At about 2:30 pm, dozens of journalists assembled outside the Mandela National Stadium, worn-out and clearly dejected.
President Yoweri Museveni who is also chairman of the ruling NRM party had finished his lengthy opening remarks at the party’s National Delegates’ Conference.
The deal was that after this point, every journalist would exit the venue. That was the arrangement; That the gist of the conference was to remain unpublicized.
The NRM Ag. Secretary General Dorothy Hyuha was about to set stage for discussion of the Conference’s main purpose which is to effect a set of constitutional amendments.
Notable of these is the move to insert Article 16(3) B in the party constitution, stating the “Secretary General…shall be appointed by the Chairperson with the approval of NEC. “
According to a copy of the proposed reforms availed to us, upon adoption of the amendments the SG and other affected officers will be required to vacate office with immediate effect.
“Subsequent to the amendment of the Constitution’s Article 16(4), to make the positions of the SG, Deputy SG, treasurer and deputy treasurer appointive and not elective, it is prudent that the term of office of the current office bearers should expire following the adoption of the above amendment,”‘ read the statement.
The target, Hon Amama Mbabazi who is the currently estranged party SG, sat silently in the CEC members’ tent together with his successor Ruhakana Rugunda, and Vice President Edward Ssekandi; and listened keenly to every detail of the speeches.
It’s believed that the strict media restrictions were part of the organizers’ futile efforts to conceal the chaos that would mar the debate of the amendments as well as brawling for attendance allowances.
The media therefore was confined in a small tent, and later in a circled metal fencing.
They were not to move into or take pictures of the delegates without being escorted by a security official.
Journalists would speak to a minister or key government official, only with permission from Mr Ofwono Opondo the Uganda Media Centre boss, who is part of the conference organizing team.
“We will not be ashamed to eject you if you don’t follow our guidelines,” he cautioned in a briefing.
To some reporters, essaying to conceal proceedings of a 10,000-strong delegates conference was only but laughable.
Barely two weeks ago, Opposition Forum for Democratic Change held their national delegates conference on which the party president Gen Mugisha Muntu predicted chaos in today’s conference.
“Starting December 15 you will see the beginning of a disintegrating ruling party. The county needs to see clearly the difference between the ruling party and the leading opposition party,” he prophesied.
As president Museveni took to the podium to launch the conference, the delegates were up complaining about the ‘bad food’, and demanding to be paid their per diem.
“We want Sente…Sente…Sente!” they shouted in chorus. Museveni later apologised to the delegates who were not well treated, saying the matter would be well treated.