Monday, 16 May 2016
Photos: Museveni 2016-2021: 5 years, 5 challenges by Edris Kiggundu
A tightly-guarded Museveni at Kololo Independence Grounds
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was yesterday sworn in as president of Uganda for the sixth time in 30 years. EDRIS KIGGUNDU looks at five issues that could define Mu- seveni’s leadership between now and 2021.
AGE LIMIT/ SUCCESSION
One of the biggest political questions facing the ruling party is not what will happen in the next five years; it is what next thereafter. Will Museveni amend the Constitution and remove the age-limit so he can stand in 2021 or will he return to Rwakitura to be with his cows, as he is wont to say?
The Constitution stipulates that one cannot vie for the presidency if they are 75 years and above. Museveni will make 72 years in September this year meaning that by the end of 2019, he will be 75 years and ineligible to stand for president. But Museveni once suggested that a constitution was a mere piece of paper, and not many think he would simply respect the age- limit clause.
The discussion on whether to remove age limit is likely to follow a similar path like the debate about removing term limits in the early 2000s. At first President Museveni denied he was behind the efforts then he started sounding ambiguous until he conceded.
Yet to make this scheme work, analysts believe, Museveni will have to rely on Parliament like he did in 2005. Then, he used a mixture of persuasion and carrot (shs 5 million given to each Movement MP) to sway parliament.
This time the financial re- wards to the MPs could be higher. Dr Sabiiti Makara, an associate professor of political science at Makerere University, said on Tuesday that Parliament cannot be relied upon to stop Museveni because it is in his pockets.
Makara said when Museveni led efforts to remove term limits in 2005, he put one foot in the “league of dictators”. If he pushes for removal of age limit, he will put another foot and the cycle will be complete. Should Museveni decide otherwise, another possibility to watch is whether there will be efforts to have his son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed him, like it is widely believed.
The first step will be for Muhoozi to retire from the army and if he does this in the next three years, it will be an ominous sign. Don Wanyama, a spokesman in the office of the NRM chairman, said it was still premature to “speculate” whether the age limit will be lifted or how the succession will pan out.
HANDLING BESIGYE/ OPPOSITION
After an impressive showing at the 2016 elections, Dr Kizza Besigye is likely to remain the biggest thorn in Museveni’s flesh. Already, his mobilization activities have been curtailed by the state which feels safer when he is prevented from leaving his home.
Yet whether Besigye can maintain this pressure over the next five years will depend on how he will play his political cards. The former FDC leader favours protests as a form of expressing his discontent against government.
President Museveni supporters at Kololo Independence Grounds during his inauguration
As for the wider opposition, eyes will be on Amama Mbabazi, the former prime minister, to see what steps he takes next after his dismal performance in the 2016 elections. There is expectation that he could turn his pressure group, Go Forward into a fully-fledged politi- cal party.
Prof Ogenga Latigo, the MP-elect for Agago North, said Tuesday that the opposition has now matured and can see through Museveni’s schemes.
“In the past people [in the opposition] would see economic opportunities, employment opportunities and the president would maneuver around there and divide the opposition. None of these options is open now. So the only thing left is to be with Museveni and his failures or to avoid being part of it. This is a strong uniting factor for the opposition,” Latigo said.
Wanyama believes NRM is in a stronger position now to deal with other political parties, given internal divisions afflicting some of them.
“I don’t think they will have a lot of time to bother President Museveni. The question of whether Amama Mbabazi is still strong was buried in the last election,” Wanyama said.
Mbabazi had been seen by some as the best thing to happen to the opposition, but he managed barely 1.4 per cent of the vote.
Out of the 15.5 million registered voters in Uganda, 60 per cent are youth aged between 18 and 35. Many of these are not employed and are wallowing in poverty.
Over the next five years, appeasing these people shall have to become one of Museveni’s biggest tasks if he still has designs on the presidency in 2021. Museveni has already indicated that, starting next financial year, government will set up wealth funds to address poverty and youth unemployment. These are the youth fund, women fund and innovative fund.
Latigo said the current economic situation characterized by high income inequality, unemployment and food scarcity is a recipe for disaster.
“There has been too much rhetoric and yapping about GDP figures rather than ad- dressing the real economic challenges which are em- powering people and enhancing their capacity. Because this illusion took so long the consequences are beginning to show.”
Latigo said the large youth population also has expectations of living a better life and therefore they are not just going to sit and watch as government does nothing to improve their plight.
Along with economic challenges Museveni will have to squarely confront corruption, which was part of the NRM’s 10-point-programme, but which now probably sits on top of the list of NRM’s top 10 vices.
Museveni has always barked that he would move hard on the corrupt, but there is no evidence he has the teeth to bite.
Tamale Mirundi, a presidential advisor on the media, has often said in various media appearances that as long as the oil remains in the ground, Museveni will not go anywhere.
President Museveni said last week that oil production will start in 2019 and give the country impetus to undertake development projects without dictation from donors.
Experts, however, think otherwise. They say it will take at least five years for government to construct a refinery and three years for the pipeline to come on line. This means that the most realistic year to begin oil production will be 2021, the year Museveni is scheduled to step down.
Uganda’s relationship with some of its key donors is at its lowest following the controversial 2016 election that many observers said did not pass the test of a free and fair election.
At celebrations to mark the European Union day on Monday, Kristian Schmidt, the head of the EU delegation to Uganda, said while the country needed steady progress (NRM’s 2016 campaign slogan), it must not be blind to change in some areas.
“To preserve the legacy, to ensure peace and stability in Uganda, to build the future, things have to change. Even if you want steady progress, change is needed,” Schmidt said.
Makara believes that the tough tone from donors will soon subside because Museveni knows how to play to their game.
“He [Museveni] knows that donors need his sup- port if they want to keep this region stable therefore they cannot get rid of him. It will be a ping pong game.”
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