All Ugandans need is clarity on succession, political transition
Posted Tuesday, October 29 2013 at 08:41
Right from 1999 when President Museveni indicated his interest to run (again) in the 2001 elections, a small group of people who did not believe that would yet be his last time on the ballot came out to express their disgruntlement about his failure to keep his promise (that 1996 – 2001 would be his last term in office).
In 2001, those who challenged Museveni’s second-time candidacy invoked the moral saying; a man is only as good as his word! Little did they know that a man can also be good with his words and that in politics there are infinite ‘last’ terms in office!
It is at that point that the current (and on-going) debate on political succession came to the fore of the political discourse in Uganda. The debate has since taken multiple lines, but all aimed at finding an answer to the simple question around political succession and transition.
The zing that brought the flavour of a cut throat competition between Dr Kizza Besigye and President Museveni in the 2001 (and 2006) elections was primarily the anticipation that the country would for the first time (through elections) see a peaceful handover of power from one president to another. The reform agenda efforts; the parliamentary advocacy forum struggles; the brawls by ‘rebel’ generals; the jostling that has produced the NRM ‘rebel’ MPs, ‘rebel’ councillors and ‘rebel’ clerics, is nothing less than a battle to straighten issues around political succession, and the transition question.
The heated debate on the reinstatement of term limits that put the country on a roller-coaster last year was nothing less that inviting Ugandan law makers to institutionalise a modus operandi for political transition/succession – from one president to another.
The same can be construed from the ‘succession queue’ debate that has engulfed this country over the years. Some years ago, the then Minister for Security, Amama Mbabazi, was the talk of town – he was presumed by some to be one of the preferred successors of President Museveni. This debate was instantaneously ended with a presidential clarification that there wasn’t any succession queue. Put in other words, this could have been interpreted to mean that beyond the presidential elections which are organised regularly (for national and international public relations’ sake?), there was neither attention nor space to debate possibilities of institutionalising succession in the political arena.
Likewise, the recent Muhoozi Project discussion was not just about Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba as a person, it was broadly about the need to set the record clear about the succession question within the NRM – which directly feeds into the broader political transition discourse.
Today, we have the emerging narrative around an impending constitutional review process. This is two pronged: a small clique plotting to break any left-over impediments to open presidency and on the other hand, a struggle to institutionalise leadership transition and manage a clean political transition process.
There are forces that are already looking at a constitutional review process in light of removing the 75 age limit for one to stand as a presidential candidate and withdrawing the absolute majority constitutional requirement (51 per cent) to win a presidential election. If such self-seeking changes see light of day, we will have advertently put to rest the question of political transition in Uganda.
Actually, we will have openly sold off Uganda to one willing and happy buyer. But there are also Ugandans who are looking at this process with earnest hope as the platform that will create that much-needed space to thresh out the question of a well-organised political transition. Constitutional review or not, it is true that there are areas in our law books that require serious and urgent reform to facilitate progress towards the institutionalisation of political transition – which is crucial right now.
Past and present political gesticulations point to the clamour for an organised, institutionalised transition process that is arbitrated not by just the incumbent or security agencies but by all Ugandans. Lately, citizens are weary of manoeuvres that largely reflect ‘individual above institution’ interests.
All in all, Ugandans want a proper, clear and definite roadmap that will institutionalise and deliver a genuine political transition for their much loved country.
Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda. email@example.com