Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni, who will be 77 years old at the time of the next elections in 2021, wants Article 102(b) of the Constitution amended to give him legal cover for his plan to continue to rule his realm. His public claim of disinterest in the matter is a cynical reprise of similar pretense twelve years ago when he professed indifference to lifting presidential term limits.
For the record, I strongly oppose this and any other Constitutional amendments designed to serve the interests of a specific individual. It has disaster written all over it.
However, my disinterest in the debate is because it is a foregone conclusion that Museveni will use his usual mouthpieces to orchestrate a symphony of “public demands” for an amendment of Article 102 (b). Ruling party MPs will be “facilitated” with cash to pay off personal debts and such. Church leaders will be given presidential tithes to assist them with preaching sermons about peace and stability that comes through maintaining God’s anointed one in State House.
Patronage appointments will be offered to opposition and other potential troublemakers to help them see the wisdom of keeping Uganda in the safe hands of the only visionary in the land. The Wretched of the Earth will ululate because one of their own has been appointed ambassador or minister of state for something or other.
Veiled threats of a military takeover if Museveni cannot stay in power will be issued. Opposition politicians and other civil society activists will be denied permits to assemble. Owners of meeting halls, hotels and radio stations will be warned against hosting opponents to the scheme.
The militarized partisan police will bring out the guns and truncheons to terrorize and silence voices of dissent. They will outsource some of the dirty work to “Crime Preventers.”
A Constitution Review Commission (CRC) will be appointed to solicit the views of Ugandans on a predetermined outcome. The CRC will find an already softened public – beneficiaries of small amounts of money and alcohol to help them support the life presidency project.
In the end, Parliament will amend Article 102 (b) to abolish the upper age limit. And the Sun will rise in the East and set in the West, as is its usual habit in Uganda.
I am tired of the charade. I am tired of hearing sane people say, with a straight face, that Uganda cannot survive without Museveni. Perhaps the thought that he is a mortal man in the last lap of his relay of life is too terrifying for them to contemplate. Better to live in denial.
Forgive me, Tingasiga, if I yawn through the next conversation about this life presidency project. It really bores me, for it is fait accompli. Now, I encourage vigorous opposition to this latest scheme in the life presidency project. But allow me to focus on other things myself.
Ugandans have been deceived numerous times since 1986. Space does not allow an account of the multiple deceptions that became evident early in Museveni’s rule.
Fast-forward to 2001. Museveni declared that it would be his last term in office. Then came 2006, the term limits having been lifted the year before, and candidate Museveni assured his subjects that, once again, this would be his very last term in office. Same thing in 2011 and the president smiled as his subjects fell for the deception once again.
Then came the mother of all “elections” in 2016. Museveni, seeking yet another last term in office, was massively rejected by the voters, as had been the case in 2006 and, probably in 2001 as well. So he used that which had brought him to power thirty years earlier – brute military force.
Not that anyone should have been surprised by this capture of the state, for Museveni had made it clear that he had killed his animal and was not about to hand it over to anyone. Why people now expect Museveni to give up his animal on account of age beats me kabisa.
The informal campaign to lift the presidential age limit started more than a year ago. For example, a meeting of grassroots agents that are leading the Museveni 2021 campaign was held at Kyankwanzi in January/February this year. That’s a fact. And you can bet your Nkore cow that Museveni is the chief organizer of the scheme.
By the time the Constitution Review Commission fans out to collect the views of the public, these agents will have covered a lot of ground, with cash and booze to assist the people with their thoughts on the question. Those who oppose the project, who may well be the majority, will not be allowed into the CRCs consultative meetings.
The Ugandan state, hijacked long ago, remains hostage to a dynasty that killed the animal in the jungles of Luwero and sustains itself through dispensing bits of meat to a hungry elite that has long accepted to be cult followers or simply party to the looting. There is also a very restless youth – millions of them – angry, hungry, marginalized and drooling for a piece of meat. Watch many of them fall into line as the Ssabagabe buys them off with short-term goodies. But also watch out for millions of youth who want change now. It has the potential for a major collision.
There was a time when I would have held onto the hope that Museveni might surprise us and retire in dignity. I no longer have illusions about that. What happens after Museveni is not easy to predict. In the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Democracy, Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz reported results of their study of data on all 79 dictators who died of natural causes while in office between 1946 and 2012. They found that “death in office seldom leads to near-term liberalization. And only rarely does it precipitate coups or protests or the end of a regime.” That is the good news for the Musevenis.
However, Kendall-Taylor and Frantz also found that “concentration of power and recent experience with protests increases the risk that a country will deviate from the smooth transition that normally follows a leader’s death in office.” In English – a high risk for contested succession, violence and state collapse.
As the dark and ominous clouds gather over our country, I pray that the Lord God will spare us the bloody horror that followed the death of other emperors, like Houghet Boigny of Cote D’Ivoire and Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. Like Museveni, they were indispensable mortals.