11 February 2014

Uganda On the Verge of Giving Up On Museveni

Photo: United States DoD
Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (file photo).


On Monday this week, civil society and opposition leaders launched a joint campaign platform to push for electoral and administrative reforms ahead of the 2016 general elections.

The initial venue for this event was Hotel Africana; it later changed to Parliament but finally took place at St Francis hall, Makerere University.

Chances of finding a decent venue for such meetings have diminished in the last couple of years.

The Democratic Party used to host such meetings at City Square. Eventually, the name changed to Constitution Square and with it the function changed too.

It is now fully occupied by police and on some days surrounded by armoured vehicles, reducing it to a Police Square.

That is the environment under which the basket of 10-point reforms was launched on Monday. I don't know whether the organisers intended it, but denying this launch a band or any sort of entertainment took away from it the usual enthusiasm and made it look like a funeral.

In fact, only Bishop Zac Niringiye pumped some life into the event when he asked participants to hold and raise their hands and shout "enough is enough".

For me the mood in the country is even more important than the 10-point electoral reforms the civil society and opposition leaders are proposing. The country is almost giving up on Mr Museveni. Not because he cannot be defeated but because he has established an environment that makes it look almost impossible.

Therefore, dismantling this environment is a pre-requisite to any free and fair elections. Museveni has emasculated his own National Resistance Movement (NRM), thereby extinguishing any possibility of internal pressure to embrace reforms.

He has purged his equals from the party, the likes of Eriya Kategaya (RIP), Amanya Mushega, Augustine Ruzindana, Richard Kaijuka, Matthew Rukikaire, Tom Butime, Bidandi Ssali, etc.

He has blackmailed the remaining senior leaders, the likes of Amama Mbabazi, Rebecca Kadaga and Kahinda Otafiire, forcing others to go silent - the likes of Crispus Kiyonga, Ruhakana Rugunda, etc.

In 2003, when NRM's National Executive Committee sat in Kyankwanzi to discuss the future of this country, the big man was showered with advice. The schemers led by then vice president Prof Gilbert Bukenya were overwhelmed by the submissions of Mugisha Muntu, Miria Matembe, Amanya Mushega, etc.

Now in 2014, it is resolutions asking him to die in office because he has fostered stability, built the country, etc!

And who wants him to stand unopposed? Barbara Nekesa Oundo, born on June 6, 1984, Evelyn Anite, born November 11, 1984, Katoto Hatwib, born July 7, 1975, and John Ssimbwa of 1970.

How come the Daudi Migerekos who used to be the promoters of such schemes have fallen silent?

Big question to ask, can this sort of person embrace any reforms; is he in that frame of mind? Moreover, without any Bidandis or Kategeyas left in his house to persuade him to do so?

The next general elections might therefore be a defining moment in the history of our country. There comes a time when a strong leader no longer listens because he has strengthened militarily, compromised the opposition almost to a level of running it, and dealt with internal dissent. He stops seeing any threat. The population gives up and waits for the opportune moment to strike.

To avoid this, civil society and opposition leaders are demanding: (1) A new electoral commission (2) A new voters' register (3) Security organs out of elections (4) No diversion of public funds to finance NRM (5) Transparent demarcation of electoral areas (6) Freedom to assemble and organize (7) Participatory selection of presiding officers (8) Participatory processing of electoral materials (9) Integrity of tally centre and (10) Honest and transparent adjudication of presidential election disputes.

Trouble is that debate in this country has been polarised. NRM thinks any opposition gains translate into its immediate loss. They don't see adoption of reforms as beneficial to the country. Those who see the benefit in reforms are a minority in NRM who can neither mobilise nor muster the courage to speak out.

I have now heard that NRM is making its own set of proposals. Kahinda Otafiire as minister for Constitutional Affairs is working on some constitutional and other amendments. But usually any new window for Mr Museveni is an opportunity.

So there is also a State House team lining up amendments to be smuggled into the process. These include deleting of an article in the Constitution that stops a 75-yearold from standing for president. We are in for interesting times.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

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