Recently, a friend posted on Facebook saying: “Hon… what is your opinion on this grand debate on lifting the age limit as an academic, not as a politician?”
I promised to join him soon at the club but now seeing that I may take long to go to the club house, I opted to use this provocation to join the debate using this medium.
Those of us who supported lifting the term limits in 2005 to preserve space for President Museveni to still compete premised our argument on the possible vacuum that would be created by his exit.
I want to submit that given the political contestations at that time and the anger that had been generated by the fall-out of very senior NRM historical figures and a vibrant elite middle-aged cadre of recent NRM converts, a takeover by soldiers would have been unavoidable.
We must recall that even senior army legislators were taking sides, for and against lifting the two-term limit for the president.
My reading of the game was that the contestations were heated up by the realization of the possibility by some of them ascending to the highest office in the land in the absence of their boss.
Progressively, even those legislators who proposed a middle position which would make President Museveni manage the political transition (the Namibia way where President Sam Nujoma was given five more years but maintained the limits on terms in the constitution) were flatly dismissed by two contending extreme forces: those for outright lifting and those against. The rest is history.
Today, we are witnessing another political turning point in the NRM era, namely: expunging age limits (Article 102 (b) of the Constitution). Said differently is whether or not Museveni should be left to continue competing for the presidency even after 76 years of age that he will have attained by 2021.
Quite often, it is characteristic of certain people to be intolerant of divergent arguments advanced outside what is written in the ‘holy book of laws’.
They, instead, go on rampage unleashing verbal attacks on fellow citizens with divergent views. At the risk of being a victim, let me pose the following questions:
1). What would the government be like if a president other than from NRM was in charge of the country, given NRM’s close to 70 per cent dominance of parliament?
2). Having operationalised the Constitution since 1996, is it not worth noting that the current hybrid of the presidential system and parliamentary system is, after all, not the best political framework for Uganda?
Is it not a potential political precipice for the country to fall off if a president who is given a lot of power in the Constitution was to preside over a country with a 70 per cent political leadership in the opposition, a lot of which is never principled?
3). Do we not notice consistent occurrences of turmoil in countries in Africa, hitherto held together by strongmen who have been removed involuntarily?
President Museveni still has a lot of influence on the Ugandan political and military scene, including his successor should he opt to leave.
Just like the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania bequeathed both the political and military institutions to a selected line of successors such as Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa, and Jakaya Kikwete in that order, and initially under his watchful eye (Nyerere had dismantled the colonial army outfit and created a pro-people army which was still loyal to him), Museveni has no choice but to adopt the same path.
With regard to the army, you may want to read Section 15 (1) (c) of the UPDF Act: “There is established under this Act the High Command of the Defence Forces consisting of… (c) Members of the High Command on 26th February 1986 whose names are set out in the Third Schedule to this Act”.
The Third Schedule to the act lists the names as: (Rtd) Gen Yoweri Museveni, Lt Gen Elly Tumwine, Lt Gen Salim Saleh Akandwanaho, Lt Gen David Tinyefuza, Honorary Brig Eriya Kategaya, and Brig Rtd Matayo Kyaligonza. What would happen to a president who would succeed Museveni without his blessing? Your guess is as good as mine, which calls for more intellect than emotion.
Let me add this hypothesis. Until President Museveni has nurtured the nascent oil industry to relative maturity, he will not, by whatever means, allow anybody to destabilise his leadership grip on the country.
I propose that the direction of the debate should be towards an alternative model of a multiparty government for the remaining years of President Museveni as he can only succumb to the law of natural selection.
This model of government would then be able to oversee Uganda’s transition from the current NRM bush war protagonists (Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Tinyefuza, Amama Mbabazi, Amanya Mushega and the like on the one hand and Museveni, Kale Kayihura, Henry Tumukunde, Elly Tumwine, Kyaligonza, Ruhakana Rugunda, Kirunda Kivejinja and others on the other) to a much younger generation.
For critics going viral on social media about Patrick Kamara’s interview with President Museveni on NTV, I leave you with three quotations from a renowned political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli:
>> Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
>> How we live is so different from how we ought to live. He who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation, and
>> The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.
The author is a former minister and member of parliament.