Is the NRM now a mourdant organisation hurtling towards history’s oft unflattering heap of once promising African Political Organisations?

By: Andrew ‘Pi’ Besi


“So corruption is the instrument of swarming mediocrity, and you will feel its point everywhere. You will see wives whose husbands have six thousand francs a year, all told, spend more than ten thousand on a dress. You will see officials with a salary of twelve hundred francs buy estates.” – Honoré de Balzac

Nearly a fortnight ago, President Museveni arrived in Bukedea district to officially open Bukedea Teaching Hospital constructed, in its entirety, by House Speaker Mrs. Anita Magogo, more commonly, Anita Annet Among (AAA).

At the time, as veteran journalist Andrew Mwenda accurately writes, the “cry on social media against our looting speaker” was almost as loud as Joshua’s trumpet march around the walls of Jericho.

Mr. Mwenda argues that AAA has been a “very effective speaker” because “most of her loot is used for political purposes – to buy off MPs, to ensure the house serves the president and the NRM agenda.” The result,he adds, is that she has “tamed parliament, making Museveni’s job easier.”

In 1961, Uganda, like most of Africa, clamored for independence from our colonial overlords. The main political actors of Uganda were Mr. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic party, Mr. Milton Obote whose Uganda National Congress had merged with the Uganda Peoples Union in March 1960 to form the Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC), and the Kabaka Yekka party that was loyal to Buganda’s King Freddie.

By September 1972, only ten years after our independence, Mr. Benedicto Kiwanuka was dead, murdered by a rapacious Idi Amin regime. Mr. Apollo Obote, like a young Museveni and thousands of other Ugandans was in exile.

The New York Times in a November 1972 column wrote of Idi Amin as a  “seemingly punchdrunk President” whose dreams “have transformed life in his lush, landlocked East African state into a nightmare of terror for inhabitants of all hues.”

Starting February 6th, 1981, these inhabitants of all hues had, with the help of Mwalimu Nyerere rid themselves of Idi Amin (April 1979) and were now flocking to Luweero’s thickets and bushes in armed rebellion against Obote’s second stint as president. Many joined and supported the National Resistance Army (NRA) of Yoweri Museveni and its political wing -the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

The NRA/M appealed to both the educated elite as well as the peasants because its leadership preached an ideology in which the rights of all citizens (d)evolved through the ideals of true democracy as the cynosure of universal realisation of socio-economic transformation.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the NRA/M emerged as victors when they captured Kampala on January 26th, 1986. Three days later, on the steps of our Parliament buildings; in front of a large and excited crowd; Mr. Museveni cautioned that this was not “a mere change of guards with one group getting rid of another group and being worse than those they got rid of.” It was, he declared to applause, “a fundamental change in the politics of our country.”

Therefore, the violence of the Luweero bush war had finally rid our country of the violent products (Obote, Amin, and the Okello junta) of a violent colonial process.

The NRM’s first ten years at the helm of our politics were spectacular. Spectacular in the sense that for the first time in our nearly 500-year history, the Africans of Uganda wrote our constitution, promulgated in 1995. A year later, to international acclaim,  we went to the polls and elected our leaders in Local Council, Parliament, and Presidential elections.

Our optimism in the NRM was so vibrant that from it sprung the revolutionary Rwanda Patriotic Front(RPF) that captured Kigali in July 1994. It was the NRA/M working with the RPF that, in May 1997, supported the people of Zaire to rid themselves of Mobutu and his corruption.

This national democratic optimism was not lost on Mrs. Clinton, who on an official visit with President Clinton in 1998 addressed faculty and students of Makerere University thus: Today we stand in admiration of what you are doing now to build a better future. And we will look to you …to show us how people develop new habits of the heart, to make it clear that every person is worthy of dignity and respect, and that peace and freedom, democracy …will always be part of Uganda’s life.

Today, this optimism has given way to pessimism. Each single year, our House – like our civil service- descends into a deeper gutter of Corruption. At present count, the Inspectorate of Government estimates that, each year, at least 10 trillion shillings is lost through corruption.

All those we report Corruption cases to, smile and then go ahead to allow themselves to be bribed.  Which is why, perhaps, just last week, officials at the Ministry of Finance announced that retiring Auditor General Muwanga would be given akasiimo of Ugx 500m (equivalent to a 2 bedroom house in Kiira Municipality), retain his annual salary and attendant perks for life. AAA and Parliament, embroiled in a scandal in which more than Ugx 1.5bn was stealthily parceled out to 4 commissioners, were quick to approve this. They could not be bothered that teachers in public schools, nurses in our overwhelmed under equipped health facilities, cleaners and garbage collectors in our municipalities,privates; corporals and sergeants in our security forces, and other mistreated low rank workers in our MDAs such as myself, are denied these exorbitant privileges.

These actions and more, all on Mr. Museveni’s watch show the NRM-O as an organisation thriving on corruption and whose promise to build a ‘modern integrated and self-sustaining economy’ leading to realisation of universal socio-economic transformation, is long lost to Mobutu’s dictate of Yibana Mayele – Kleptocracy!

Yes, it has been argued, most passionately by leading NRM ideologues, that tolerance of such corrupt practices serves to spur the emergence of a local capitalist class. What then, I ask, distinguishes the NRM-O in its current guise from the absurdity that was Amin’s (or Mobutu’s) regime?

We were promised a fundamental change. Instead, since 2013, with each new cycle of time, we the ordinary folk are reduced to a “swarming mediocrity”! No wonder then, that AAA like many others within the high offices of State and within the party, who earn “six thousand francs a year” can spend “more than ten thousand on a dress”and “buy estates.”

I am not sure I can now proudly proclaim, as I have for 30 years, that the NRM is best for Uganda. I fear it has become a mourdant organisation hurtling towards history’s oft-unflattering heap of once-promising African Political Organisations. Unless of course…

The writer is a #Uganda-n Optimist teetering on Pessimism   

X: @BesiAndrew


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