MBALE – At the next polls in 2026, President Museveni will be 82 years and possibly one of the oldest state leaders in Africa and the world over. That is if he told us his right date of birth.
Despite such clear indicators, the President’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party appears determined not to talk about succession or life without Museveni at the helm of the party and the country.
The party structures have been staging declarations to have President Museveni come unopposed in 2026 using youths in all regions of the country but president is tightlipped and only speaks in italics or tongues with clear signs that he wants to remain a president.
It is true that across the country, people want to free themselves from Museveni’s mess but these have also forgotten that President Museveni too needs to be liberated from his own trap of power-he is trapped.
I know that there is a delicate and difficult negotiation to be navigated here which requires thoughtfulness and perceptiveness, not just fancy slogans and pressure from within the country and outside.
But as it looks now, there seems to be no magic wand of a popular figure that will easily sweep away President Museveni without the efforts of coherent, coordinated and combined change seeking forces inside the country.
Although he promised democracy in 1986 when he came to power, President Museveni’s rule has become more repressive and abuse to human rights.
The NRM government has vividly become an authoritarian system in which the president delegates no responsibilities and becomes personally involved in almost everything in the country, particularly issues concerning the rights of individual Uganda citizens to speak their minds, assemble without hindrance, write and publish without being molested.
And for the Past 37 years, President Museveni has been lying to the entire world, how Uganda has been a democratic Nation, with free and fair elections but we have seen atrocities, arrests and imprisonment without trial and mass murders that have been happening over the years.
And given the fact that President Museveni has successfully entangled himself with western military interests, the regime’s increasingly brazen and outright brutal behavior is likely to continue should Ugandans still accept him as a president for another term.
It is true that President Museveni’s military dictatorship has been draped in civilian garb for a long time with promises of democracy.
And as a routine ritual, Museveni purports to seek legitimation every five years through elections but these elections are scarcely free, fair or credible and this has been particularly since at least 2001 when Museveni first faced a serious challenge to his stay at the helm.
Writer Jon Adams says “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide,” maybe this is what President Museveni’s democracy has undergone or is undergoing.
For those who have read Darkness at Noon by A. Koestler in the first hearing Robashov says “This is a diseased century. We diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared. Our will was hard and pure; we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us. Why are we so odious and detested?
The NRM government brought us the truth in 1986 but today when they talk about the truth, it sounds like a lie. They brought us freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. They brought us the living life, and where their voices are heard the trees wither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. They brought us the promise of the future, but their tongues stammer and barke.
Many people who saw a lot of good things, good leadership devoid of corruption, human rights protection and democracy in 1986 when our dear NRM took over, today they are seeing the opposite because the government is doing exactly what it came to fight against.
And today President Museveni has aged, his regime has grown steadily more corrupt and autocratic and all elections he has staged to award himself consecutive terms in office have been a mockery of democracy.
The way things happen in this country can make for gloomy reading because his autocratic patronage system established has undermined the rule of law and respect for human rights in Uganda.
The elections right from 1996 has showed that he has become, as Nigerian novelist and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka put it, “the very thing he fought against.”
This makes me remember what my grand mum said in 1986 when President Museveni and his NRA outfit had just taken over government “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have,”
To stay in office, Mr. Museveni first pushed through a constitutional amendment eliminating an age limit of 75 for presidential candidates; he is 76.
While Museveni does not appear to have serious challengers ahead of 2026 appears far off, insiders say he has already planned ahead.
The plan, according to those knowledgeable about the inner workings of the NRM, President Museveni’s NRM MPs intend to eliminate presidential elections and instead have the party with the majority in parliament select the president.
The idea is to save an ageing Museveni from an election campaign fatigue across the country which does not usually take less than a month.
The opposition politicians have publicly spoken about such plans [January, 2022] but the NRM has dismissed the same as mere speculation and of course such NRM denials do not mean it will not happen.
But note must be made that thr plot to remove the constitutional 75-year age-limit to allow President Museveni to run again started as a rumour, was dismissed by NRM, but was eventually pushed through parliament by President Museveni.
And given the about 70 percent majority, the ruling NRM and its chairman Museveni would be the immediate beneficiaries.
The NRM ruling party would easily retain power and Museveni who by that time will be too old to campaign would just stay in office.
Between Gen Museveni and his son Muhoozi
In the past, whenever talk of succession or transition has arisen, political punditry has focused on four areas; members of Museveni’s family, top members of the NRM party, top generals in the army before an opposition politician.
Currently, however, talk of succession or transition is easily dismissed because Museveni either appears too strong due to the backing he enjoys in the army or the would-be successors appear too weak.
Today, in President Museveni’s family, the possible successor has been seen as his son, Lt.Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who has already started the campaigns without being endorsed by the NRM top leadership.
While he seems to be popular amongst family members, he remains unpopular across the country and among ruling party members even hard to sell among the rural youth who remain majority voters in the national elections.
Gen. Kainerugaba also faces the challenge of his father Gen, Museveni even when he seems to be offering youthful hope.
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