Last week in a meeting of the ruling National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) top organ the reminiscences of historical members were cut short when the leader of the youth wing Dennis Namara said the youth were tired of the stories and were more interested in what the NRM can do for them.
He was reportedly shouted down by older members who demanded that he show respect for his elders and take back his words.
It was a telling moment that was drowned out by the business of the day, which was to decide on the fate of the party’s Secretary General Amama Mbabazi who, along with his wife, was accused of creating dissension in the party’s ranks.
The NRM has its roots in the youth movement of the sixties that missed out on the colonial struggle, but, which disgruntled with the way the country was being run in the 1960s ,70s and 80s took it upon itself to cause the change they were looking for.
Those same youth are now an older generation, while not too long in the tooth, are losing or have lost touch, with the new youth whose perspective is being shaped by western standards and not the anti-colonial struggles or the fight against post-independence dictators.
There aspire to a lifestyle modelled on what the media feeds them, one of unbridled freedom, boundless affluence but one too, in which they have a say as to how their society is governed.
The NRM has been quite successful in harnessing the youth’s energies to keep in power not only creating youth seats in parliament but also allowing a lot of upstarts across the political divide to challenge for elective office, a situation that may not have arisen in more mature democracies.
The youth have taken the inch and now they want a mile.
"NRM can easily become a victim of its own success if it does not move quickly to embrace the youth, as part of the way to reinvent itself from a party whose glory days are long gone and remain as warm memories in the elders of the party, to a party in step with the times and reflecting the aspirations of majority of Ugandans...
It’s only natural that the firebrands of yesteryear become the fuddy-duddys of the present, demanding respect, not averse to setting the younger people in their place and keen to douse out any revolutionary fervour.
NRM can easily become a victim of its own success if it does not move quickly to embrace the youth, as part of the way to reinvent itself from a party whose glory days are long gone and remain as warm memories in the elders of the party, to a party in step with the times and reflecting the aspirations of majority of Ugandans.
Because like it or not time and the numbers are on the youth’s side.
Statistics are hard to come by easily more than two thirds of adults of voting age are between the age of 18 and 35, the age range where he historical depth from which Uganda has risen are not even a fading memory.
For the politically ambitious the NRM remains an attractive proposition. It’s the only political organisation with a true nationwide reach. Believe it or not it still living off the momentum from reconstructing the economy and returning a sense of stability to the nation.
The NRM has always argued that internal friction is good for the party, allowing it to stay in touch with popular sentiment, take note of divergent opinion and weed out the elements who no longer share the collective vision.
And it is true, just like for natural organisms that grow stronger through some exposure to disease and stress so too should a good party. To shield a party from internal debate and disagreement is to consign it to a slow death.
Love them or hate them whatever happens in the NRM colours Uganda’s political landscape. But for the NRM too they should remember that the rabble rousers of today will be at the helm of affairs in the not so distant future. The question is will they be with or against the NRM?