Friday, July 11, 2008

Museveni declaration has closed succession debate

Omar Kalinge Nnyago- Daily monitor has written ठाट President Museveni has broken the silence. He is ready to seek a fourth term (sixth term to be exact) ‘if the NRM decides so’. He is willing and available. He is not quitting just yet, and whatever opinion you have of the president’s announcement, there is no doubt that the campaigns for the magic 2011 have begun.

The Presidents pronouncement is significant for two reasons. First, by declaring his candidature three years early, he intended to keep off those in his party who had any pretensions of standing for president. They now will have to stand against Museveni at the delegates’ conference and get humiliated. Or to quit the NRM and join another party.

Secondly, by this pronouncement, he has put an end to the incessant succession debate that is raging in the media and indeed in his party itself. Museveni is determined to remain Uganda’s president. The argument for Museveni’s perpetuity since the lifting of the term limits have been numerous.

A few are recounted here. Proponents argue that allowing Museveni rule forever is a “token of appreciation by a grateful nation for good leadership.” They imply therefore that the presidency is a retirement gift and not serious national service.

The other argument is that Museveni is still capable of doing some good. This would mean that Ugandans must squeeze out all utility from Mr Museveni before he dies. Another reason is that there is no immediately available alternative to fill his shoes, being the super human being he is, a rare God’s gift to the people of Uganda, a land that suffers an acute shortage of intelligent and capable people. This can only be an insult to Ugandans.

The other favourite argument in favour of Museveni’s perpetuity is that there are no term limits for other arms of government -- the legislature and the judiciary. This is an absurd comparison. For, unlike the presidency, the legislature is not a one-person institution because its decisions, resolutions and actions are group matters.

Likewise the decision of a single judge is subject to a system of appeals. But perhaps the most forceful argument the “Museveni perpetuists” advance is that it is undemocratic to take away from the people the power to choose whom they want to govern them.

This is a gross misrepresentation of the gist of democracy. Democracy recognises necessity for setting parameters through rules; otherwise, people would be allowed to do whatever they wanted to, without any restrictions. But the crux of the matter, really, is that the NRM is inherently incapable of presiding over a smooth transfer of power both internally (within the party) as well as at the wider national level.

President Museveni has been the chairman/president since the death of Yusuf Lule and Haji Kigongo his Vice Chairman. Consequently, after a quarter a century of internal dictatorship, the Movement has found itself in a trap of its own making: the incapability of contemplating life after Museveni.

Most proponents of the perpetuity model are more afraid of the future than they are convinced that Uganda suffers a leadership talent drought. Some, for their own selfish ends, cannot be sure they can keep their fraudulently amassed wealth after Museveni’s departure.

Meanwhile, common sense should dictate to the opposition that the only way the intending perpetual president can go home is by being defeated in an election. And to be able to achieve that, they must put aside their petty differences and unite to change the disastrous route the country has taken.

If what we heard early in the week is true, that DP has vowed never to cooperate with the FDC (or any other party?), then we can as well crown Museveni Emperor of Uganda. No single political party in Uganda is capable of winning an election alone or more importantly, safeguard its victory if it won anyway. Coming from the Party’s President General Ssebaana Kizito, a few months before his retirement, the “never” word was unfortunate.

It is hoped that the next DP leadership that would be probably more energetic and strategic in thinking would find the courage to disagree with the outgoing president on the matter of cooperation with other parties, however angry one might be about the behaviour of another party.

The situation the country finds itself in, of uncontrollable corruption, of gross unemployment, brutality of security organs, abuse of human rights, decline of education and health standards, will require more sacrifice and courage than wild statements at press conferences.

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