24 August 2014

Uganda: Mbabazi Girl, NRM Row Over Poll Register

A vicious quarrel over the control of the NRM membership register between Lenina Rukikaire Mbabazi, daughter of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, and the party could take a turn for the worse.

Nina, as the prime minister's daughter is commonly known, compiled the computerised NRM register during the 2010 party delegates' conference. But she has refused to surrender it until NRM clears a Shs 3.4bn debt. Reliable sources within the NRM have told The Observer that Nina claims the NRM is liable because she incurred the debt in order to compile their register.

It is said Nina set this condition after coming under "intense pressure" from some circles within the party to hand over the register. Nina has also reportedly been threatened with arrest for being in "illegal possession of party property".

According to sources, NRM officials want to capitalise on the fact that she holds no formal party position. In April this year, The Observer reported that Nina had appealed to President Museveni for help in clearing the debt, arguing that when she borrowed the money, she got the president's assurance that the party would clear the debt (see, Mbabazi daughter runs to Museveni over Shs 3bn debt).

Nina borrowed Shs 440m from Arvind Patel at an interest rate of 15 per cent per month in June 2010, to compile the party register. Under the agreement, the money was to be repaid in three months. But four years later, no penny has been repaid.

As of March 2014, the outstanding debt had shot to Shs 3.4bn, including interest. But she remains defiant, in part because she believes that some people are trying to use this issue to settle political scores with her father. She is also hopeful that President Museveni will deliver on his promise.

In June 2010, Nina was contracted by the NRM to computerise and clean up the party register in the run-up to the 2010 primaries and the delegates' conference. Sources told The Observer that she compiled the register under the supervision of an IT consultant, Dr Willams Ddembe, who has since relocated to Ghana.

With 2016 around the corner, the party is struggling to come up with a credible register. Our sources said that while some party officials have reservations about Nina's register (they doubt the authenticity of some delegates), they acknowledge that it was done comprehensively.

Some believe that whatever inaccuracies it might have, that list offers the party a good first steptowards compilation of a new and cleaner register.

Our sources said NRM's failure to have a reliable register has cost the party dearly in some by-elections, more recently in Luweero, where the party could not mobilise support for its losing candidate because it had no idea how many supporters it had in the area.

We reported on Friday that Nina snubbed summonses from the party committee which investigated the chaotic 2010 NRM primaries (see NRM's primaries report pins Museveni, Mbabazi).

The committee wanted her to explain the anomalies in her register and respond to claims about the existence of two parallel registers. When her father appeared before the same committee on May 20, he reportedly said the register was securely locked up at his office on Plot 18A, Akii Bua road.

"We have it [the register] both electronically and in hard copy," Mbabazi reportedly told the committee.

A source close to Mbabazi's family told The Observer that the family had sided with Nina and resolved not to hand over the register. The family reportedly has information that some people in the party are pushing the moneylender (Patel) to have Nina arrested. They hope her detention would tarnish the political image of her father. Nina neither answered nor returned our calls at the weekend.

But NRM Deputy Spokesman Ofwono Opondo told The Observer on Saturday that the blame should go to Mbabazi, who irregularly contracted his daughter to do party work.

"We are flogging the wrong horse here. The real person who should produce the register is Mbabazi," Opondo said.


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