Minister says ex-premier only has the title, but is no longer NRM secretary general
The well-oiled campaign machine to oust Amama Mbabazi from the position of NRM secretary general has morphed into the final phase with a countrywide mobilisation exercise.
Even as Mbabazi, who was last month relieved of his other high profile job as prime minister, called NRM’s top organ, the Central Executive Committee, for meeting in Kampala yesterday, at least four ministers and other party officials were traversing the countryside drumming up support for his removal.
Two of these ministers told separate meetings in eastern Uganda and in Masaka, that Mbabazi was no longer secretary general. They urged local NRM leaders not to deal with Mbabazi on matters relating to that office.
Rosemary Namayanja Nsereko (Information and National Guidance) and Justine Kasule Lumumba (Chief Whip), however, gave conflicting information with regard to Mbabazi’s successor. Speaking in Masaka on Tuesday, Namayanja said President Museveni, the party chairman, had assumed Mbabazi’s roles, while in the Elgon sub-region Lumumba pointed to Richard Todwong, the minister in charge of Political Mobilisation as the de facto secretary general.
“The NRM constitution gives [the chairman] powers to take on all SG’s roles if the SG does not move in consonance with the agreed positions,” Namayanja told a meeting of Kalungu NRM leaders at Yesu Akwagala High School in Kyamuliibwa.
Namayanja had earlier been asked to explain the ongoing “circus” between President Museveni and his former confidant Mbabazi.
Just a title
The NRM leaders suggested that they would continue relating with Mbabazi by virtue of his position as secretary general but Namayanja poured cold water on that. She said Mbabazi, who was elected secretary general during the NRM delegates’ conference at Namboole stadium in 2010, now has just the title but not the position.
“It is not a circus; the truth is, the two comrades [Mbabazi and Museveni] fell out and it is part of the reason why I am here to confirm to you that what you have been hearing is real,” Namayanja said.
The minister, one of those mentioned as a possible post-Mbabazi secretary general, heads the team dispatched by the NRM chairman to monitor the delivery of services, build party cohesion and rejuvenate the party’s grassroots structures in Buganda region.
Lumumba heads the eastern region team, while Frank Tumwebaze, the minister for the Presidency and Kampala, is in charge of western Uganda, and Todwong has taken charge of the north. Although their assignment says otherwise, it is believed that the real essence of the tours is to prepare the ground for Mbabazi’s removal.
Lumumba told NRM supporters in Manafwa district on Monday that the party had upheld a resolution that Todwong replaces Mbabazi as secretary general, in acting capacity, until fresh elections are held next year.
“Mr Todwong was appointed by the NRM caucus sitting in Entebbe early this year to act in the position of secretary general. Therefore, Mr Mbabazi was relieved of this docket and should not be allowed to hold any activities whatsoever on behalf of the party till fresh elections are held,” she said, according to Daily Monitor.
Interestingly, some NRM leaders had been quick to suggest, in the aftermath of his sacking, that Mbabazi was relieved of his duties so as to concentrate on his job as secretary general. Mbabazi himself has repeatedly said that he will continue to do his work for the party.
Indeed, this week he sent out letters inviting CEC members to yesterday’s meeting, his first notable action as secretary general. However, given the pressure mounting on him to quit or be removed, it could well be his last.
Stuck with him
Nevertheless, Ofwono Opondo, the NRM deputy spokesman, told The Observer on Thursday that Mbabazi was still the substantive secretary general with Todwong only assigned specific party activities.
“No one can replace Mbabazi; not even the CEC (Central Executive Committee),” Opondo clarified.
“Even if CEC took that decision, it cannot be effective until the national delegates’ conference that elected him is convened to endorse it,” he added.
Opondo further revealed that Mbabazi had reported at his NRM office between Monday and Wednesday this week to perform his duties. The minister-led regional teams arose from the recommendations of two internal reports – the Museveni sole candidate popularisation, and the chaotic 2010 NRM primaries.
In the countryside, the ministers are delivering a message from President Museveni packaged in a 10-page document. This message is to be distributed right up to the village level, The Observer has learnt. The document details the NRM government’s record in service delivery and makes a case for sticking with the ruling party.
The meetings, according to our sources, are attracting at least 120 delegates per district and each is paid a transport refund of Shs 100,000. MPs, on the other hand, are getting Shs 300,000.
President Museveni last month told NRM MPs during a meeting at State House, Entebbe that he would invoke his powers in the NRM constitution to take up Mbabazi’s roles because he (Mbabazi) was not “forthcoming.”
His ministers now appear to be on a mission to prepare the ground for a vote of no confidence against Mbabazi.
Meanwhile, two sets of youths on Wednesday added their voice to the chorus of NRM elements calling for Mbabazi’s resignation. At Makerere university, youths led by Ibrahim Kitatta, the NRM youth chairman for Lwengo, said Mbabazi had continued to undermine the party. He urged him to resign, threatening to force him out if he doesn’t oblige.
“He continues to meet people to sow seeds of confusion. Our constitution does not allow formation of factions and since we want to save our party from demise, we suggest that Mbabazi resigns,” Kitatta said, displaying a petition addressed to the party chairman, calling Mbabazi’s suspension pending a vote of no confidence.
Kitatta claimed the youths had so far collected 200 signatures and their target was to collect at least 1,200 (which constitutes one third of NRM delegates needed to force the party to convene a national conference). At the NRM headquarters along Kyadondo road on Wednesday, seven out of the 12 NRM youth league executive members resolved not to recognise Mbabazi as their secretary general.
Led by Robert Rutaro (secretary general youth league), the youths said they were withdrawing their recognition because Mbabazi had adopted an anti-NRM agenda. The youths asked the NRM chairman to invoke article 14 (1) (h) of the party constitution and immediately assume all powers and responsibilities of the secretary general’s office “for the good, harmony and proper implementation of NRM policies and programmes”.
Rutaro added that should their demands be ignored, they would demonstrate. Commenting on this state of affairs yesterday, Asuman Kiyingi, the minister of state for Foreign Affairs in charge of Regional Affairs, said the current confusion over Mbabazi’s role had been brought on by the failure of some NRM leaders to adhere to the Kyankwanzi resolution.
“If we had all stuck to the Kyankwanzi resolution, all this disunity, acrimony, hate and bunkenke [tension] would have been avoided,” he said.
“But see the mess we are dragging ourselves into.”
Report compiled by Sadab Kitatta Kaaya, Edris Kiggundu and Deo Walusimbi.