FARUK KIRUNDA: Going to Kyankwanzi is not the problem; not going is

Local Council leaders from all over the country last week gathered at National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi, for a retreat on leadership. The leaders included LC 5 Chairpersons and Mayors. While NALI –going by its name-is a national facility, established to impart leadership skills and ideological clarity into those who go there, for the mission of taking Uganda forward, it has come to be associated with the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM), and that is wrong.

NALI is “nonpartisan.” Its courses and modules are available for every citizen without discrimination on the basis of political thinking, religion, ethnicity, profession and the like. It’s a school for everybody and many have benefitted from its existence since 1987 when it was established. Those who have been there and taken the training and instruction seriously can testify how much better thinkers and actors they became after attending courses there, complete with a physical fitness regime which reawakens the body and “adds years” to attendees.

I was, therefore, optimistic when I saw pictures circulating of the Mayor of Mukono Municipality (NUP), Mr. Erisa Mukasa Nkoyooyo (NUP), among the leaders gathered at Kyankwanzi. I think he was singled out by social media because, apparently, there was, or there is, a standing order from the party leadership barring anyone from the party to attend the retreat. In short, the Mukono Mayor had defied his party, and may be liable for disciplinary action. However, I don’t see why anyone should be penalised for accepting the responsibility they “applied” for and fit in with the leadership equation of the country.

If opposition leaders regard Kyankwanzi as an NRM “school of thought”, and that whoever goes there is automatically converted, then those leaders have a problem. Their mindset is not a mindset of leaders (of the 21st century. There are too many people I know who have gone to Kyankwanzi but can hardly be said to belong to NRM. I have seen civil servants, corporates, journalists, who have been there but when there is nothing about them to indicate that they are “political” in outlook. That’s because NALI is not a “political” school, but an ideological centre of excellence. It all depends on which direction you want to take. Everybody can pick something to sharpen them; NRM, opposition, civil servants, security officers, diplomats and even religious leaders.

The Mukono Mayor, and others whose pictures I may not have seen, should be commended for taking a bold step and utilising the opportunity to learn and adopt best practices in leadership. It was also an opportunity to “touch base” with fellow leaders and share experiences. No one can serve in isolation and claim to have the interests of the voters at heart. And procedures of how one leaves or joins a party are well laid out in the law; it doesn’t happen simply by one turning up at Kyankwanzi or attending a Presidential address at Parliament. Unless some of these parties simply have no trust in their members or are introducing a new chapter in authoritarianism.

It is important to note that sections of political actors and their allies have failed to accept that Ugandans elected President Museveni out of the many who vied. The claim remains that they lost due to unfair play yet it is the same elections which brought their Members of Parliament (MPs) and other leaders like the Mukono Mayor. Again, if the elections were rigged, the best way to protest them is to resign from those positions in one large group “rather than selectively shunning one event and attending another, as and when it is convenient”. What of the earnings from Government, headed by President Museveni; why not shun them so that the public will determine that they are serious and principled?

I have an itch, and that’s because I see an element of deficiency in honesty and integrity, if not outright abuse of the leadership code, which can as well equate to corruption. All elected leaders are Government workers and who must submit to the authority of Government as per the Constitution. If they claim not to be Government workers, then they are earning their benefits irregularly and could attract attention to themselves as the public progressively sees through the smokescreen.

In the end, what matters is what the people benefit from their leaders. Does not going to Kyankwanzi improve service delivery in the respective constituencies? But going to Kyankwanzi has an immediate effect on one’s way of thinking and the potential to change the lives of those he or she leads. The purpose of retreats is for attendees to take stock of issues of great national importance and how to address them, as well as gauging performance. The misconception that it’s a centre of indoctrination will haunt those who hold it because they will be judged by their relevance to the transformation agenda.

It is high time opposition leaders realised that Ugandans see beyond the rhetoric of partisanship. The public cannot tell the difference between NRM and opposition when it comes to common problems affecting them; the people want services from all leaders and not just from one side.

I believe that Mayor Nkoyooyo is now better equipped ideologically to tackle the challenges affecting the people of Mukono Municipality and no one should begrudge him for his decision to freely associate and belong. 

The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary

Email: faruk.kirunda@statehouse.go.ug