Sunday June 1 2014

How 54% want Museveni to stay and 77% want him to go yesterday

Mr Museveni.

Mr Museveni. File photo  

By Alan Tacca

With the turmoil tearing up the ruling NRM, President Museveni cannot be sleeping soundly.

Around him he sees wolves, mercenaries and traitors, all of them licking his boots in pretence of loyalty during the day. And he cannot fire all of them, since he fears they might thereafter openly spit venom on his rule.

When a young female stooge proposed that Mr Museveni should become the 2016 NRM flag-bearer without going through the party primaries, a self-assured incumbent would have retorted:

“Oh, come off it, you pre-bush war youngster. The primaries are the rule and the right thing. You don’t understand what we fought for. None of us should breach the spirit of the established practice of our party.”

Instead, President Museveni threw his conscience and all his pride out of a Kyankwanzi window and embraced the idea.

Both mercenary praise-singers and genuine Museveni loyalists used to have a standard response when politicians and sensible ordinary people talked about Museveni voluntarily retiring, or the need to limit presidential terms.

Disregarding the advantage enjoyed by an incumbent – including greater access to rigging opportunities – they have always parroted: If Museveni is no longer popular, his candidacy should make the Opposition happy, as it simplifies beating the NRM at elections.

Intellectual decency would dictate the same logic over the Kyankwanzi resolution, that if other potential NRM contenders are not viable, Mr Museveni should be happy to have them in the primaries.

Instead, the parrots are babbling about party cohesion and the divine gift Mr Museveni is, which makes the President look like a faded cult leader whose authority can only be sustained by cunning and command loyalty.
And there is now a pair of statics that is not likely to improve the President’s sleep.

According to a Daily Monitor opinion poll, 54 per cent of Ugandans want Mr Museveni to remain president in 2016.

The other figure is a whopping 77 per cent who want the limit on presidential terms re-instated.

Now, if over 50 per cent want Museveni back in 2016, why do so many more people also want a law that would have stopped him from contesting long ago? Has he proved to be an inconvenient or troublesome monolith?

Of course, many often police-terrorised people may endorse a feared ruler in a “meaningless” poll but vote against him in secret in a real election. This would put in doubt that 54 per cent majority, leaving in sharp focus the 77 per cent who wish we had a limit.

Again, of course, some of the 77 per cent would say they can trust Musesveni “unlimited”, but not any other future President.
That has its absurdity. But let us suppose the two figures roughly reflect the true attitudes of Uganda; how would one account for the paradox? For the two pennies it is worth, here is my take:

Recent events show that President Museveni is absolutely determined to keep his job. Some of his actions betray such desperation that failing to achieve his objective could pose a danger to the other citizens.

So, much as they may hate themselves for doing so, the instinct for self-preservation prompts a good number to join true Museveni supporters who indicate (in the opinion survey) what they actually intend to do in 2016 – vote for their man.

However, the self-preservation group probably wish that something bigger than them could save them; perhaps a law to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

Then they would be able to plead: “Sir, it is not our fault. We still love you. It is the law that stopped you from contending. We beg you to live with us in peace.”

If this timid group is added to the bold ones who polled that they would not vote for Museveni, the total could also be in the seventies per cent.

With all this before the main Opposition candidate has been identified, Mr Museveni is right not to sleep soundly on the dubious assurance of 54 per cent currently squatting in his camp.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator