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Cablegate: Postcard From Masaka: Multiparty Opportunities At

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKM #1573/01 2301154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181154Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY KAMPALA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7439

UNCLAS KAMPALA 001573

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF, AF/E, DRL, INR; PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM EAID UG
SUBJECT: POSTCARD FROM MASAKA: MULTIPARTY OPPORTUNITIES AT
THE LOCAL LEVEL

1. (SBU) Summary: Internal party conflict between national
and local
NRM officials is an important trend in Uganda's new
multiparty system. On August 14, poloffs visited Masaka,
a large rural district located southwest of Kampala notable
for its diversity of political party representation at both
the
local and national level. The Resident District Commissioner,
a political appointee from the ruling party, says that
majority
and opposition party representatives are cooperating on
priority
issues facing the district. This sentiment was generally
echoed
by members of parliament from the opposition Democratic
Party, though
conduct by parties during this year's national election
remains a
sore point. The elected NRM District Chairman reported
that the NRM is losing credibility and support in Masaka due
an
emphasis by national leadership on uniformity of party
message,
effectively limiting attention to the differing priorities of
local constituencies.
This tension within the ruling party has the potential to
create
new political space to be exploited by opposition parties if
they are
savvy enough to forge cross-party alliances to advance their
development
agenda. End Summary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
POLITICAL DIVERSITY IN MASAKA DISTRICT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) On August 14, poloffs visited Masaka,
a large rural district located southwest of Kampala
notable for its diversity of political party representation
at both the local and national level. Masaka is a historical
stronghold of the opposition Democratic Party (DP), which
enjoys
significant grassroots support. Under Uganda's recently
implemented
multiparty system of government, two of the nine MPs from
the district are from the DP, while one of the independent MPs
is closely aligned with the party. The District Commissioner
is also DP. However, the majority of elected seats at
the national level still belong to the long-ruling NRM.
Under the colonialist system, Masaka, as part of the
semi-autonomous Buganda kingdom, enjoyed economic
privileges, including tax incentives, to support its highly
productive agricultural economy. These privileges are
no longer provided for under Uganda's constitution and there
is significant interest among the elite of the population
in a return to this system of "federo". Candidates for
political office, regardless of their party affiliation,
usually include a return to federo in their platform.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
DIFFERENT PARTIES, SIMILAR AGENDA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Bwambale
Bamusede, a political appointee from the NRM
party, reported that although coordination under the
new system remains a work in progress, representatives
from both majority and opposition parties are cooperating
on priority issues facing the district. The RDC
serves as the President's representative to the
district and as chairman of the District Security
Committee, which overseas management of all security
stakeholders and collects intelligence on various activities
in the district. Bamusede reported that while opposition
parties often contend that the RDC cannot be impartial,
the NRM prioritizes equal treatment by RDCs of all
political parties. He described the relationship
between the NRM and the opposition in Masaka as lacking
sharp divisions and generally harmonious. He noted that
his years as a civil servant give him added clout with his
opposition peers.

4. (SBU) According to Bamusede, elections were
generally peaceful and those with concerns have taken
their cases to the judiciary. He emphasized the need for
greater civic education on multiparty politics in order to
discourage the practice of voting along tribal and religious
lines and to clarify the roles and responsibilities
of elected officials. He stated that fighting rural poverty

and improving access to health care education and
agriculturally-based economic opportunity are key issues for
the people of Masaka and should be prioritized by donors.
He dismissed the idea that there is a North-South divide
in Uganda, saying that "marginalization is everywhere.
We have peace talks on how to divide the national cake,
when really there is nothing to share".

5. (SBU) The RDC's views on political cooperation
in Masaka were generally echoed by representatives
from the opposition DP, though conduct by the NRM
during this year's national elections and RDC
oversight of security forces remain points
of contention. Bukoto South MP Mathias Nsubuga,
DP District Chairman Ben Bukenya, and DP District
Vice Chairman James Musoke expressed similar
development goals for the district and noted
that while they generally work well with the RDC,
the NRM as a party needs to have greater respect for
the opposition. Interlocutors complained of corruption and
intimidation during the election cycle and called for
increased civic education by donors. Nsubuga noted that
the NRM performed well in Masaka in the election because as a
brand name, NRM is still the only one that resonates in the
rural areas.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
RULING PARTY CONFORMITY WEAKENING LOCAL SUPPORT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (SBU) Internal party conflict between national
and local NRM officials may be the bigger story
in Uganda's new multiparty system, as indicated by
District Chairman Vincent Ssempijja, the top elected
district official (also known as the LC5) who also controls
financial allocations for the constituency. Ssempijja,
who was elected on the NRM ticket with over 180,000 votes,
candidly told poloffs that the NRM is losing credibility
and support in Masaka due to an emphasis by the national
party apparatus on conformity with NRM's messages.
Under multipartyism, the NRM is enforcing a "whip" system
to ensure the party line is adhered to by MPs. The system
categorizes issues facing the caucus in which a "three whip"
issue allows for no dissension, a "two whip" issue
allows for minor disparity, and a "one whip" issue allows
independent voting. This system limits attention and debate
on the differing priorities of local constituencies.
Ssempijja also called for more civic education,
acknowledging that he was elected in Masaka on the
old system of individual merit and party name recognition,
as opposed to actual voter support for his party's platform.
According to Ssempijja, Masaka constituents are unhappy and
managing their expectations is "harder when you are
in power" and not allowed to deviate from the party line.
This is compounded, he said, when the NRM's national
leadership
makes decisions without the input of the District Commissioner
and forwards agenda items in Parliament, which result in
unfunded mandates for cash-strapped local districts.

- - - -
COMMENT
- - - -

7. (SBU) Party dynamics in Masaka represent a microcosm
of multiparty politics and decentralization in
Uganda. Tension within the ruling party over national
decision-making procedures could create new political space
for the opposition at local levels if successfully exploited.
The lack of sharp divisions between parties on critical issues
such as federo and rural development, along with shared gripes
with the ruling party's national structures, create an
environment
conducive for cooperation outside Kampala. The DP, and other
opposition parties, may increasingly serve as an outlet for
other astute politicians seeking to get things done for their
constituents. Whether or not politicians at the national
level will
seize the same opportunities experienced as their local
counterparts
is still highly dependent on the immediate disincentives in
the whip system.
The NRM's national leadership will need to reconcile its
internal divisions
or risk losing support among its own local officials and
their constituents.
BROWNING

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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