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NRM support fading – Otafiire

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Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, this week became the latest senior member of the ruling party to point out that Uganda is suffering from a crisis of political leadership.

“We need rekindling of the revolutionary spirit. It is the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to go back to the original plans as stipulated in the Ten Point Programme. The problems affecting the party today are rooted from failure to respect this,” Gen. Otafiire said two days ago.

The minister backed the emerging view that a failure by leaders of the National Resistance Movement, who he did not name, to respect the ideals of its Ten Point Programme explains the unrest compounded by accusations of widespread corruption which threaten to tear it apart.

“For the welfare of this country, we have to stay focused… This country cannot be run in zigzag. I am firm and principled. We have to go back to our core values that took us to the bush in 1981, where many Ugandans sacrificed and shed their blood,” Gen. Otafiire said.

The minister pointed that the party’s popularity is on the decline, backing it with the recent loss in two parliamentary by-elections in a space of three months. “The NRM needs to regain a sense of direction and come back to the original position,” explained Gen. Otafiire, adding that the losses in by-elections recently held in Luwero and Jinja this week, are a reflection of the party’s diminished popularity.

A small but increasingly influential faction of mainly young party cadre inside Parliament betray a similar nostalgia when they say they are unhappy at the way President Museveni, who came to power after a five-year bush fought on the promise to restore democratic government and respect for the rule of law, is running things.

Speaking at the memorial service of his departed wife, Winnie, held at Kashenshero Town in Mitooma District, the ruling party historical member observed that Ugandans at lower levels of society are wallowing in poverty while few selfish individuals continue to benefit from State patronage.

He said that Uganda has gone through many seasons of indifference, intrigue, inconsideration and backward movement. It is time for those in leadership positions to rethink the country’s destiny, the minister said.

Gen. Otafiire said although many of his colleagues don’t like to hear his honest position, “there must be a beginning and the end,” a suggestion which resonates with other calls for the opening up of discussions about who will replace President Museveni as the next leader of Uganda.

The minister’s remarks are fresh evidence that the ruling party is not merely struggling with the usual tensions which have at various times marked its 26-year presence at the helm of Uganda, but a deeper expression of a hankering for change.

Dr Kizza Besigye, who today heads the opposition Forum for Democratic Change party, represents the more visible first wave of separations when he fell out with President Museveni in 2001 upon publishing a hard-hitting critique which pointed out how undemocratic the system had become.

Now joined by scores of former regime insiders, he remains an uncompromising critic, reminding Ugandans of the reversals which have led to loss of respect for human rights and freedoms, disregard for the rule of law and collapse of accountable governance, which were central themes in the Ten Point Programme.

Only last week, Sunday Monitor carried an interview in which another historical, Brig. Kasirye Ggwanga, poured out his frustrations over the manner of promotions in the army which he said have become unfair and driven by tribal considerations.

Brig. Ggwanga said the tribalism exposed the falsehood in claims that an army which is truly national in character as demanded by the Constitution has been built.

Yesterday, Dr Besigye described Gen. Otafiire’s remarks as a “writing on the wall’ which has been evident for the last 20 years.

“But the fact is that NRM lost its way and itself,” said the man who retired from that army at the rank of colonel to mount hard-fought challenges to Museveni’s leadership in the 2001, 2006 and 2011 polls.

“There is no NRM without [President] Museveni and the question is whether those who are still hostage under him can do anything to liberate themselves,” he added.

NRM spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut was unavailable for comment as she was reportedly attending to guests.

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