Lessons learned from NRM violence

Politics block

The brawls we have witnessed have only helped to draw a bigger picture of what our society turns into when stakes are high.

 by Pamela Ankunda

Since the NRM primaries were held, the party has taken a lot of stick, especially from the opposition, for the way in which the primaries were conducted. Logistical constraints regarding the delivery of ballot papers and the running battles between rival camps have been used by doom sayers to predict the worst come 2011.

I am happy to break the good news: that we are beginning to test the true character of the NRM as a mass party that is evolving into an organization where every individual member has a stake. Finally Ugandans can begin to actively participate in the power that NRM has given them under President Museveni. If tempers didn’t flare, something would just be wrong, for how can a party that is in every corner of Uganda be without fault?

The Baganda say, “empeke y’engano bwefa, ereta ebibala bingi, bwetafa, esigala nga bweri”. Literally-these were the labour pains of the last 24 years of NRM. Even for members of the party that still believe in the individual merit system, we cannot entirely fault them. This is a case of NRM going through hell just to get to heaven. Something must rot before it yields.

Wise people set bars too high because they are not satisfied with mediocrity. In opting for adult suffrage instead of the electoral colleges, the NRM decisively solved the issue of independents. But most importantly, for the first time NRM has given its people a stake in the affairs of their party. Now every member feels obliged to play a part.

Democracy is an unending process that is built, nurtured and grown over a lengthy period of time and numerous sacrifices. That the NRM continues to be a strong and vibrant party in this process is not just miraculous but a statement of its relevance to the people it serves.

The haggling that we saw during the NEC as arguments for or against adult suffrage is evidence that NRM did not exactly expect a smooth ride. Nevertheless the party was determined to go all the way with people power, because the NRM has never shied away from a challenge. That NRM have registered success in over 90 of the 112 districts at the first task is commendable. But we, more than anybody else, realise that more work needs to be done. More sacrifices ought to be offered before one can ably say we have arrived because the struggle still continues.

More good news for NRM is that some parties register and disappear soon after. Others move forth and back, looking for a destiny and a belonging they never realise in their life span due to a lack of clear strategy or short-sighted leadership. The NRM has continuously proven that unlike anybody else, it is willing and able to lead. I am thus confident, that NRM is a party for the future.

The brawls we have witnessed have only helped to draw a bigger picture of what our society turns into when stakes are high. The National Electoral Commission should draw experience from the NRM, to deliver a smooth election, yet we must expect some citizens, even in other parties, to think they are bigger than the parties.

I must admit, transforming a peasant society is a challenge. Yet the NRM continues to do commendable work through its social transformation programmes.

Under the circumstances of peasantry and a growing democracy riddled with numerous challenges not limited to a misguided opposition, NRM has done reasonably well. If anyone still doubts that NRM is popular, NRM primaries have given the ultimate answer. The challenge that remains is ideological and an admission that Uganda has moved from the one party system.

Pamela Ankunda works at the Uganda Media Centre.