so that we can have cohesion within the party. And if you looked at our political history, UPC was divided in 1960s when electing the secretary general and it is the same problem we are going through in NRM."

Kakooza said some members were for Museveni, others for Mbabazi; one group is for Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and another for [Kahinda] Otafiire. His think tank could not simply look on as all this goes on, Kakooza added.

Asked why the amendment was coming now, soon after Mbabazi's undeclared presidential bid was dealt a blow at the NRM caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi, Kakooza said: "Once every organisation starts, you have to do a Swot analysis aimed at making it stronger... than the weaknesses. So, we are trying to look for a solution to the problems that would divide the party."

Asked when he planned to table the amendment, he said it would be ready for the delegates' conference [in 2015], "and we shall do what we can to see that it is top on the agenda."

He also told The Observer, that Club 999 members had discussed this idea and agreed to pursue it. Club 999, according to Kakooza, comprises MPs Evelyn Anite, Dr Kenneth Omona and Peter Ogwang, among others.

Anite [Youth MP for Northern Uganda], who moved the motion that persuaded NRM MPs at Kyankwanzi to endorse Museveni as the party's sole presidential candidate, told The Observer last week that this amendment was not her focus at the moment, "because my interest is on the motion which I moved in Kyankwanzi. I want to see that we push it to its logical conclusion."

She said her focus was to take the motion to the party's (Cec) to be adopted.

"I am optimistic that Cec will agree with us because many of the Cec members have already signed the motion," she said.

On his part, Dr Omona admitted that the pro-Museveni MPs were devising ways of getting rid of Mbabazi to protect members who signed the Kyankwanzi resolution from persecution.

"We discussed this in Kyankwanzi and you know some of these people that the resolution targeted wield a lot of influence with regard to who becomes [NRM] flag bearer. So, we are finding possible means of how they [members] will not be victimised," he said, without explaining how they planned to go about "protecting" themselves.

Some MPs we spoke to claimed that a number of would-be NRM flag bearers in the 2011 elections were failed in the primaries because they had not supported Mbabazi's successful bid for the position of secretary general.

"A similar consequence is feared to come back this time since by the time the primaries are conducted, he [Mbabazi] will [still] be the secretary general," an MP said.

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