President Museveni has pledged to retire numerous times, among which was the promise to handover to a civilian government four years after the National Resistance Army took over power in 1986, then after the elapse of his two constitutional term limits in 2006 and the vow to not stand when he clocked 75. These he has trashed, along with diminishing the hopes for the long anticipated peaceful transfer of power in the country.
Mr Museveni contested against 10 others in the Thursday polls as he sought to extend his time at the helm of the country to four decades. The 76-year-old has been President since 1986, and is listed among the five longest-serving leaders in Africa.
Mr Museveni says he needs this 6th term to secure the future of Ugandans. Numerous reasons, have been advanced to explain his stay in power, some necessitating constitutional amendments.
Taking his first ever oath of office in 1986 at the parliamentary steps, after a five-year guerrilla war, a young Museveni, then 42 years, promised a fundamental change in the politics of the country that had never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power.
Mr Museveni also said Africa’s biggest problem was leaders who over stay in power, and assured Ugandans that his would take a different path.
“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power,” he said then.
Museveni and the National Resistance Council (NRC) would go ahead to lead the country until 1996 when the first general election was held. This was after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution that limited the presidency to two five-year terms.
In May 2001, The New Vision reported Museveni’s intention to retire after the end of his second term (2006).
“When I retire, as I will do in these five years…” the paper quoted Mr Museveni, then 62 years, as saying.
In 2003, however, after a meeting at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi, his ruling party, NRM, initiated the process to amend the Constitution to remove the presidential term limits.
Each MP was paid Shs5m ‘facilitation’ to consult the electorate about the amendments, without which President Museveni would not have been eligible to stand again in 2006. At the time, some senior NRM members, including Cabinet ministers, opposed the move.
The Constitution was in 2005 – during the final year of Museveni’s last five-year elective term – amended, giving Museveni a gateway to stand again.
“Longevity without democracy was what I meant ... if the people are renewing my mandate in a free election, then I wouldn’t put it in that category. I was talking about dictatorship,” Museveni said after the 2006 elections.
He would go on to contest in 2011 and 2016, both times against his former Bush War comrade- turned-Opposition stalwart, Col Kizza Besigye, who fell out with President Museveni’s NRM in 1999.
“Democracy means you elect the people you like. We had elections about one year ago and my party won 62 per cent of the vote. That does not show that the people of Uganda are fed up of our party because they have voted for us five times.” Museveni told Al Jazeera in April 2017.
Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo in the October 14, 2020, issue of Daily Monitor said he regrets the removal of presidential term limits from the Constitution because the 1994 Constituency Assembly did not entrench the safeguards to stop such amendments.
“…what I wept for this country was for the removal of the presidential term limits. That is where we lost it. The mistake we made in the Constituent Assembly was not to entrench, not to make it difficult for anyone to amend the provisions of the term limits,” Justice Owiny-Dollo said
Age limit cap removal
In an interview with NTV in 2012, President Museveni said he would not contest to lead the country when he clocked 75 years.
“After 75, the vigour, I think there is some scientific idea there that maybe the vigour is not as much after 75 so that one I would not quarrel so much. I know there are some leaders who have been leading beyond 75 but I think if you want very active leaders, have the ones below 75,” he said.
In July 2017, when reminded of this stand at a press conference at State House Entebbe, following rumours of a plot to amend the Constitution to remove the upper age limit cap, which he had dismissed at the time, Museveni said: “We should continue our forward movement, we should not be diverted by diversions.”
In 2017, the 10th Parliament voted to amend Article 102b that barred persons above 75 years form contesting for the highest office in the land. This was viewed by some of Museveni’s critics as a direct ticket to grant him a life presidency.
In August 2019 while engaging his social media followers, Mr Museveni said he would have retired long ago, but ‘Africa and Uganda’ still have so many challenges that he needs to confront.
At the launch of the NRM 2021/26 manifesto at Speke Resort Munyonyo after his nomination, President Museveni, according Nile Post, said: “Some people have been saying Museveni has refused to retire. It is not that I don’t want to retire or that I don’t have where to retire but one of the reasons is that if Ugandans still want us to participate, I will continue making myself available.”
But his former Cabinet minister Nuwe Amanya Mushega said last year while appearing on NTV that as people who brought the NRM to power, they can’t tire of reminding Mr Museveni to peacefully hand over power.
“We put limitations in the Constitution. Serve two terms, was one of them. You do not leave power because you have lost steam. You leave because the law says so,” he said.