Alienated and demonized by their own party – the ruling NRM, a section of the 27 members who voted against last December’s lifting of the constitutional presidential age limit have signed to join an opposition political grouping.
The group, Parliamentary Forum on Constitutionalism and Rule of Law, was started by Butambala MP Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi with support of some unnamed civil society organisations (CSOs) in July last year.
It came into being shortly before Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi tabled the bill which led to the amendment of the constitution. See: MPs rally against land, age changes in Masaka, The Observer, July 24, 2017.
Since then, the group has been quietly meeting at parliament, and mobilising through a WhatsApp group from which they agreed to launch their countrywide campaign that started last Friday in Mpigi. They were hosted by the district’s Woman MP Sarah Nakawunde Temulanda before heading out to David Kalwanga’s Busujju county and then on to a huge rally at Kibibi in Kivumbi’s Butambala county.
Initially, they wanted to hold small meets in the respective MPs’ constituency homes where they plant a tree in remembrance of their “heroic act” of voting against an amendment that gave President Museveni a new lease of political life, but now, they have added rallies to their weekly programmes.
Temulanda was with fellow NRM MPs; Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North) and Louis Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya) alongside opposition MPs Robert ‘Bobi Wine’ Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality), Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East) and Winnie Kiiza (Kasese Woman).
Others were Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality), Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East), Emmanuel Ssempala Kigozi (Makindye Ssabagabo), Kalwanga and Kivumbi.
Ssemujju told The Observer that the group is bigger than those who attended the Friday launch.
“Ideally, all MPs that voted against the age limit bill, plus those of us who had been suspended, are members of the forum, and in our meetings, we have a big attendance of our NRM colleagues,” Ssemujju said.
The disaffected MPs were encouraged to join the forum after the NRM leadership decided to lock them out of ruling party activities. For instance, as the NRM dished out cash to its MPs to mobilise for the LC-I elections last July, none of the 27 MPs touched the money. Instead, the party deployed other people to do its work in constituencies represented by the ‘rebels’.
Some, like Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo photographed army representative. Col Phinehas Katirima who was sent to Lwemiyaga to distribute the cash, and used the photographs to write a petition against Katirima, accusing him of taking part in partisan politics yet he is a serving army officer.
“Increasingly, NRM MPs are realising that Museveni and NRM are no longer key factors to winning an election. Nearly 50 percent of those in NRM lose because of their conduct, and at elections, Museveni minds about his campaign, not anyone else’s campaign,” Ssemujju said.
2 YEARS, 2 MONTHS
In Butambala, the group rooted for another regime renegade, the former Kampala resident city commissioner (RCC) Aisha Kabanda. Until July this year, Kabanda was a rabid NRM functionary. Kabanda was the NRM candidate for the Butambala Woman MP seat but lost to Independent Lydia Mirembe.
Because Mirembe voted for the ‘age limit bill,’ the opposition forces are all out against her, and promoting Kabanda who is now more allied to Basalirwa’s Justice Forum (JEEMA) party.
The mammoth crowd at Kibibi cheered as speaker after speaker spoke of the former RCC who was resplendent in a flowing red gown, complete with a red Islamic veil and the symbolic ‘People Power’ red beret.
“You know what to do with those that voted for the amendment, and you know what to do for those that voted against it,” Kyagulanyi told the crowd as he went to urge youths as young as 16 years to apply for National IDs in preparation for the 2021 elections.
“We have embarked on a mission which we have to complete in two years and two months by getting Museveni out of power,” Kagulanyi said.
The MPs also spoke about their efforts to have joint candidates for all elective positions in 2021 as a sure way of ending Museveni’s dominance of Uganda’s politics.
“Under the forum, we are able to unite irrespective of our political affiliations, and, we feel that unity should not be lost as we move towards 2021,” Ssemujju said.
The group’s next engagements will be this Friday (November 9) in Makindye Ssabagabo municipality while next week, they will be in Kyagulanyi’s Kyadondo East and Ssemujju’s Kira municipality.