Ofwono Opondo: Ruth Aceng, LDUs, and the Tingling flames in FDC

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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo

Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng who for the last four months valiantly led Uganda against the COVID19 pandemic with no death so far, successful recoveries, limited and now declining trends in overall infection, early this week fell on an own sword caught off guard without face mask on at a public gathering. And although she publicly regretted the incident, the fickle opposition has tried in futility to bay for her blood. Many think that Aceng shouldn’t be crucified over this single inadvertent incident, and we hope it won’t derail her elective politics.

The same groups have also tried to pour opprobrium on Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel for isolated cases of highhandedness and professional misconduct which have actually been handled by the UPDF under whose command they fall. Most of the indiscipline is around Kampala metropolitan area. Any life lost, injured, or property destroyed due to LDU misconduct, is regrettable and should attract appropriate sanctions, as some have recently been given jail terms.

It should be pointed out that there are about 12,000 LDU personnel, but cases of unprofessional conduct have been registered on less than one hundred. Majority of LDU personnel as part of the national security architecture have done a commendable job silencing guns in Karamoja, Teso, and Northern Uganda. Most recently, they have brought tranquility in Kampala metropolitan where cases of domestic violence, kidnaps, violent robberies and murders had festered. What is really needed is providing them with further professional training, review deployment, command and control. It should be noted that for long, the opposition has held a deem view that LDU is a partisan political tool.

Now, the ongoing political shifts as Uganda enters the general elections may be small steps but should compel the NRM to refocus its outlook, organizational discipline, policy priorities and mass mobilization for a decisive and unquestioned victory in 2021. NRM must avoid the temptation of using extra civil, political and constitutional means to deal with those legitimately challenging its grip on power.

The modest realignment where Mugisha Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) last week picked two MPs with vacillating traits should spell trouble for FDC. In one week five of its MPs have decamped starting with former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) and Kasese woman MP Winnie Kiiza not to seek re-election. Her husband Yokasi Bihande is ANT national Chairman. While Kasese has voted FDC in the past three election cycles on account of unresolved intrigue within NRM leadership there, the ground appears shifting and Kiiza could have foreseen. FDC has suffered another setback with MP Robert Centenary not seeking its ticket in the forthcoming election.

As if choreographed, Aruu county MP, the maverick Odonga Otto has also abandoned the FDC, and perhaps run as an independent point to the attrition awaiting FDC countrywide. FDC’s own underhand rejection of current Kampala MP Nabbilah Nagayi’s bid for Kampala Lord Major is rather poetic justice for unprincipled politicians. We know that FDC will blame witches for its woes.

Yet, from where I sit, many aspiring leaders are flocking to join NM parliamentary and local council races. Nevertheless, there is need for its cadres to reinvigorate a culture capable of hosting spirited debates in the marketplace of ideas because open criticism has declined, obscurantism is steadily rising and political dirty tricks is triumphing and threatens to derail NRM.

In this vision, ideological and intellectual exchanges should be unencumbered by personal attacks, harsh judgment, need for self-preservation or risk of professional consequences. The main objective should be to preserve freedom of inquiry.

At the moment, many leaders in NRM seem most focused on curbing disagreements within and outside than finding and pursuing a principled ideological correct line to serve the party and public interest, Some NRM leaders have declared certain ideas off-limits for debate, dismissing those who disagree with insults, social and political opprobrium, which impedes free flow of ideas, and makes good thinkers hesitant.

In February 2016, NRM took its 294 MPs-elect to the National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi for an orientation in liberation ideology, patriotism, commitment to national duties, political discipline in a multi-party dispensation, and humility in leadership. It was hoped that progressively NRM MPs would appreciate how far Uganda had come, achievements registered, immediate and long-term challenges, and most importantly, what needs to be done collectively to accelerate Uganda’s socio-economic transformation.

At the time NRM MPs were fore-warned to lookout for fifth-columnists among themselves to guard against being derailed from the main NRM platform which is the party’s election manifesto and government policy programs under implementation and those to be unveiled.

Instead, many MPs elected on party tickets once in parliament became mercenaries on mission to grab as much war booty as they can find. For this crooked behaviour, parties must find remedy so that the eleventh parliament is redeemed. Many pundits think that the media should help identify and isolate the most dumb and bad apple MPs so that they are ousted either at party primaries or main election. There is need to cleanse parliament.

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The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre

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