BY VENENSCIAS KIIZA
It is a known fact that in Uganda, there are various political parties’ diehards whose work is to wake up every day and go out to amplify their respective parties values, mission and goals. It is a known fact that these diehards do their job voluntarily, or self-facilitated but with passion and zeal. They need not to be told to do so and so. We have seen them in UPC, DP, FDC, NUP, NRM and other parties defending their leaders and values from all fronts and as well amplifying their messages for the benefit of Ugandans. If there is a new campaign or message (for instance NRM’s Togikwatako, land reforms, parish model, Emyooga, insecurity; FDC’s red card or NUP’s Endagamuntu among others) to amplify, you will see them everywhere. It is in the course of their duties that some get recognized by the leaders. Once they are recognized, they naturally expect to be invited to the eating table in one way or another. The regret is that some leaders recognize and as well promise them some cake only to delay walking the talk. Some expect monetary rewards, gifts, juicy contracts, deals, powerful connections (read ‘gamba noogu’), and other amenities. To their detriment, sometimes, the only rewards they get are ‘lies and black mail’.
NRM NOT SPARED
It is within this spirit that some time back, a group of NRM media activists or diehards or cadres embarked on articulating and amplifying NRM government’s achievements and economic transformation story on radios and TVs across the country. They did their work voluntarily. The media activists who were drawn from 19 sub regions or regional zones of Uganda comprise journalists, teachers, farmers and businessmen who volunteer every day to fight fake news, falsehood, blackmail, malice and propaganda against NRM.
They were later identified by Fred Opolot, the then Executive Director at Uganda Media Centre. Under his guidance, they would be facilitated once in a while. However, when a new administration under Ofwono Opondo came in, they were abandoned at sea. Nevertheless, they did not relent but instead kept on barking for the NRM government. RDCs/RCCs like Steven Asiimwe (Masaka), Ahmed Kateregga, Kada Mucunguzi, Henry Kitambula, William Komakech, Willy Bisanga, Fred Bamwine, Hudu Hussein, and other politicians are all products of this group.
ENTER PPS OMONA
This publication has learnt that towards the 2021 general elections, the Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to H.E the President, Dr. Kenneth Omona spotted this same group and offered to give them guidance. It is within that spirit that he became their patron. The group was reorganized under the initiative of Omona in December 2020 and was christened “Kikundi cakugenga ujumbi” or foot patrol army and its task was to counter the opposition tactic of misusing information and spreading misinformation targeted at the media. During the mobilization process through the media, they used both radio and TV channels, social media platforms to achieve their main objective of campaigning for the NRM party. The group, whose membership is about 200, has a national executive and as well 19 sub-regional coordinators. Their national coordinator is NRM secretariat’s Patrick Obura. Augustine Otuko, VP Jessica Aluppo’s PA also serves as the national mobilization coordinator. Defence’s Paddy Kayondo (head of operations and also central region coordinator), Odoi Micheal(desk research officer) and among others also form the executive committee. Other members include Moses Kaziba, vocal and veteran Frank Asiimwe, Irene Amia, Dickson Adomati, Vicky Abura Akidi, Steven Omoding Isaac Opio Opeo, Muwanga Lutaaya Eliya, and Judith Afric Aceng and others.
With the help of PPS Omona as the patron, the group met President Museveni on 4th May, this year at State House Entebbe. Typical of him, the president gave them a lecture on social economic transformation or poverty arrest, patriotism and nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Democracy. This enriched them on how to effectively communicate and disseminate the right info about the NRM government’s good programs with authority and assertiveness. When time came to say something, Otuko read out a joint communication in which the activists made several proposals. The requests were three: 1) meeting with H.E. the President at least once every 6 months for a continuous ideological orientation and guidance: 2) giving each sub region a revolving fund of Shs50m and given that they are 19 of them that would total Shs900m: and thirdly a presidential retreat with them at National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi.
Saying these were very brilliant ideas, Museveni granted all the requests the group made to him. He thanked them for always propagating the NRM ideology and achievements, a brand of activism he promised to amplify through frequently delivering detailed lectures to them during ideological empowerment meetings which were to happen once in every 6 months.
The president reportedly promised to authorize the release of the requested Shs900m by July and tasked PPS Omona to keep reminding him.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Whereas all members left rejoicing that it was time to join the dining table after years of doing voluntary work unlike those in opposition who are still ‘government in waiting’ before they can think of eating, these days group members can’t see each other. They are wondering what made the president change his mind if at all he did. Why? Whereas they were to meet Museveni every after six months, there are no signs of that happening very soon, almost seven months later. The same for Kyankwanzi retreat. That whereas they were supposed to receive a revolving fund of Shs900m in July, it is December and members are yet to see anything. Some members this publication talked to said that since that State House meeting, leaders kept updating and giving them hopes of how the money was coming anytime until all forms of explanations for the delays were exhausted. Hope came in late September, according to some members, when their patron-Omona, reportedly using their WhatsApp forum directed Kayondo (head of operations) to liaise with sub-regional coordinators and agree how the money was to be disbursed. The question was whether to create a national Sacco with a single bank account where the Shs900m would be deposited for all members to access, or 19 Saccos representing the sub regions where Shs50m would be deposited directly for each sub region. However, some members say they have never seen any executive committee member formally consulting them. Their repeated calls, messages requesting for clarity or updates on the new developments have all reportedly gone unanswered. In short, some members can’t tell whether the money was released or not. Although they hear in corridors that a bank account was opened early October this year for that purpose, info about the name, signatories and others has remained a top secret. They also say matters have not been helped by their patron (Omona) who should have intervened yesterday to give guidance.
“The president asked him [Omona] to keep reminding him about the pledges. So we feel he owes us an explanation. Was the money released or not? If yes, where is it? If not, why can’t he remind the president whom we know is a very busy person!” one of the sub regional coordinators asked.
Another member said: “But what happened exactly with our group? Should we think we’re no longer important? Our hands are down, our leaders are quiet, the year is ending, our group turned out to be a place of sharing links only, party meetings, sometimes like dating sites, hi and go, scroll down to see messages without comment. For sure what happens if you could come out and tell the group how we have been used up and we forge our way out rather than keep on waiting? This is because we have to wait for Jesus only, not any person. I thought we could be more of a team, I thought we would work together for better of our political dreams but alas. Can we do something please?”
Another added: “We had started well, but later members of this group lost morale, in fact some of the members may not even know what is happening on social media. We are given airtime once, some of our group members were pinned down, others are in deep sleep, actually we need to pull-up and we focus on our own agenda rather than waiting for 2026.”
Attempts by group members to bulldoze those who have been raising dust over the matter attracted this response from one of the members: “This doesn’t stop me from battling the opposition as my primary responsibility. I write articles every week, I conduct 3 radio programs and 2 TV programmes every week, doing nothing else but as a true cadre battling the opposition rebutting their lies, sensitizing people and promoting NRM ideology. I have done this since 1997 when some of you were either not yet born or toddlers immediately after my first cadre course at (NALI) and I have never relented nor dissented from the NRM ideology. I subsequently underwent other advanced cadre courses, I am a true cadre who understands the NRM constitution, so on a right forum like this I think I can legally and positively criticise what I think is not being done properly! Actually if I don’t do it as a cadre then that is a disservice to myself and to the party.”
Sources say camps have been formed between sub regional coordinators who feel certain info is being hidden from them and the national executive leaders.
Some group members are now imploring their patron (Omona) to remind the president of his pledge or arrange for another meeting with him to discuss a number of other new developments including his pledges. Neither Omona, nor the group’s national coordinator Patrick Obura could be reached for a comment.
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