There was renewed focus on the youths in the NRM this week, as confusion reigned over planned rival delegates’ conferences.
With one group backing President Museveni and the other behind Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, the youths’ squabbling has once again highlighted persistent rift at the top of the ruling party.
Officially, the pro-Museveni youth delegates’ conference is planned for Thursday in Namboole National Stadium. This group is led by Moses Kiwanuka, the vice chairman NRM Youth League in Eastern Uganda. The Observer understands that they want to denounce and impeach youths led by Adam Luzindana Buyinza, the NRM Youth League vice chairperson in Kampala. Luzindana is the face of the pro-Mbabazi youths.
The Kiwanuka youths accuse the Luzindana group of misrepresenting the party youth league by rejecting the Kyankwanzi resolution that endorsed Museveni to lead NRM into the 2016 elections. The Namboole conference also invited President Museveni as chief guest. But word from the ruling NRM early on Friday indicated that due to the confusion, and fears of commotion, the party had called it off.
Richard Todwong, the minister in charge of Political Mobilisation, confirmed the Namboole meeting had been cancelled due to disorganization amongst the youths.
“The youths wanted to hold the meeting where they want to review their leadership but we advised them to first have an internal meeting,” Todwong said on Friday.
But on Saturday, one of the pro-Museveni youths, Ibrahim Kitatta, insisted in an interview that the meeting was still on. Kitatta doubles as the treasurer of the National youth council and chairperson of the NRM youth league in the central district of Lwengo.
“There has been some disagreements but it has been resolved that the meeting goes on as per our plan because the [NRM] constitution says we must meet at least twice in five years, but it is coming to five years and we have never held any meeting,” Kitatta said by telephone.
With the league’s national Chairman Denis Namara linked to Mbabazi, the Namboole meeting has been called by Moses Kiwanuka, the vice chairperson for Eastern Uganda. This group gained traction after meeting President Museveni on Saturday at State House Entebbe. Todwong, Gen Aronda Nyakairima (Internal Affairs minister) and youth MPs Evelyn Anite (Northern), Patrick Nakabale (central) and Peter Ogwang (Eastern) were some of the attendees of the Saturday meeting at State House.
But Ogwang said the Namboole meeting had been rescheduled to mid-May when Museveni would be able to attend.
“We are waiting for the confirmation of the party chairman because we want him to attend, and we also want the chairman of the youth league [Namara] to formally call it because we are looking at building harmony and cohesion in the party,” Ogwang said Saturday.
Ogwang’s statements are contested by the Kiwanuka group, which points to some confusion within the party’s young Turks. The Namboole meeting was expected to pass a resolution endorsing Museveni’s sole candidature and also to pass a vote of no confidence in some NRM youth league leaders. The targets are Namara and his deputies Omodo-Omodo (Northern), Adam Luzindana (Kampala) and William Sseruyinda (Buganda).
“They are misrepresenting us, the information they are giving out is misleading; we have carried out a survey and have discovered that most young people in Uganda are for Museveni,” Kitatta said. “We want to use this meeting to set the record straight, and also task them to explain the source of the statements they claim to be making on our behalf.”
On the same day, Thursday, the Luzindana group had called an alternative youth conference at Bat Valley to discuss the future of democracy and sustainable peace in Uganda.
“We wanted to discuss how the youths have been marginalized by Museveni’s leadership, oppose the Kyankwanzi resolution, role of youths in transition from Museveni to another person in 2016,” Luzidana told The Observer last week.
Luzindana now says their meeting has been called off because the pro-Museveni youths also called off their Namboole conference.
“We decided not to have it since they have called off the one at Namboole.”
The Luzindana group had invited Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Dr Kizza Besigye as the main guests.
Insider sources familiar with the Mbabazi camp say the prime minister got close to youths in the country after the 2011 general elections. Often working through Luzindana, pro-Mbabazi forces have managed to organize youths into development and discussion groups.
“Luzindana, through an organization called Public Opinion, has convened meetings where we discuss very many issues including the governance of this country and what direction the country should take as well as NRM’s transition,” said one youth leader.
Besides Mbabazi’s wife Jacqueline, Luzindana has become the most prominent face of the undeclared Mbabazi presidential bid. On Monday, The Observer published an opinion in which Luzindana dared Museveni to take on Mbabazi in 2016 so the voters can decide who the ‘real general’ is.
Luzindana was recently charged in the Anti-Corruption court, alongside Omodo-Omodo, for mobilising support for a delegates’ conference that would defeat the Kyankwanzi resolution.
Asked about his activities, Luzindana told The Observer: “We have reached up to the village level in this mobilisation as youth leaders and it is very clear from the findings that the youths want someone who will listen to their concerns like unemployment and poverty.”
The strategy of the pro-Museveni team has been essentially financial, besides using the coercive machinery of the state, especially the police. According to one source, there is a feeling that all the young people want is money. Hence the pro-Museveni camp wants the youths organised to benefit from some of the multi-billion shilling youth programmes.
These include the Youth Capital Venture Fund, the Youth Livelihood Programme and Student Loan Scheme. Emmanuel Kitamirike, the executive director of the Uganda Youth Network, a youth policy think tank, says that youths are a major voice not only within the NRM but also in the opposition.
“It will be unreasonable for a politician to ignore this portion of the population,” he said.
Currently, Uganda has the one of the youngest populations in the world. According to Electoral Commission figures, seven million youths were eligible to vote out of a total of 14.5m voters in the 2011 general polls.