SIRONKO – On 15 January, Mr Richard Todwong, the National Resistance Movement party secretary general presided over a dialogue meeting “re-union” between various factions of NRM in Sironko in Sironko.
Mr Todwong gathered all NRM leaders in Sironko district to begin the process of reconciling the factions following the bitter standoff between various NRM leaders after the 2021 party primaries and the general elections that raised the specter of conflict and hatred.
Mr Todwong asked warring NRM party leaders in Sironko district to reconcile and work together to implement government programmes.
“Disorganized majority can become a minority. For instance, Sironko is NRM but it is now led by opposition leaders. To change this, you need to reconcile and work together as NRM leaders,” Mr Todwong told the NRM dialogue meeting in Sironko.
Up to then, all parties had refused to participate in talks. In their appearance at the meeting, Mr Todwong said, “We will begin a process of discussing what is hurting us and what creates division among us.” Mr Todong added “it was time to resolve our differences as NRM.”
The first fallout came out of the disputed NRM primary elections to choose the flag bearer as all the losers refused to concede defeat alleging that the NRM elections were marred by bribery, fraud and malpractices.
There have been conflicts, hatred between reigning Woman MP Ms Florence Nambozo with Ms Aisha Nambozo Lumolo, then Mr Julius Nakiyi Vs Mr Vincent Woboya who both lost in the Budadiri East parliamentary seat, then NRM district political leaders Vs Mr Suleiman Lumolo, the district chairman NRM and there were sections of NRM supporters who also had grievances towards the headquarters, in Kyadondo.
Mr Woboya and Mr Nakiyi, Ms Nambozo and Ms Aisha Lumolo have been rivaling over supremacy in politics of Sironko district, particularly for Budadiri East constituency and district Woman MP respectively.
The district NRM party has been locked up in political wrangles which have divided the supporters into rival camps.
Although Ms Aisha Lumolo claims that Ms Nambozo does not have the required academic qualifications to be in parliament and therefore dragged her to court, Ms Nambozo insists that she has what it takes to be in Parliament.
Ms Nambozo won the first round of the case after the court ruled in her favour and is preparing costs for her victory to be charged on Aisha Lumolo but Ms Aisha Lumolo has again appealed the judgement describing it as unfair.
The duo have abused each other’s at rallies and their agents today still have kept engineering bad blood between the two to the level that seeing reconciliation seems like squeezing water out of a stone.
Mr Nakiyi contested for NRM primaries for Budadiri East Parliamentary seat that he claims were marred by irregularities, vote rigging, and ballot stuffing and lost to Mr Woboya then the MP for Budadiri East in the part primaries.
Mr Nakiyi went against the NRM party and contested as an independent in Budadiri East to express his anger against the NRM for helping Mr Vincent Woboya to get the NRM party flag to contest against FDC’s Isaiah Sasaga Wanzira, the current MP.
The duo has also been at logger heads with each other ever since the elections ended; they have abused each other, threatened each other and have bitterly been divided over the issues surrounding NRM in the district.
While the differences the NRM camp has been in are yet to go away, it is possible that this meeting could have laid a ground, a deal which would be advantageous to the entire district NRM support, whether spiritually or politically.
True there was a dialogue but did the NRM leaders seize this opportunity and commit themselves to contributing to a better NRM future, one that recognizes the harmful past and uplifts the resilience, wisdom and gifts of the party across the divide?
And did the meeting address the most fundamental questions like; How do we weave our resilience together to create something better than we could have alone? How do we make lasting change that goes beyond a single day? And how do we show up as our best selves in these difficult and challenging times of elections?
When people hurl insults at each other due to political differences, it speaks to the great divide between us – the line you can’t see – that undercurrent of quiet hatred that runs undeterred through the NRM party across the country, causing an explosion intrigue, violence and mistrust during the NRM party primaries.
The dialogue has received mixed reactions, to say the least, some have praised the NRM dialogue which was also attended by Mr Tanga Odoi, the NRM electoral chairman for their “show of concern for the NRM party at grassroots,” but others maintained that the dialogue failed to address the fundamental issues that divided people
And in Uganda, NRM friends will be watching over the next several days, weeks, months to see if the political temperature cools in this part of the country.
Mr Rogers Wandulu [NRM] raises the possibility that the reconciliation move is a public relations stunt related, somehow— that seemed far-fetched.
“You can’t organise thugs to come into a meeting to shout at other leaders and claim you are having a reconciliation meeting, this has failed and it can’t work out,” said Mr Wandulu, a self-styled NRM supporter.
The facts of ground indicate that the scars of the 2021election violence that engulfed parts of Sironko district are still visible and the tension palpable – going by the facial expression of many people who spoke and attended this dialogue.
Remember it is not the first time NRM is losing all seats in Sironko, in 2011, FDC took all the three parliamentary seats (Budadiri West: Nandala Mafabi, Budadiri East: Isaiah Sasaga, and Woman MP: Famier Wadada). At district level, FDC’s James Nabende defeated the incumbent, NRM’s Kibale Wambi, to become chairman, while FDC took 18 of the 34 slots in the district council.
My Grandmother told me that it is very important to learn how people speak for this will help you understand them, “When a person speaks, find out if he is the one speaking or not because many times the mouth speaks what the heart is not speaking,”
At this NRM dialogue meeting when people said we are reconciling, were they speaking from the hearts or it was the mouth speaking.
And if the talks are to be sincere, the NRM supporters in Sironko will welcome the reconciliation by moving their district back from the brink.
Mr Kosea Wambaka, the NRM flag bearer for 2021 elections for Budadiri West urged the NRM to be on ground and assist their candidates.
“There was a lot of money that was dished out by my opponent Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, people would line up to get money, we need better as NRM,” said Mr Wambaka.
Mr Julius Nakiyi [NRM contestant for 2021 elections, Budadiri East] described the dialogue as increasingly acrimonious and that it just stumbled on a series of issues effecting NRM at the grassroots and just shifted to people asking for jobs.
“My doors are still open for dialogue and a compromise; I have already forgiven my opponent and now friend Mr Vincent Woboya but I think this dialogue was meant to be between the Woman MP Ms Florence Nambozo and her opponent Ms Aisha Lumolo,” said Mr Nakiyi 2022.
Many of the former NRM candidates who failed at various levels in Sironko district, pleaded with the party Secretary-General, Todwong to consider them for deployment in the NRM led government.
Speaking during a reconciliation meeting on 15 January, the former NRM candidates told Todwong that they cannot be left to waste away yet they are capable of serving the party in various capacities if given the opportunity.
Mr Vincent Woboya, the former Budadiri East MP, said that the secretariat needs to empower them such that they are also able to empower others at the grassroots. He told the Secretary-General that he was ready to work with him, noting that he will force himself to his office because he is willing to work for the party.
Mr John Kiwungulo, a former candidate for the Budadiri East MP seat also called on the party to consider deploying him in any capacity because he has many people behind him in need of financial support. He said that by employing him, the government will have supported many other people behind him.
Mr Guga Nabende, the former Sironko district LC V candidate said that it is commendable that the president has deployed sons and daughters of Sironko in the government but added that if there are more slots, then the president should consider giving them more slots.
Mr Herbert Mulekwa, who contested to retain the LCV seat in the NRM party primaries, said that he decided to abandon the polls well knowing that there are many positions in the NRM, which gave him comfort. “I am here ready, please deploy me,”
Mr Richard Masereje, the former Budadiri East parliamentary candidate also said that the NRM secretariat needs to come up with a data bank of all the leaders who don’t make it in the elections and find means of accommodating them within the party.
Many NRM supporters whom I spoke to after this meeting explained how the party has failed in service delivery that has seen high unabated corruption scandals, high levels of poverty, and under development.
Mr Daniel Woniala, an ardent NRM supporter, [Budadiri West] blamed the chaos that marred the entire election process on the party electoral commission and called upon the president to revamp the commission and re-institute a new one.
“Our elections were a sham, total sham and we must be ashamed and every time we hold an election it seems a calculated attempt by a section of NRM party members to fail President Museveni and the NRM party, we need each other for this party to stay here longer,” said Mr Woniala.
There have been accusations from various NRM supporters within the district that the NRM party service delivery has failed and they seem to suggest that the government priorities have been turned upside down.
“We have talked about Namayumba-Budadiri-Naluguru road as a party but there is nothing on ground, there have been many implementation gaps and when people ask us, we have no answer, that explains why people are not with the party leadership,” said Mr Nathan Kissa, NRM Butandiga].
Many will agree that the NRM disunity which has pitched Sironko district for close to 26 years has created a spell of political uncertainty highlighting the power struggle of perpetual incumbency.
Mr Lumolo Mafabi, the NRM chairperson for Sironko district agrees that the district needs reconciliation to be able to have sanity and unity.
“We need to unite and cause development as Sironko district and also Bugisu at large. That is my interest. And the NRM government must also expedite the construction of Namayumba-Budadiri-Naluguru road to spur Trade and development,” said Mr Lumolo.
Although Mr Todwong made a frank assessment of what ails the district in such terms as “antagonism, competition, frustration, intrigue, the speakers at the meeting made it a meeting for selfish demand forgetting the reconciliation issue.
The good meeting therefore took another dimension; it became a meeting for asking for jobs and not a meeting for dialogue.
Ms Dorothy Nakumiza, a local woman councilor “We lost the whole gist of the matter, we moved to other things that benefit us as individuals and forgot unity as a district. This makes the reconciliation dialogue unattainable.
But Sironko politicians never stop talking about intrigue and segregation, a fixation of theirs that seems to shut out consideration of several other large problems which outsiders might regard as more immediately important.
FDC’s victory in Sironko has Mafabi’s name written all over it. The Budadiri West legislator who doubles as the FDC party secretary General is easily the most revered person in Sironko, but his popularity extends to virtually the entire Bugisu sub-region, where he enjoys the status of a demi-god.
And not for his politics or attachment to the FDC, but for his work as chairman of the powerful Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU), a position that has earned him the nick name, ‘Mr Coffee’ and for his generosity in dishing out money to any voter in the region.
“In Budadiri West, his campaign agents are on payroll, every religious festivals like Eid and Christmas, 1st of January of every year, yearly festivities, visiting Mecca, Visiting Rome, he usually organizes people and funds them to visit such places which NRM can’t do, so what do you expect,” asked Rev Jackson Magombe.
He added that as long as Mr Nandala Mafabi is in politics, people will always wait for him to advise them on who to vote for.
He revealed that any efforts towards NRM reconciliation will always collapse because the NRM party is a party of compradors, self-seekers, selfish individuals who only give out to those who come from Western Uganda.
“When you operate with those who think “Infunila Wa ” literally means where is my benefit, you can’t achieve anything. I know that Mr Todwong was on a frank mission to benefit us but our people are so individualistic to come together for the sake of our district,” said Mr Jackson Magombe.
Ms Melese Mudenga, a former Woman Councilor at Sironko district council said that it was evident at the meeting that some people wield massive political and financial clout not only in Sironko but in the country too.
Therefore, any move to try and reconcile these affluence factions with the less privileged was inconsequential as it amounts to belittling them.”For sure how can you bring a child together with an adult to unite them? It does not make any sense. We all know who the supreme and most powerful in the district are.”
Ms Mudenga revealed that at the 15 January reconciliation meeting people were saying “NRM Juu, Juu, we need to be one, we need unity” while sweating on the nose.
Mr Paul Gidudu, an elder from Busiita sub-county, Sironko district also noted that the meeting dealt only with the top leadership of the party at the district but did not go down to reconcile the lower councils who have similar fights, hatred and intrigue and who are also immersed in political rivalry and are fighting bitter wars against each other.
He added that given the fact that Mr Todwong, the NRM secretary General presided over the reconciliation without involving the traditional cultural leaders of Inzu Ya Masaba, it remains a taboo and the reconciliation won’t last.
The National Federal Alliance President Mr Mayeku Malesi, an elder in Bugisu sub-region said there was something fundamentally deficient about the reconciliation meeting if it lacked the elders of the cultural union.
Many supporters of NRM feel that the reconciliation was for selfish political reasons and not real in any way.
Mr Wambi Kibale former LCV for Sironko said beyond the political differences there remains the social re-union amongst the Bagisu.
“The Unity seems to have just tackled the political aspect and left out social and economic aspects thus it gives unrealistic hopes. One can actually say clearly the re-union was made by default, that if one realizes that he is getting politically irrelevant, he rushes to the NRM political bosses to remain relevant,”
“That is what I saw at this meeting; a struggle by our leaders to remain relevant in the party and possibly win their seats back,” said Mr Kibale.
Many NRM supporters in Sironko district still bear the scars of the NRM party primary election violence that rocked the entire Budadiri East and West constituencies, with new polls just three years away, could history repeat itself or the dialogue has taught them some lessons?
Although some NRM voters believe that the perpetrators of ethnic violence must be brought to justice, I found it very sad that all of the cases against those who caused violence, ballot stuffed and rigged during the NRM elections at courts collapsed; the NRM secretariat ruled in favour of those who were involved in the mess that marred the elections.
This is a sad scenario because if the NRM party had even a handful of people punished that would have changed the way we do our politics in NRM, permanently.
I want to state that re-opening old wounds may be the only way to allow proper healing otherwise, the meeting just suppressed conflict, anger, intrigue, hatred that’s waiting for a spark again in 2026.
Yes, 15 January NRM reconciliation in Sironko n isn’t dead, but was kind of a hoax and that fact is, reconciliation was never achieved and might never be achieved.