Tuesday, March 11, 2014

THE NRM COMES TO A CROSSROADS



This week the happenings within the NRM have dominated our collective imagination allowing us little space to ruminate over Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar or Vladmir Putin’s brinkmanship in the Ukraine or even the confirmation of news that Manchester United defender and Captain Nemanja Vidic was to leave at the end of this season.

To us onlookers the NRM MPs caucus meeting in Entebbe over two days, looked like an exercise to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s from the earlier retreat in Kyankwanzi.
It was that and more, as it turned out.

Clearly enough MPs within the party are convinced that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is bent on making a run for the presidency despite his continued protestations to the contrary and his appendage of signature to resolution to have President Yoweri Museveni as unopposed flag bearer for the party in 2016.

Beyond the drama the latest goings-on are about the succession question in the NRM and subsequently Uganda.

With Museveni facing a constitutional last term – since there is a cap on the age beyond which no one can run for president of 75 years, anyone with half an ambition is positioning himself for the eventuality of a Museveni exit.

Love them or hate them but the NRM is the only nationally represented political organisation in the country. It is no surprise that with a critical election around the corner that the secretary general position will come under intense scrutiny, that office in any party holds the key to the kingdom.

In addition, as is becoming the case in every election the intensity of contestation for party positions or nominations as the party’s flag bearer, is increasing.

These tensions are a byproduct of the NRM’s longevity at the top of Uganda’s  politics. With every five year political cycle new entrants into politics start jostling for space with more established politicians, incumbents or otherwise. The NRM’s attraction is that they it is a proven winner and everyone loves a winner. The tensions in other parties in relative terms are much more manageable.

Whereas we would love party reinventions to be as sanitised as the word, often times because of the high political and personal stakes involved, orderly disagreements can quickly descend into bar room brawls with allegiances shifting very quickly.

The stakes are particularly high because this internal contestation for the soul of the party has forced even the most determined fence-seaters to show their hand. One can expect when things calm down there will be bodies strewn all around and many because their commitment wasn’t as definitive one way or the other.

In addition one sees a youthful tendency within the party straining forward to take positions of responsibility. But as they say many are called and few are chosen, the loudest voices now will not necessarily be the biggest winners when the dust settles.

For the opposition, which got a near heart attack, at the show of unity displayed at Kyankwanzi a few weeks ago, they must be praying that the dissension in the NRM ranks continues to fester because, the truth be told, with their own internal polarisations no one has the capacity to take advantage of the NRM’s current problems.

Observers will be best served to hold judgement until much later date.

It is inconceivable that the battle for control of the party will go on indefinitely and jeopardise the party’s ability to mount a successful campaign in 2016. This means that you can expect a few twists and turns in the tale in coming weeks as the NRM negotiates this major turn in its history.

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