Thursday February 13 2014

Political transition: Uganda comes first

By Editorial

The political season is in full swing which makes it a good time to remind the country’s politicians that Uganda should come first whatever they do.

A taste of how intense the coming months could be has already been described in the recent rumblings of disquiet in the two largest political parties. Internal unrest and twin leadership challenges bubbled more violently under the surface, threatening to boil over.

In the FDC, the removal of Mr Nandala Mafabi as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament now has him fiddling ever more earnestly with the self-destruct button. While at the other end Mr Museveni was leaving nothing to chance, whipping party MPs to fall into line behind him. The unsettling impression created was of a President feeling insecure as he spoke about dark plots and shady schemes by allies-turned-enemies within.

In political terms, what the President and the FDC leader are doing may amount to the delicate business of a purge. Nobody can say with certainty how the affected quarters will react. There could be a temporary retreat of forces, an acceptance of the situation or it could drive the other side underground where it could foment any colour of mischief.

Hopes that the ruling party would go through the healthy and self-cleansing process of a competitive race to choose its leader ahead of 2016 have been diminished by the subterfuge, counter-democracy and pseudo-revolutionary tone evident in the Evelyn Anite motion, which tied MPs hands at its ongoing parliamentary caucus in Kyankwanzi.

Couched in half-truths about the alleged benefits of longevity in power, the motion was a contradiction in terms. It professed to uphold democracy, but quickly discouraged “leaders within the party with presidential ambitions from pursuing schemes that compromise cohesion, unity, breed factionalism…”

History has shown that the brand of exclusion politics represented in the Anite motion can have devastating consequences. We hope history is proved wrong in this case.

Uganda’s future hangs in some balance. It bodes an ill wind now that the President’s backers equate their opponents to enemies of the State, thereby bringing a national security dimension to what should, at worst, be a dirty political fight. These backers should be encouraged to embrace the reality that politics is, of necessity, a game fraught with intrigue.