Sunday February 28 2016

It is on to 2021 and I know who is running for president already

By Bernard Tabaire

If President Museveni runs again in 2021, he will be sworn in on May 12 of that year regardless of who else is in the race.

If Mr Museveni does not run in 2021 and Dr Kizza Besigye runs, the FDC man will take the oath on the said date irrespective of who else is in the race. There will have to occur a shift of large proportions to change this political dynamic.
In the meantime, what?

Watch for President Museveni reigniting the constitutional review process. Remember, several amendments were kicked down the road by the outgoing Parliament to the next, the 10th, which also will be completely dominated by the ruling party.

Among the issues to deal with may be a suggestion to lift the upper age cap of 75 above which no one can run for president in Uganda.

So, any suggestion to change that will be a sure sign Mzee Museveni will run again although he will be above 75 years in 2021. He will certainly not be changing that clause to benefit anyone else.

The other obvious sign will be how the President appoints a new slate of electoral commissioners to take over from the current lot led by Dr Badru Kiggundu.

Will he in the least take on board the concerns of the Opposition and sections of civil society and consult them on who becomes an EC commissioner? If he is more accommodating, he will have helped restore some confidence in the EC.

If he is not, we will know he is determined to have a friendly, not necessarily a fair and competent, force running the electoral process. That will be a sign he will run.

The other minor pointers will come from the way he structures his Cabinet and who he names to it. Plus, if he keeps up his frenetic countrywide tours – essentially campaigns. The man campaigns five years non-stop.

For Dr Besigye, how he spends his time will be equally interesting to keep tabs on. He is not president of FDC, so he does not have that cover to use to plan for yet another presidential run.

That said, the man does not quite need the party presidency as he just demonstrated when he cannily changed positions, did in his comrade Mugisha Muntu and ran a strong campaign against Mr Museveni.

The same script is likely again. Incidentally, Mr Museveni’s moves will provide him perfect reason to stay relevant.

If there is a move to remove the upper age limit or Mr Museveni names new EC commissioners without seeking input from other interested parties, Dr Besigye will loudly denounce and lead or attempt to lead public marches against the president’s actions.

On top of that, Dr Besigye will keep up his close partnership with Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.

Newly energised with a thumping re-election victory, Mr Lukwago is likely to be even more aggressive than before, leading to a collision with the central government. And Dr Besigye will be right there declaring: omuloodi waali.

After all, their partnership of muscular challenge to the central government over matters Kampala and larger matters of civic and political freedoms have amply rewarded both, with Mr Lukwago getting re-elected in a landslide, and with Dr Besigye defeating Mr Museveni by the largest margin yet in Greater Kampala. And there was more.

The Opposition swept the MP and councillor positions. I do not, therefore, see both men abandoning a strategy that has reaped dividends for them. So, we may well expect more of the same.

Should Dr Besigye not run, I see Mr Lukwago seeking to capture the DP presidency and then make a run for the top job in the land.

But, with the collapse of the Amama Mbabazi project, could there emerge some sort of third force between the NRM/Museveni wing and the Besigye/FDC/Lukwago wing? No idea.

Now, I have just painted a scenario on all sides that actually places politics above policy and good service delivery. Terrible!

Mr Tabaire is the co-founder and director of programmes at African Centre for Media Excellence in Kampala.