Uganda: Why MPs Scramble to Beg Museveni to Contest

The 2021 presidential elections might be about two years ahead, but the drumming and soliciting for support among the different political camps is an undisputed reality at the moment.

With the Opposition still embroiled in some bit of who claims command over the crowds, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) is tightening the noose around the Opposition by organising their camp early.

If readiness is the determinant for winning an election, the NRM architects have already prioritised some of the key packages to sell to the electorates. One of the packages is having the different party organs endorsing President Museveni’s sole candidature.

First it was the party’s central executive committee (CEC) retreat at Chobe Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park at the end of January that came up with a recommendation to the different party organs to support a proposal for Mr Museveni to continue leading NRM as national chairman and head of State in 2021 and beyond.

Endorsing the CEC resolution was the NRM parliamentary caucus retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi District about 10 days ago, which unanimously passed a resolution to back Mr Museveni for sole candidature.

Mr Museveni, in power for 33 years, also proudly accepted the caucus resolution, saying: “I am convinced that together, we can make NRM invulnerable.”

Preceding the Sunday March 17 resolution, sources told this newspaper that the scramble for who among the MPs would move the motion was very competitive.

Highly placed sources within the caucus told this reporter that not less than 10 MPs were seeking to take to the podium to move the motion.

However, it was MP for people with disabilities (PWDs) for eastern Uganda, Ms Hellen Grace Asamo, that moved the motion. Our sources say it was a decision taken by the caucus because she was not among those scrambling for a moment on the podium.

A prominent member of the caucus told this reporter on condition of anonymity that many of the MPs were struggling to take on the task of moving the motion in Kyankwanzi to get the attention of the President.

“There were a lot more people who wanted to make it, but of course we had to choose one based on the reasons best known to the caucus. We saw that majority of those intending to move the motion were looking at ministerial appointments,” the source said.

It was the same podium that in 2014, Ms Evelyn Anite, now State minister for Privatisation and Investment, famously walked down from to kneel and ask President Museveni to be the sole candidate for the party.

Then Youth MP for Northern Uganda, Ms Anite would within months be rewarded with a ministerial position, holding the portfolio of State minister for Youth and Children Affairs. She made history when her motion was seconded by way of signing by at least 190 MPs before moving it.

Therefore, would the MPs who were fighting to move the motion in Kyankwanzi recently targeting the same soft landing that Ms Anite achieved?

“It is not my aspiration. I am a staunch member of the party and I am already a chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee of Parliament. As a person with disability, the President has done a lot for us and we did not do anything for him to bring us out of marginalisation,” says eventual motion mover Asamo told Sunday Monitor.

Picked pace

Much as the age limit debate picked pace in 2017 when Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi moved a private member’s motion seeking an amendment of the Constitution to remove Article 102b, his Nakifuma County colleague Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko had failed at the first attempt to cease the opportunity to move the matter in 2016.

Whereas Mr Ssekitoleko’s Bill was supposed to address a need to lift the retirement age for judges from 70 to 75 years, Mr Magyezi’s generally targeted the lifting of presidential age limit from the lower cap of 35 to 18 years and upper cap from 75 years.

Mr Ssekitoleko’s motion was rejected by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on September 14, 2016, who said she did not see “from the MP’s justification, the urgency for us to allow him to bring the Bill”.

The Speaker at that time ordered government to expedite the process of tabling on the floor of the House comprehensive amendments and put the issue to rest.

Just a year later, Ms Kadaga on September 27, 2017, presided over a sitting that granted leave to Mr Magyezi to draft the age limit Bill.

Mr Ssekitoleko told Sunday Monitor recently that much as his proposed private member’s Bill was only aimed at amending Article 144 of the Constitution to raise the retirement age of judges to 75, some MPs started speculating that if granted leave, issues to do with the age limit for the President would come in.

He says as a member of the NRM, being elevated to the front bench was not his motivation because judges are not the appointing authority.

“Mine was only purely looking at the usefulness of the judges who by law retire at the age of 60. Others have retired, and then get hired, which means they are still useful. What I did not know was that my proposal for an amendment would be the basis for others, especially honourable Magyezi to move a Bill to remove age limits of the president,” he says.

However, his recent appointment as chairperson of the Committee on Infrastructure was seen by some as a reward for mooting the initial proposal to amend the Constitution.

President Museveni is expected to make a mid-term Cabinet reshuffle and many political observers think Mr Magyezi will make the list as a reward for his resilience in tabling the age limit Bill.


In other changes within Parliament, some of the MPs who voted against the lifting of presidential age limit have since been reshuffled by the Government Chief Whip as committee chairpersons. Some of those who supported the amendment have since been elevated to committee chairpersons.

Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko, another passionate opponent of the removal of age limit, was dropped as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Committee. He was replaced by Ms Hellen Asamo (PWDs, Eastern).

Fort Portal Municipality MP Alex Ruhunda (Trade and Tourism), Rubanda West MP Denis Sabiiti (Infrastructure), Buvuma Islands MP Robert Migadde (vice chairperson Agriculture committee), Amuria Woman MP Susan Amero (vice chair Presidential Affairs), and Mbale Woman MP Connie Nakayenze (Education and Sports) are the other MPs who were dropped from committee leadership positions.

Amolatar Woman MP Doreen Amule, who was the seconder of the motion that introduced the contentious age limit Bill, is one of the major beneficiaries of the reshuffle as she is the new chairperson of the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee.

She replaced Mityana Woman MP Judith Nabakooba, who was often accused by members of the committee of being soft on witnesses from security agencies.

Dokolo North County MP Paul Amoru, who was among the most enthusiastic supporters of the age limit Bill, is the new vice chairperson of the Committee on Information and Communication Technology.

Kanungu Woman MP Elizabeth Karungi is the new vice chairperson of the Public Service Committee.

Other new entrants to committee leadership positions are Kyenjojo Woman MP Spellanza Baguma (vice chairperson, Health), Ora County MP Lawrence Biyika (vice chairperson Natural Resources) and Kigulu North County MP Fred Bwino (vice chair, Science and Technology).

Positions for committee leadership are coveted because chairpersons take home Shs2.4m per month while their deputies earn Shs1.8m monthly. These payments attract a 40 per cent tax.

Committee leaders also determine which MP goes for highly-desired trips abroad as legislators are entitled to per diem of $700 (Shs2.6m) for foreign travels each day.


Much as MPs who catch the eye of the appointing authority seem to be rewarded, their NRM colleagues who do the opposite tend to get punished. Some have been referred to as “rebel MPs” and are not entertained in caucus meetings.

Such MPs were not invited to the just concluded Kyankwanzi retreat. They include Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Manjiya County MP John Baptist Nambeshe, Kasambya County MP Gaffa Mbwatekamwa, Kumi Woman MP Monicah Amoding, Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo and Kassanda North MP Patrick Oshabe, among others.

Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa told journalists in Kyankwanzi that she did not invite the “rebel MPs” because they abandoned the party colours and have “been moving with the Opposition”.

Some of these MPs have opposed Mr Museveni’s grip on power and feel it is time for NRM to provide the country with another leader to breathe new air in the country.


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Publish date : 2019-04-01 07:08:18

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