President Museveni could be facing fresh unrest inside the ruling party, this time over unmet promises of millions of shillings in financial support to former parliamentary candidates.
Some of the disgruntled members inside the party have now proposed to either picket, or force their way into, State House to demand for what is due to them.
The Observer has seen correspondences between members of the ‘2016 NRM parliamentary flag bearers group’ sent through WhatsApp where these options have been discussed.
“If we stormed State House and ambushed the president, will they kill us? Will they jail us? I think it is better for us to storm and demand to be paid,” one group member posted.
He was supported by another who reminded his colleagues that a soft approach won’t get them anything.
“Gentility has never won anything from NRM, we have in fact been so patient and they cannot accuse us of [bringing the party into] disrepute since we have not leaked this to the media; we go.”
Members of this grouping are drawn from among those who lost the parliamentary election. They plan to ambush Museveni and remind him to pay Shs 20m reportedly promised to each of them in October last year.
The promise is reported to have been made during Museveni’s meeting with more than 600 members of the ruling party’s National Executive council (NEC).
The meeting was held on October 27, 2017 at State House Entebbe to whip up support for the then so-called age limit bill and now Constitution Amendment Act 2017, which scrapped age limits for presidential candidates.
As Museveni asked the NEC members to popularise the amendment, Ibrahim Kitatta, the coordinator of a youth group; Kick Age Limitations Out of the Constitution (KALOC), reportedly advised Museveni to release funds.
“If you want to improve your productivity without increasing acreage, you apply fertilisers,” Kitatta is quoted to have said.
Museveni agreed and fixed another meeting two days later on October 29 to agree on budgets. It was attended by leaders of the various leagues which constitute the NEC.
The NEC includes MPs, district chairpersons and municipal mayoral flag bearers and the women, youth, entrepreneurs, veterans and elders leagues.
On average, each of these groups came up with a Shs 3bn budget. But the 2016 parliamentary losers drew a $5.2 million (Shs 18.7bn) budget which startled Museveni into directing that the figures be reviewed for harmonisation.
“Besides that, he made a promise of Shs 20m to each of us to facilitate our mobilisation. It was not part of the budget, it came out of him because what we had asked for in the budget could not be dealt with at the moment,” a source told The Observer.
According to the source, Museveni’s directive was that his aide Maj Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso begins to pay them effective November 2. Some feel that their leaders could have received the money but were not honest enough to distribute it to all.
The group is led by Dennis Ssekabira (Nakaseke South), Patrick Obura (Oyam South), Juliet Nalunga (Kayunga Woman) and Iddi Isabirye (Bunya South).
Obura, the group’s general secretary, however, told The Observer that no such money was ever promised.
“The only money that the president promised was [for starting] a [savings and credit cooperative] Sacco. He [Museveni] asked us to form a Sacco so that he can facilitate us to engage in developmental projects like agriculture,” Obura said.
Uganda Media Centre boss Ofwono Opondo recently acknowledged that their behind-the-scenes political work had established that a lot of effort would be needed to have the controversial bill accepted by Ugandans.
“Before cabinet came out openly, the president had asked us to go and test the ground and when we came back, we told him that we [government] cannot be bystanders, we must be part of it; take the lead so that the narrative is ours,” Opondo said on January 20.
Opondo, however, denied that Museveni made any financial promises to NRM leaders.
“Your sources are either fabricating or misrepresenting the facts; I don’t remember a time where the president made individual promises for money; if he promised anything, it can be through group Saccos,” Opondo said.
Way back in July 2016, Museveni hosted a dinner for NRM’s district leaders at Hotel Africana, Kampala where the leaders resolved to support the scrapping of presidential age limits. In return, Museveni promised cars for the party’s district chairpersons and motorcycles for the sub-county chairpersons.
Meanwhile, with some members of the WhatsApp group having been in the 9th Parliament, another Museveni promise of Shs 100m each to those who lost their re-election bids has also come up.
The promise was made in April 2016 as MPs debated the Income Tax Amendment Bill 2016 to exempt them from paying taxes on their allowances.
They have since held meetings with Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, Finance minister Matia Kasaija and the prime minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, lobbying them to remind Museveni about the pledge.
On the WhatsApp group, a former minister said he recently met with the state minister for Planning, David Bahati, who informed him that cabinet discussed and agreed to provide for this pledge in the 2018/19 national budget.