I was tricked by Museveni to back term limit removal

Hope Mwesigye

What you need to know:

  • Interview. Former minister for Parliamentary Affairs Hope Mwesigye played a pivotal role in the 2005 amendment of the Constitution to remove term limits.
  • She, like her brother in law and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi have since fallen out with the NRM and President Museveni. Sunday Monitor’s Ivan Okuda interviewed Ms Mwesigye.

What is your assessment of the situation in the country?
I think the situation is fluid and can only get worse if it is not arrested in time.

What do you mean?
From the information I am gathering from so many corners, many people don’t want the Constitution to be amended to lift the age limit but at the same time I think Mr Museveni, who is the chief beneficiary of this project, wants the age limit lifted.
You see how they are handling those opposed with a lot of torture, violence, inhumane treatment and with a lot of impunity. It is a do or die matter.

This is not just about Mr Museveni because he has a group of people in support of this amendment. What do you make of their views because they too are Ugandans?
Clearly for any human being who has worked in one job and not made a mark (even when you achieve a handful of things), I am not persuaded you can turn things around in your 40th year in office. The law of diminishing returns sets in. They can argue that biology doesn’t matter but you were doing at 20, 35, 40, it gets increasingly difficult to do at 78.

Mr Museveni’s vigour gets better with the passage time and like wine, the older he grows the finer be becomes at his art
He personally said at 75 the vigour is no longer there, so whether Mr Museveni wants it or not biology matters. He said he wants to be advised by doctors and I think he should actually go and see a doctor for he cannot say he has no ailment up to this age.
Of course they are saying even in the USA there are no age limits and President Trump is over 70 but they forget that that country has established systems so potent that even in the president’s absentia the country runs efficiently. The countries they are citing have a unique context from ours where Museveni is the NRM, Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and God knows what else.

Maybe as Mr Amama Mbabazi is quoted to have said not so long ago, when you have a good leader you don’t just let go? Good leaders are rare, you know!
He can be a good leader but there are other people who can be good leaders so give them chance.

Those who want him to rule for eternity say he is a guarantor of stability and peace and they cannot take those for granted
Okay they are talking of peace but where is peace in Uganda?

In 500 years he says, this is the first time Uganda is wholly peaceful
What peace does that mother of the child who died in Rukungiri have? What peace are Ugandans nursing wounds from the brutality of police having or the man whose child lost an arm to a tear gas canister or Parliament which was raided and we still have MPs nursing wounds? Peace doesn’t mean absence of war in the country. People must have freedom to express their views.

Let’s return to the age limit debate. Does anything surprise you? I request you to start with a recap of your own role in the 2005 term limits debate and eventual removal
In 2005 I was the minister of Parliamentary Affairs and as such I was charged with making sure Bills and policies that went to Parliament from government did go through so during removal of terms limits I played a big role.

With the benefit of hindsight do you regret?
You see at that time in my view the President had actually asked me that he wanted one more term. He also told me that he would then be going to the East African federation. I did what I did in 2005 with that in mind; that he wanted one term and he leaves for the East African Federation. When I realised we had passed the amendment in 2005 and now the term limits were off, immediately after the 2006 election you could see the President was campaigning for the next term so it looked like he didn’t want to go anywhere. He had duped us.

Someone would successfully charge you with being gullible!
I would say I was duped.

Your bucket list of regrets is actually long, you also had the Shs5 million bribe. What do you say?
It is true the Shs5 million was given to MPs but I think it is God who can say if it was a bribe because He looks at all circumstances but yes we gave the shs5million to MPs.

What was it for?
It was facilitation, but as you know facilitation can make someone do something different or change his mind. What I can say without getting into detail is that the money was not from Parliament.

Where did it come from?
It came from another government agency I won’t mention on the record in this interview and that is why because it came out to be known, they are now fighting tooth and nail to tell us this money is from the Parliament Commission.