National Resistance Movement (NRM)

By Admin

Added 18 August 2015

On November 17, 2005, President Yoweri Museveni was elected unopposed as NRM's presidential flag-bearer for the 2006 elections.

National Resistance Movement (NRM)

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni


The National Resistance Movement (NRM), commonly referred to as the Movement, is the ruling political organisation in Uganda.

It has over 263 legislators in the 9th Parliament. Also, more than 70 of the 112 districts of Uganda are headed by chairmen who belong to the NRM party.

Until a referendum in 2005, Uganda held elections on a non-party basis. The NRM dominates Parliament, with majority of representatives. The presidential elections of March 12, 2001 were won by Yoweri Museveni of the NRM with 69.3% of the popular vote. It began as the political body associated with the rebel National Resistance Army before Museveni came to power in 1986.

On November 17, 2005, Museveni was elected unopposed as NRM's presidential flag-bearer for the 2006 elections.

In the general election of February 23, 2006, the party won 205 out of 289 elected seats. In the presidential election of the same date Museveni won 59.3% of the vote.

Museveni was involved in the war that deposed Idi Amin, ending his rule in 1979, and in the rebellion that subsequently led to the demise of the Milton Obote regime in 1985. The NRM has been praised for bringing stability and economic growth to a country that has endured decades of government mismanagement, rebel activity and civil war.

The National Resistance Movement's history begins after the overthrow of Idi Amin by an alliance of Ugandan exiles and Tanzanian forces in 1979. The factions that formed the alliance of exiles included former military officers like Tito Okello from the previous government of Milton Obote which Idi Amin had overthrown in 1971.

It also included a younger group of fighters including Yoweri Museveni of Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), Buganda nationalists of the Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM) and the federalist Federal Democratic Movement of Uganda (FEDEMU) forces. These forces came to power in Uganda under the banner of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). A political figurehead Yusuf Lule was appointed leader and president of Uganda, but had very little political or military power.

Each faction quickly began an extensive recruitment campaign to strengthen their forces. The UFM particularly attracted a lot of support from Buganda, Uganda's largest ethnic group, which aspired for an autonomous status in Uganda. The years of Idi Amin and northern dominance of the military had galvanised many southerners, particularly the Baganda into realising that they had to take up arms to achieve their political ambitions. The UFM played on this feeling.

In the capital city, Kampala, the UFM and FEDEMU forces established themselves and there were many clashes with the core UNLF. There was also the feeling within the UNLF that president Yusuf Lule (from Buganda) was in subtle alliance with these forces. The ruling body within the UNLF, the National Consultative Commission (NCC), which included members of other factions, began clashing with the president and on June 20, 1979, the NCC forced Yusuf Lule out of office and replaced him with Godfrey Binaisa (another Muganda).

Demonstrations erupted in Kampala, and there was the suspicion that these were being fuelled by the UFM and FEDEMU forces. In response, the UNLF government became more brutal. Gunfire erupted in the city to disperse the demonstrations, the UFM and FEDEMU were confronted and their leaders forced into exile.

Paulo Muwanga and Oyite Ojok began to plot the return of Milton Obote to power. In response the president, Godfrey Binaisa announced that Oyite Ojok had been dismissed. Within days Godfrey Binaisa was overthrown and the Military Commission, which included Oyite Ojok, Tito Okello Lutwa, Paulo Muwanga and Yoweri Museveni, assumed power. Muwanga and Ojok began to speed up their plans to return Milton Obote to power by announcing an election date. Okello was less enthusiastic but being less articulate played a passive role. Yoweri Museveni however finally split from the Military Commission to form his own political party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM).

In 1980, Yoweri Museveni stood against Milton Obote's Uganda People's Congress (UPC) and the Democratic Party in the national elections. Museveni's UPM gained only one parliamentary seat in what was widely seen as an election rigged in favour of Obote's UPC. Museveni rejected the result and went to the bush to fight a guerrilla war.

Museveni's action made him extremely popular, particularly as the Democratic Party which took up its seats in Parliament was perceived as increasingly irrelevant. The undisciplined army continued its atrocities under Obote's government and Paulo Muwanga (Vice-President), Tito Okello (Commander of the Army) and David Oyite-Ojok (Army Chief of Staff) had all been rewarded by Obote. The army responded by carrying out a brutal campaign in the central, particularly Luwero district where Museveni's forces were based.

Museveni proved to be an astute politician, and quickly formed an alliance with Buganda resistance groups such as the Uganda Freedom Fighters of Yusuf Lule and the remnants of Idi Amin's army in the Uganda National Rescue Front led by Moses Ali. The alliance emerged as the National Resistance Movement (NRM) with its military wing the National Resistance Army (NRA). Museveni moulded the NRA into a formidable and disciplined fighting force. Its main method of operation was small strikes at military and government installations and then melting away. In response the government army would brutalise civilians around the place of attack thus further alienating them.

Although there were other guerrilla armies fighting the government, such as the Uganda Freedom Movement led by Andrew Kayiira, Museveni had super abilities in command and mobilisation.

The NRA overthrew Okello Lutwa on January 26, 1986, with Museveni assuming the presidency. The National Resistance Movement embarked on a Marxist-oriented approach to government, establishing a 'no-party' democracy, cadres, and local resistance councils.

Museveni began a pragmatic turn around in vision. To appease the Baganda he re-instituted the Kabaka and other royal palaces, promoted economic liberalisation and established himself as more of a civilian politician than a guerrilla leader. The NRM began to widen its appeal by emphasising its role in establishing security and maintaining a disciplined army.

The NRM also courted influential members from Idi Amin's tribe like Moses Ali. The NRM also encouraged free trade and stimulated rapid economic growth thus attracting the support of the affluent middle class while retaining favour in rural areas by ensuring law and order. The rural areas particularly in Buganda had suffered years of terror under Obote.

The party has maintained the grip on power and control over Parliament, most local councils and special interests groups such as workers, youth, women and the disabled.

There are however, criticisms of corruption, rubberstamping Parliament and using power and security forces to gain an upper hand over other political parties. Even in the south where it has enjoyed massive support since its formation, there is resentment over the dominance of people from the west in most key positions in the party and government institutions.

Museveni’s iconic stature and economic progress in the west and central, however, are closely related to the NRM. Museveni and his party remain popular as the country heads for the 2016 elections.

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