Now that The Observer is weekly again, by the time you read my next column, it will be January 3, 2018.
Let me, therefore, wish you a happy and prosperous 2018. The year 2017 has ended on a bad note on my side after failing to stop the prohibitively NRM-dominated 10th parliament from changing our Constitution to entrench the life presidency.
Before the Wednesday, December 20 vote on age limits in parliament, our Constitution, under Article 102(b), prohibited a 75-year-old person from running for president. That is why Gen Museveni, who will be 76 in 2021, pushed for its removal so he can die in office.
A big section of NRM MPs know that removal of age limits from the Constitution is probably the biggest sin they have ever committed against Uganda. Their electorates warned them against it. That is why they have illegally extended their term of office by two years.
Just like their master, they fear elections. The extension of the term of office for parliament and the presidency from five to seven years gives them some breathing space. Already, some have privately told us that they will not subject themselves to another election.
That is why Gen Moses Ali lost his cool during a cabinet meeting when Museveni attempted to shelve the seven-year-term proposal. Some colleagues and I have asked Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago to help us petition court over this whole circus. We hope courts will have the courage this time to grant us something.
Of course what happened on December 20 should serve as a big lesson to those of us opposed to the life presidency. There are many political mistakes we have individually and collectively committed in the last couple of years.
One such big mistake has been the refusal to work together and over concentration on winning the presidency. In this confusion, we lost parliamentary seats that we should never have.
Constituencies such as Entebbe Municipality, Busiro South, Nansana Municipality, Jinja Municipality East, Jinja Municipality West, Wakiso Woman MP, Mukono Woman MP, Busia Municipality, etc, should be in the hands of the opposition had we worked as a team.
Col Kizza Besigye won elections in Tororo district but all their MPs are from NRM. We lost seats in West Nile that we should never have lost. The life presidency went through on about 30 votes. If we had increased our numbers in parliament in the last elections, maybe we could have blocked it.
While I agree that a popular uprising can terminate the life presidency even before the next elections, opposition political parties, civil society and elements within NRM that believe in orderly succession (peaceful transfer of power) must return to the drawing board immediately.
For me, the dividend from the Togikwatako campaign has been the ability to work together. I think for the first time in recent history, I have seen opposition groups wearing the same colour (red) and speaking the same language. My desire is to see this continue. I have no problem with people associating with whoever they like, but on national issues, we must act together and speak the same language.
I have also learnt by chairing many meetings of MPs at parliament that forcing people to act the same way is detrimental to causes. There are MPs who pleaded with us that before we exchange kicks with NRM or Museveni security agents, we must afford them an opportunity to put their points on record.
The activists dismissed them as cowards and agents of the state. Hours of meetings helped reconcile these differences. I think our political parties must at all times struggle to accommodate and appreciate the contribution of everybody.
I also learnt that in whatever we are doing, we must try to accommodate the interests, sometime conflicting ones, of each component of our forces.
Finally, we have a duty to pick up pieces, and press on. Museveni has already started. On Thursday night, he met Busoga MPs and I have learnt he has lined up many meetings in the next couple of days.
And because staying in power is his main job, he is going to be active once the year begins. The opposition must not go on holiday. We must work as if parliament has not ‘touched’ the Constitution. That is how we will be able to break the old, vulnerable man.
The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.