By Nkonge I Kaggwa in Kampala, Uganda
Members of Uganda’s ruling political party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) have dealt a stunning blow to the country’s 30-year leader Yoweri Museveni by rejecting a number of NRM’s leading government ministers and officials during the party’s primary elections held on Tuesday. In what will be seen clearly as a sign by the party that those serving in the NRM have long gone past their sell by dates, NRM voters looked like they were sending a message to Mr Museveni that they no longer had confidence in his leadership.
Among the bigwigs who lost in the primaries was Gen Kahinda Otafiire often referred to as ‘a historical’ (those who fought with Museveni in the four-year bush war that propelled the NRM into power). He is among NRM leaders who have held a ministerial or high ranking position in the NRM since it came to power in 1986. Gen Otafiire is currently Minister of Justice. Others who were rejected by the party include former Minister of Information and National Guidance Kabakumba Matsiko, Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere – Minister in charge of general duties in the Prime Minister’s office, Nyombi Thembo – minister in charge of ICT, Emmanuel Dombo – commissioner to parliament, Vincent Nyanzi – Minister of State in the Vice President’s office, Sylivia Namabidde – Minister of State in charge of international cooperation, Asumani Kiyingi who is Minister of State for Works, Peter Nyombi – a former Attorney General, Daudi Migereko – Minister of Lands , Sulaiman Madada – Minister of State for Gender in charge of the old and disabled, Sezi Mbaguta – Minister of Public Services, Kiddhu Makubuya – former minister of Justice, James Kakooza – former Minister of State for Health, Syda Bumba – former minister of Finance and Economic Finance, Maj Jessica Arupo – Minister of Education and sports, Kamanda Batarigaya – Minister of State for Education, Adolf Mwesigye – Minister of Local Government, Sarah Opendi – Minister of Health, Aston Kajara – Minister of State for Finance were also among the many that lost the in the NRM primaries.
Addressing the media, Jacob Oulanyah who is Deputy Speaker of the Uganda Parliament blamed the result on the NRM not having ‘sufficient time, resources and personnel to deliver an adult suffrage election free of irregularities’. Mr Oulanyah who won his primary elections, told the media in Kampala that all those who lost should concede and the country moves on. “Peasants are now tired of ministers. They know what they are doing and their voice shouldn’t be taken for granted,” he said. He added: “This election is just a reflection of what is likely to happen in the general elections (due February next year).” A political scientist from one of Uganda’s leading universities who spoke to us on condition he was not named, described the results of the NRM primaries as a vote of no confidence in the current government. “This kind of election is just a sign that Mr Museveni should think twice. This is a vote of no confidence in his government. All these ministers and members of parliament losing mean a lot to him and show what is more likely to happen in the forthcoming elections,” he stressed. Some of the NRM voters who spoke to The London Evening Post explained that they voted out the ministers because ‘they only accumulated wealth for themselves instead of working for the people’. “These people have plundered a lot. We are very poor, have no jobs, the roads are impassable in the rural areas, people are suffering a lot at the hands of these people. Let the youth and fresh brains also have something to eat,” a resident of Kasubi a Kampala suburb said. Prof Tanga Odoi, NRM’s Electoral Commission chairperson quashed calls for him to resign. “Resign? Resign over what? I and my fellow commissioners have organized a good election that everyone must appreciate and cherish. All these people who fought the elections thought we could declare all of them winners,” he said.