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NRM Oldies Struggle to Push Back Against a Youth Insurgence

The struggle for the soul of the National Resistance Movement - NRM between the young and old generation is taking shape.

The older generation is determined not to let go and the young generation is vowing to wrestle power from them. Save for the position of the National Chairman held by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who is insulated from competition, the other positions are up for grabs and the older generation is struggling to stave off the surging youth wave.

Most of the NRM positions in the Central Executive Committee, are held by people above the age of 50 but are determined to continue hanging on. For all the young generation who were nominated today, the message to their seniors is the same; the bell is ringing.

Is it Dr. Samuel Odongo who is contesting against Sam Engola for the northern region vice chairmanship position or its Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi, who is challenging Hajji Abdul Nadduli for the Central region vice chairmanship position; all are saying, the seniors have done their work and it’s time to go.

Odongo who is 35-years old says they represent the presence of the party, not the future.  He says the current leaders of the party have run their race and need to be replaced with more energetic people who understand the problems the country is facing.

But his opponent, Sam Engola dismissed his talk as rumblings which should be disregarded. Engola said leadership is a serious business that needs calmness and maturity. He advised Odongo and his tribe to wait until such a time when they have learned from the leaders. 

For Kiwanda, the minister of state for tourism, this is the time for people like Nadduli to step aside and watch those they have helped mentor take on the challenge. He said its good governance practice for the elders to watch as the young generation replaces them such that when they make a mistake, they are still present to correct them.   

But Kiwanda had an immediate response from Nadduli who was also nominated today as the vice chairman for the central region. Nadduli used the analogy of a mango arguing that the yellow which is ripe is the most sought after not the young one which is green.

Captain Mike Mukula who is contesting for vice-chairperson eastern also pushed back on the idea that it’s time for the youth. He said for him to be able to sit at the highest echelon of the party, it has taken him a lot of time, training, and taking on smaller leadership positions. He wants the youth to borrow a leaf.

However, the greatest pushback came from Retired Maj. Gen. Matayo Kyaligonza who is trying to maintain his grip on the vice chairmanship of western Uganda. He is contesting with Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, Dr. Deen Kisembo, Col. Shaban Bantariza, Florence Kintu Tumwine, and Boaz Kafuda.

Kyaligonza says the young people have no business wanting to replace them now because they don’t know anything about Uganda’s past. He says if they want to take over leadership, they must wait for them to either die or become incapable of leading.

Even when President Museveni is older than many of the current leaders of the NRM, no one is mentioning it. It’s the reason why the national vice-chairperson female, Rebecca Kadaga complained about while meeting NRM chairpersons at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala over the weekend. She wondered if she of 60 years is considered old, what about President Museveni of 75. But every time journalists put this to those drawing the age card, they would quickly run in the defense of Museveni.

Persis Namuganza, the state minister of lands who is challenging Kadaga for the national vice-chairperson female said, Museveni, can’t be ramped in the same basket with the likes of Kadaga because he’s the engine of the party.

Failure of social distancing

If there is anything that the NRM nominations have showed, is the folly that somehow you can enforce social distance rules while people are campaigning.

According to the ministry of health guidelines on the prevention of the spread of the Coronavirus, people must be two meters of each other. However, throughout the nominations, people were freely mixing some with and others without masks. For contestants, like Persis Namuganza and Mike Mukula, they came with more than 30 supporters who kept on chanting their slogans while freely mixing forgetting there has ever been COVID-19 in the country.

The Electoral Commission banned public gatherings for the same reasons on COVID-19 spread despite a push back from opposition politicians. The NRM primaries have now shown the amount of work ahead of the Electoral Commission, the ministry of health and the law enforcement as the country moves full-throttle into 2021.