Tuesday, September 14, 2010



Monday, 13th September, 2010


Karooro Okurut

Karooro Okurut

There has been only one story in town over the last few days: the national conference of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) that took place at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole.

At the conference, the party elected its top leadership, with most of the individuals in the top echelons of the party retaining their positions, and a few new individuals coming in.

The most interesting race hands down was arguably that for the post of secretary general which was a tight contest featuring the incumbent Amama Mbabazi, challenged by the Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya and trade minister Kahinda Otafiire. There was also Prof. Elijah Mushemeza, and Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Sekikubo.

It was a good old-fashioned, bare knuckle, no-holds-barrred affair. While we congratulate Ndugu Amama, we must commend him for his humility. Amama was candid and unequivocal in his apology about whatever may have gone wrong in the party, quoting British poet Alexander Pope in saying ‘to err is human’ and promising to rectify the various errors.

Internal democracy, expressed by regular free and fair elections within the party is essential for the survival of a party because it ensures that members have opportunity to express their will on who should lead them and their satisfaction or lack of it in the direction the party is taking. In this regard, NRM has shown that it is on the right track.

There were a few murmurs of discontent, discernible here and there – something you expect to find in every election anywhere and at any level in the world. But on the whole the exercise was open, with each district voting separately, which meant there was an orderly flow of votes. That made it very easy to identify and throw out would-be flukes.

The massive interest in the NRM conference was not for nothing: as the ruling party, its proceedings have drastic implications for the country’s destiny – many of those elected as NRM leaders are in more ways than one, leaders of the nation.

The attention the conference attracted is also testimony to how big the party has grown and how much support it has garnered over the years, and the confidence that Ugandans have in it.

As expected, President Yoweri Museveni easily withered the competition for his position, when he received a unanimous endorsement by consensus, to remain party chairman and also presidential flag-bearer. The consensus meant that he did not have to be subjected to voting.

What does his re-election mean for the NRM and for Uganda?

First, this is an acknowledgment for a job well done for as it has been well said; the best tribute for doing a task is the opportunity to do it again.

Secondly, the party has spoken categorically and unequivocally: that we have plenty of confidence that the man at the helm for the last two decades has steered the ship in the right direction, defying hell and high water to stay on course and ensuring that his charges on board are contented.

The President’s achievements must be measured, not just by what he has done, but equally importantly, by the enormity of the task he undertook in 1986 and how much he has had to overcome to get Uganda to where we are.

The economic breakdown, the political turmoil and overall social upheaval and disintegration that the President inherited in 1986 was as unpleasant a task as they come. This unhappy context therefore makes his turning the country around to where it is today all the more remarkable. Under his and the NRM leadership, Uganda has been held together as a united country, something crucial for the survival of a nation.

It is such leadership that charges the atmosphere around with hope that this is a country going places. People the world over live and thrive on hope; and they always throw their weight behind a leader who symbolizes hope that whatever the situation today, tomorrow will be better.

Thirdly, the President’s re-election represents continuity for the party and for Uganda. Change for the sake of it must never be accepted; for continuity guarantees stability. Uganda can now be assured of a further five years of stability under the NRM and equally importantly, President Yoweri Museveni.

Lastly, admittedly, there has been a lot of confusion and animosity caused by the impropriety of the just-concluded nationwide election of flag-bearers. The causes of the confusion must be investigated and addressed, so that party members can work together for party victory in the national polls comes February 2011.

The reconciliation committee and elders of NRM must step in to oil the wheels of reconciliation.