NRM Elections: Youthful Contenders Threaten Old Guards


The race for positions on the National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) top most policy organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC) is threatening to turn into a fight between the elderly and seemingly tired party executives against the party’s young turks.

The older generation is determined not to let go and the young generation is vowing to wrestle power from them, save for the position of the national Chairman that seems to be ring fenced for President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Former Makindye East MP John Ssimbwa who had expressed interest in the position was in the news last week, accusing the party’s electoral commission of frustrating other party members interested in the position.

Most of the NRM positions in the Central Executive Committee, are held by people above the age of 50 but are determined to continue hanging on. For all the young generation who were nominated today, the message to their seniors is the same; the bell is ringing.

Is it Dr. Samuel Odongo who is contesting against Sam Engola for the northern region vice chairmanship position or its Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi, who is challenging Hajji Abdul Nadduli for the Central region vice chairmanship position; all are saying, the seniors have done their work and it’s time to go.

Odongo who is 35-years old says they represent the present of the party, not the future.  He says the current leaders of the party have run their race and need to be replaced with more energetic people who understand the problems the country is facing.

“For the last 30 years, our elders have been there, but, we are saying, our elders, you can no longer run and do these things because age has caught up with you. I am a medical doctor, when age catches up with you, there are things that you can’t do that you used to do when you were young; that is a fact,” said Odongo.

“The chairperson has given a vision for the party and is waiting for young people like us because our elders who have been there failed to show capacity. [Museveni] has been looking for people to hand over power to but he has not been seeing them because the elders have not been availing themselves because they are not ready,” he added. 

But his opponent, Sam Engola dismissed his talk as rumblings which should be disregarded. Engola said, leadership is a serious business that needs calmness and maturity. He advised Odongo and his tribe to wait until such a time when they have learnt from the leaders. 

For Kiwanda, the minister of state for tourism, this is the time for people like Nadduli to step aside and watch those they have helped mentor take on the challenge. He said its good governance practice for the elders to watch as the young generation replaces them such that when they make a mistake, they are still present to correct them.  

But Kiwanda had an immediate response from Nadduli who was also nominated today as the vice chairman for the central region.

Nadduli used the analogy of a mango arguing that the yellow which is ripe is the most sought after not the young one which is green.

“Does it mean that when you are old you become foolish? When you go to the mango tree, do you pick the raw ones or the ripe ones? Which one is sweeter? I am a [living] encyclopedia; [a point of reference], if you send me away, it means that you are sending away knowledge,” Nadduli said.

Captain Mike Mukula who is contesting for vice chairperson eastern also pushed back on the idea that it’s time for the youth. He said for him to be able to sit at the highest echelon of the party, it has taken him a lot of time, training and taking on smaller leadership positions. He wants the youth to borrow a leaf.

However, the greatest pushback came from retired Maj. Gen. Matayo Kyaligonza who is fighting to keep his grip on the vice chairmanship of western Uganda. He is contesting with the State Minister for Housing, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, Dr. Deen Kisembo, the deputy executive director of the government media centre, Col. Shaban Bantariza, and former MPs Florence Kintu Tumwine (Kalungu Woman) and Boaz Kafuda (Busongora South).

Kyaligonza says the young people have no business wanting to replace them now because they don’t know anything about Uganda’s past. He says if they want to takeover leadership, they must wait for them to either die or become incapable of leading.

Even when President Museveni is older than many of the current leaders of the NRM, no one is mentioning it. It’s the reason why the national vice chairperson (Female), Rebecca Kadaga complained about while meeting NRM chairpersons at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala over the weekend. 

She wondered why at only 60, she is considered old, yet everyone else in the party seems comfortable with a 75-year-old party chairman, Yoweri Museveni. In fact, every time journalists put this to those drawing the age card, they are quick to speak in defense of Museveni.

Persis Namuganza, the state minister of lands who is challenging Kadaga for the national vice chairperson female said, Museveni can’t be ramped in the same basket with the likes of Kadaga because he’s the engine of the party.

“The President is a man of all seasons; he is a man who can fit in all generations. You cannot compare him with others, he is the engine of the vehicle; you can’t compare the engine with these other parts like the side mirrors, tyres… we should not mix up things,” Namuganza said.


If there is anything that the NRM nominations have showed, it is the folly that somehow you can enforce social distance rules while people are campaigning.

According to ministry of health guidelines on the prevention of the spread of the Coronavirus, people must be two meters from each other. 

However throughout the nominations, people were freely mixing some with and others without masks. For contestants, like Persis Namuganza and Mike Mukula, they came with more than 30 supporters who kept on chanting their slogans while freely mixing forgetting there has ever been Covid-19 in the country.

The Electoral Commission banned public gatherings for the same reasons on COVID-19 spread despite a push back from opposition politicians. The NRM primaries have now showed the amount of work ahead of the Electoral Commission, the ministry of health and the law enforcement as the country moves full throttle into 2021.    


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