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NRM/NRA at 33-what happened to carder Development

By George William Nyombi Thembo

When UPC stole the December 1980 general elections, the expectations we had for a new Uganda that had been promised after the 1979 liberation were all gone. Anger and desperation replaced hope. While in that utter confusion we were told there was a solution: Dr. Andrew Lutakome Kayira had already started his UFM Guerilla outfit and this was to topple the UPC government within months. We were told how the American forces were already stationed in a nearby friendly country to assist in the struggle, and how Brigadier Bazilio Okello was on our side-very interesting propaganda. From word go,

UFM was surviving on propaganda other than ideological anchorage of its supporters and activists.

UFM started on the recruitment of young men in earnest. Then the D-day came around 17th January, 1981 when we were told that the head of the UFM was to meet us at a residence of a prominent medical doctor in Lubaga. By 3 pm we had assembled at the venue and the function that had been disguised as a weeding meeting was in high gear. At around 5 pm our guests arrived-first they apologized that Dr. Kayira was not able to attend but had sent them to brief us. The briefing was short-all rotating around removing government in the shortest time possible. There was no mention as to why we were fighting no any semblance of an ideological line that we were to follow.

From then on I became an activist until the ill-fated attack on Lubiri barracks that led to the near decimation of most of the activists and UFM fighters. Most of us who survived went underground. Apart from the hatred for Obote and imparting on us Buganda nationalism, UFM’s agenda was a bit hazy. When you met ten leaders of the UFM-you were most likely to get ten different interpretations of the situation and the messages were a bit confusing to say the least. It looks like no emphasis was put on cadre development right from the beginning. No wonder UFM had to disintegrate.

In 1984 as I was keeping a low profile two things happened to me. One was my cousin Daniel Junju Sentamu who from nowhere knocked on my door at around 3am. On opening for him, what I saw was a shock of my life: a ghost like cousin of mine-emaciated, dirty and hungry-but very strong in sprit.

He narrated to me how he had run from “Lukoola” and assured me that NRA was a reality and in no time they will be in Kampala.  A week later we were joined by our in-law Dodovico Galimpitawa who had also escaped from a Red Cross Camp in Luwero. From the narration of the happenings of the bush war, from the two strange visitors of mine, you would clearly see the difference between us (UFM) and NRA.  I was later made to understand that these two had trained as people’s militia in a place called Migyingye in Makulubita.

The two guys were both semi illiterate, actually Mzee Dodvico could not read and write but his internalization of the Ten Points Programe and the reasons for fighting Obote was phenomenal. I have since said that Mzee Dodovico Galimpitawa and my cousin Ssentamu Jjjunju were my first instructors.

On capturing Kampala in 1986, we were already charged but informed activists. We wholly embraced the Movement. For us in Kampala, we shall never forget Major Kazoora and Junior Officer Kato who really drilled us through the workings of the movement and the Ten Points Programe. You would

see a deliberate effort in schools, churches and all sorts of community gatherings passing over the information on the workings of the movement. In a few months’ time the whole city was on political fire. The next one year saw a number of us taken for further training to be drilled further into

the nitty gritty of political mobilization. This formed the seed group of carders that was to transform Kampala and Buganda in general. Elsewhere the same was being done-deliberate training of carders was the in thing.

 By 1996, when we had the first general elections, our cardreship skills were to be put to test. The Democratic Party came in vigorously to take on the NRM-with all sorts of narratives ranging from tribalism to accusing government over a variety of alleged misdeeds: retrenchment, selling of government property through privatization, neglecting agriculture and poor health services were some of the accusations Mzee Semogerere’s team used. In Kampala I recall we had a team of trained carders; Hon Meddy Kaggwa, Hon Margret Zziwa, Hon. Mike Mukula, Hon. Edward Babu, Cadre Lugemwa (RIP) and your own Nyombi Thembo and many others who took on the mantle of explaining all the aforementioned accusations that had been thrown at the movement.

Interesting to note-if Hon Babu spoke in Kawempe on a particular issue, it would be the same content that Hon. Meddy Kaggwa would give in Mpigi or Lubaga. That consistency won many hearts as it was in total contrast of the disjointed message that the uncoordinated carders of DP via their loose youth outfit, the Uganda Young Democrats, were giving.

It’s no wonder that immediately after the 1996 general elections we were to harvest most of the useful carders from UYD including their leader the Hon. Joseph Luzige-now the District Chairman of Mityana. We later harvested Hon Maria Mutagamba (RIP) who was the chief Campaign Manager of Mzee Semogerere in 1996. Carder development was at the center of our success. These days I feel a bit warry-whenever I interact with our young supporters I feel there is a gap and it overtly shows. We need a deliberate effort to train these enthusiastic supporters to convert them into useful mobilisers, otherwise

that unguided enthusiasm, can one day be very dangerous to us (NRM). I know there is a lot of carder development in the military-this must be supplemented by cadre development of the civilians.

As we therefore celebrate the 33rd Anniversary of the NRA/NRM let us remember that what kept the NRM/NRA strong was continuous carder development. Cardership cannot just evolve naturally, there must be a deliberate effort to recruit, develop and deploy. And of course continuous

training and retraining to enable the political catechists to be up to the challenges of the day. Most of us appreciate that the challenges the movement faced ten years back are far different from what we face today. We need a core group of political catechists who can consistently articulate

our positions and pass over this to other carders at the political frontline.

Of course a mass movement like the NRM, especially with competitive politics, takes on anybody willing to join. This is done to enable the revolution get a critical mass to win in competitive politics. Like you

need water to dilute the banana juice (emberenge) to drinkable levels -a revolution will need the critical mass of followers. But the critical mass of ideologues must be retained and deliberately grown as these form the foundation of the revolution. This can only be through training and retraining. No shortcut.  At this stage when the revolution can afford rewards, we have to be very careful as it will be increasingly very difficult to know who are genuine supporters and gold diggers. The day the opportunists will tilt the balance in their favor within the revolution, we shall be doomed like a “stray boat” without trained seamen and compass. When you become of age, like we are thirty three, we are supposed to grow wiser.

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