Tuesday, February 17, 2009



Monday, 16th February, 2009

By Kakoro OKurut

Sections of the press have been rife with ‘analysis’ praising the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) for having ‘internal democracy’, just because two friends — Dr. Kizza Besigye and Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, contested for the party leadership and amicably shook hands after the former won.

I will not bother to discuss the view of many analysts — widely quoted in the press — saying the entire contest was all along a stage-managed affair to show that there was internal democracy.

My problem with this analysis is the quick comparison to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), with the hurried conclusion that the NRM has nothing that looks like internal democracy.

In short, these very analytical minds have reduced the entire concept of internal democracy to mean possibility of competing for top party leadership — achieve it and wham! You have internal democracy. Just like that. Internal democracy is multi-faceted and broad. It should not be seen at the top levels only because the party is a whole structure. This level of analysis is as depressing as it is inadequate and shortsighted.

Internal democracy in NRM should not mean per se somebody contesting against President Museveni for NRM leadership. In fact it is the NRM that has provided the blueprint for comprehensive internal democracy that others are trying hard to imitate — without much success.

When we had our NRM delegates conference at Namboole Stadium in 2005 to elect people to various positions in the party, that was internal democracy at work. We saw people from every walk of life and every part of the country contesting freely for positions high and low.

The fact that Mzee was returned unopposed as party chairman was also a form of democracy: if somebody has delivered and surpassed expectation and people see no cause to contest against him, there is nothing wrong with that. (I am willing to take on anybody on this issue).

There were positions, of course, where compromise was reached; and there is good reason for that. In a multi-party context, if John is contesting against James and the party sees the possibility of the contest dividing the party to irreparable levels, it is perfectly okay and in fact advisable for the party to seat these two people down and they reach a compromise position.

Even as we speak, individuals like Hon. Okot Ogong have drawn the battle lines, declaring that they will contest against President Museveni for the party chairmanship at the next delegates conference. Nobody has harassed Okot for that.

And unlike most parties, the NRM has always had elections from the grassroots right up to the top. It did not just elect a few office bearers and then thump its chest loudly.

The last elections that we had within the party took place a few weeks ago, when the NRM Parliamentary caucus elected members of the Parliamentary Commission.

The debate was heated and healthy. Some members were saying that the former commissioners, if they were doing a good job, should be allowed to continue. Another section was opposed to this, arguing that they had served enough and ought to give way to others.

The matter was put to the vote and the day was won by those who said we ought to have fresh elections and the outgoing commissioners could also contest.

Those who were contesting were given an opportunity to say a word. And here I have a bone to pick with my own party because those brief campaigns were so interesting, I would have wanted them to be captured by the media, especially live television and radio.

One of the contenders, my good friend and colleague Hon. Dr. Sam Lyomoki, the Workers’ representative, added more flavour to the campaign. He got up, spoke about himself, talked about how he would deliver if voted, how he would take care of members’ interests and stuff. Then at the end of it all he said ‘let us pray’. Everybody roared into laughter, but I did not think it was a laughing matter, since it is a good thing to pray. As he prayed, few people listened to his prayer amid the uproar.

Well, he lost; but that is not the issue. When people talk about internal democracy, this was exactly that at its best within the party.

We are, therefore, talking about transparency and free reign of democracy within the party at all levels.

The other interesting insinuations in sections of the press to the effect that the purported ‘exodus’ of historicals from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to other parties were a sign of crisis must be met with the typical ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ response.

First, those who have moved on to other parties are but a small section of the historicals. Most of them are still very much intact within the NRM.

Moreover, like a friend of ours put it, if you have a grass-thatched house and some of the grass gets off, the house will not collapse, let alone the roof. The Movement has developed to a level where we are constantly producing fine human resource that is more than capable of filling any gaps left behind by departures. Of course, we would have loved to retain these people in the family; because they have been part of us for long and have made immense contribution and value-addition to the party. But then, it is the Movement that established and entrenched democracy and freedom — if people want to leave, you should not hold them hostage. This is precisely what democracy and human freedoms is all about — people being free to do, to go and to be what they want.

And in spite of the fact that some of the historicals have left, the NRM still has an overwhelming majority in Parliament — in fact more than two-thirds.
The important thing to focus on is whether the Movement has inherent capacity to manage its affairs better; in the sense of improving its ability to keep all its human resource intact, because truth be told, these are people that have been of benefit to the party and we would like to continue enjoying their services.