NRM should engage not harass its cadres

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NRM should engage not harass its cadres
Anderson Burora

Duncan Abigaba

On Wednesday last week, I was at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, waiting for my connecting flight to Entebbe, when I received a distressing message from a friend. A friend at the Parliament of Uganda had overheard a youthful Member of Parliament and an ally of Speaker Anita Among, vowing to teach me a lesson, for commenting on the remanded Members of Parliament and Parliament.

I had a conflicted afternoon, debating whether it was safer to check into Nairobi or proceed to Entebbe. Such is the dilemma of everyone speaking against the evil of corruption riddling our country. There is an opportunity cost. Even President Museveni’s tough tone against corruption will win him some enemies. The powerful corruption cartels will pull resources together and arm their opponents.

The threat to me came hot on the heels of several arrests in Kampala. Former Rubaga Deputy RCC, Herbert Anderson Burora, has been in Luzira for over a week, and a lone protester, Fatuma Nansubuga, has been granted bail after a week in Luzira, both linked to demanding accountability from Parliament.

The arrests aren’t only arbitrary but are also irregular if not illegal. I have watched a video clip of Hon. Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga County) alleging the arrest of Burora from his home in Kira Municipality was executed by officers from the Police Station at Parliament. Does the Police Station at Parliament have jurisdiction over Kira Municipality? Was this regular or legal? Can the Uganda Law Society or legal experts expound here?

The use of force is a new phenomenon in the NRM. The NRM has always preferred engagement to the use of state tools such as the Police. When Burora was dismissed from his Deputy RCC job, he had a cordial meeting with the NRM Secretary General, Richard Todwong. The duo discussed the former’s anti-corruption activities. Todwong, though middle-aged, is a product of the old NRA, who believe in engagement, teaching and debate. He didn’t intimidate or arrest Burora.

The absence of an elaborate system to identify, nurture and place cadres, like is done in other revolutionary parties such as CCM in Tanzania, ANC in South Africa, et al, has created a vacuum and allowed neophytes to occupy top positions and misrepresent everything that the NRM fought for. For example, Burora has been in the NRM longer than his tormentors.

The NRM shouldn’t allow the excesses, abuse of power, and corruption of the new leaders to go unchecked. Ignoring these issues will only breed more anger, more so, in the wake of the youth-led reforms in Kenya. Some people have argued that Ugandan youth will never rise to the occasion like their Kenyan counterparts. My response has been standard. Ugandan youth have in the past meted out more violence than Kenya has ever seen. The years between 1971 and 1986 can bear me witness.

At the end of the first week of the Uganda Parliament Exhibition, I proposed to some leaders at Parliament, that the most ideal solution in the interim, was to formally meet the organisers of the exhibition, listen to the major concerns they had raised, receive a copy of the report they had generated and promise to look into the matters. After this cordial meeting, the Speaker could have constituted a team from Parliament to look into these matters or could have forwarded their report to the Committee on Parliamentary and Legal Affairs for further action.

However, both sides preferred not to budge, and so far, the consequences have been dire. We have leaders who have been sanctioned by the United States and the United Kingdom, activists who are in jail, and others who may follow, the reputation of the country is badly damaged, et al, because our new leaders believe in violence, rather than engagement.

The NRM should also start teaching its history to its new leaders.  NRM grew its strength through engagement and negotiation. The government could have probably fallen in its infancy if it weren’t for Gen. Salim Saleh to negotiate with UPDM of Brig. Odong Latek, and other groups that had emerged; UPA, FOBA, WNBF, et al.

In his book, “The Bell is Ringing”, Dr Martin Aliker (RIP) writes that, while negotiating for peace in Northern Uganda, he received several letters from Josephy Kony to President Museveni, asking for medicines for gonorrhoea, diarrhoea and cholera, and to the former’s shock, the President directed Army Commander, Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, to arrange the medicines for delivery to the LRA camps. That is leadership. Leadership isn’t the misuse of authority to tramp on your opponents. It is the ability to solve challenges including those of your enemies, to win them over.

Transparency International ranked Uganda the 26th most corrupt country in the world (26/180 countries). President Museveni has himself been outspoken against corruption in the last few weeks. Therefore, our acute corruption isn’t a creation of the activists like Burora. It has been confirmed by both the national and international actors. Intimidating, harassing, detaining and even wrongfully convicting a few activists will not end the vice. Our leaders need introspection. Coincidentally, the Members of Cabinet, NRM CEC and Permanent Secretaries retreating in Kyankwanzi have the word introspection in their theme. The leaders must sit and engage with the cadres for a win-win situation.

Corruption is slow cancer that scares away foreign investment and tourism and breeds anger, hunger, disease, ignorance, unemployment, poverty, violence and ultimately death.

The writer is a former Presidential Assistant for Research & Information

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