Why Ugandans should abandon the futile debate about Museveni age limit

By Justus Muhanguzi

In 2005 when the Constitution was ‘re-adjusted’ to lift the presidential term limits that enabled president Museveni secure another lease regarding his tenancy in state house, I spent many sleepless nights fighting with my memory as I tried to recall and make sense of his previous political statements especially the memorable one of January 26 1986.

Unlike his colleagues (late Kategaya Bidandi and many others) or the various political pundits who could not absorb the shock but went up in arms before being shoved off the moving yellow bus, I have for many years now been wondering whether or not what had been happening was circumstantial or simply a game of cards in which Museveni was in charge, holding master cards close to his chest and was dropping one at time as and when necessary.

I am now convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that he is still on top of the game (political and military) and I can say without any fear of contradiction that those warming up for a fight (physical, mental or otherwise) are fighting loosing battles). Not that I do support the life presidency project but because I want to be realistic and come to terms with the real situation by trying to understand and analyze Museveni’s political and military mind.

Unlike those who think and are swearing to thwart whatever political agenda he has designed and is about to have implemented, I like the independent minded presidential ‘adviser’ John Nagenda want to open another frontline for the debate by asking the one -million-dollar question; What happens to Uganda if Museveni died tomorrow? I firmly believe that no amount of pressure, persuasion, force, hope or prayer will give president Museveni a second thought about throwing in the towel after the expiry of his current term.

Justus Muhanguzi

It is for that reason that I want to adopt a more realistic approach and demystify the hitherto ‘embargoed’ (or has it become a taboo) debate about Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s alleged succession debate so that we do not risk the dangers of plunging Uganda into anarchy when (not in case) president Museveni dies in office with no official anointed and acceptable successor. True to his character (read smart political and military calculations), President Museveni has always preferred to keep Ugandans guessing, jumping like headless chicken or falling over one another as they grope in darkness trying to find an answer about the 2 big Ws (read Who and When). While it is becoming clearer by the day that Museveni does not have any intentions whatsoever of retiring soon, I want

Ugandans to eat their humble pie and instead gather courage and redirect their energies and brains to try and ask or debate about “Which Ugandan has Museveni anointed in his Will to rule Uganda?”!!!.

This is because it has since become an open secret that all the hitherto ‘qualified and suitable’ candidates like the the late Eriya Kategaya, Amama

Mbabazi, late James Waphakabulo and many other revolutionary contemporaries have since jumped or been pushed off the yellow bus leaving Museveni with a firm grip of the steering wheel.

Relatedly, the Constitutional provision that mandates the vice president to fill the void may in my thinking be inapplicable. Right thinking Ugandans rightly believe that our good and ‘saintly’ Hon. Sekandi Kiwanuka would if the inevitable happened to his boss abandon everything official and walk or run to the safety of his Kyamunanika home instead of going to state house.

Given the above, I strongly believe it is only president Museveni who secretly knows who his anointed successor. As a champion of both the political and military games, he always chooses – like in the game of cards holds – to hold his master card close to his chest until when he must drop it as a winner.

To me, this Strategy may for the case of Museveni’s successor prove disastrous and counterproductive.

Why? Whoever appears on the scene suddenly may not be acceptable to Ugandans and this will ignite a powder keg that will trigger off a wild fire and burn Uganda into ashes.

I have always dismissed as simple-minded and castigated political and military pundits including the many blind praise singers cum opportunists who argue that “Museveni’s successor will naturally emerge at the appropriate time.”

To this line of thought and reasoning, my simple and curt reply has and continues to be; “If Museveni died today tomorrow or any other time, his successor would only emerge from the ashes after Uganda has been razed to the ground”.

These have been my candid views I have always expressed openly whenever I participate in this life-presidency project which has now been re-ignited by now emerging debate about the another ‘surgery’ to the constitution which will be done by indirect or direct political manouvres like it happened in 2004 when the presidential term limit’s proposal was allegedly forced down the throats of some members of the Sempebwa Constitutional Review Commission before it found its way to the floor of parliament.

No amount of opposition including a minority report by the two members

(Prof. Sempebwa and the recently deceased Rotarian Sam Owori) of the CRC changed the resolve of the parliamentarians who were reportedly pocketed blown envelopes worth Shs 5 million. The stakes have reportedly been raised to a whooping Shs 300 million this time round!!!

Be as it may, suffice to elucidate on what I insist as most important duty president Museveni owes to Ugandans- the grooming a successor.

In the early days of the revolution, it was the late Eriya Kategaya who was the defacto number and hitherto regarded as a successor. James Waphakabulo’s name also featured on the political grapevine.

In 2005, when it emerged that Museveni had sought another term and was not about to go, most of his colleagues including Eriya Kategaya, his childhood confidant and hitherto defacto number 2, walked out on him after realizing how they had been taken for what they reportedly suspected was ride or unfulfilled promises.

President Yoweri Museveni

With Kategaya’s exit, political pundits started speculating that Amama Mbabazi, hitherto regarded as “Mr Fix it” was the likely successor especially when he (Mbabazi) criticized Dr Kizza Besigye of attempting to jump the queue. But like Kategaya, when the waiting became unbearable and he Mbabazi decided to take the bull by its horns and committed a ‘sacrilegious’ sin of expressing interest to contest against him, he was tossed out of the  “Noah’s Ark” which he (Mbabazi) had spent the better part of his life constructing. The rest is now history.

With both Kategaya and Mbabazi out of the succession gameplan, a section of Ugandans have been speculating that Museveni could have identified one of the family members to succeed when he finally breathes his last while in office.

Although Museveni has consistently denied and rubbished claims that he was quietly grooming his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to succeed him, rumours still abound despite the price the ‘speculators’ (read Gen David Sejusa and many others) have and continue paying.

My humble appeal and intentions to the power-that-be is that the Muhoozi succession project debate should be demystified because this

youngman too has a right like any Ugandan citizen to vie for and manage the highest office on the land, his family background notwithstanding. Not that he

(Muhoozi) would be my preferred choice if I had a say but because I want to be realistic with the ‘sad reality’ that Museveni never loses a political fight.

This is why I am imploring president Museveni to instead of rubbishing the Muhoozi succession project to come out clean (if at all he has been nursing that intention of bequeathing the throne to his son).

Like I earlier said, the fact is that the youngman did not choose his parentage and therefore should not be denied the right to vie for any political or military office. Similarly, it is also anly natural for a child to take on his parents traits good or bad especially Museveni demonstrated rare traits which made it possible to redeem Uganda although he later got infected with (or got corrupted to the same mailase he had grown up to resist and fight against.

But most importantly Museveni should be honest and acknowledge that the rumours and suspicion about the Muhoozi succession project were not entirely out of the blue but had a bearing to possibly Muhoozi’s seemingly parental nurturing and career guidance.

The rumours started during Kainerugaba’s college days when he mobilized his fellow students to go to a military training retreat in Entebbe. When a section of Ugandans started alleging that Muhoozi was being prepared to take on his father’s profession (soldiering), Museveni rubbished it off saying that his son was not even fit to be a member of the local defense unit (LDU).

Both Museveni and Muhoozi would later again dismiss as empty talk that Muhoozi had political ambitions saying that he has never nursed such thoughts – not even becoming an LC I official.

To the contrary, Ugandans have and continue seeing Muhoozi ‘metamorphosing’ from a college study group leader into a decorated UPDF general and graduate from one of the world’s best military academies including the prestigious UK’s Sundhurst military academy .

Until recently, president Museveni’s own security was in the hands of the hitherto LDU ‘misfit’ who rose through the military ranks and training tobecome the commander of the elite force, the Special Forces.

Unconfirmed reports say that before he left the command of the elite force, Kainerugaba used to play an influential and ‘command’ role similar to that of army commander of the UPDF. A story run in one of their local dailies many years ago (which was never denied) about Muhoozi’s military leadership command capabilities revealed how youthful Muhoozi, then at the rank of a lieutenant (Lt) with a reported blessing from the commander-in- chief (his father) delivered a paper on military strategy to bemused members of the army council.

On the other hand, the first son has also proved his military prowess. For instance, he led and commanded serious and high profile operations like one against Joseph Kony in the Central African jungles. He also demonstrated his military capabilities when he successfully commanded and a rescued a minister who was being held in a government office along parliamentary avenue.

Like his father, Muhoozi in an accomplished publisher and an authority of sorts on military and political issues. Given the above, why would president Museveni or any other right thinking Ugandan for that case be secretive shy or deny an opportunity such a person to compete for Uganda’s top office?

As I said earlier, if it true that Museveni has indeed been ‘secretly’ grooming his son to succeed him, this project will backfire since Ugandans have not been prepared for this. My view is that this young man or any other Ugandan (if any) of president Museveni’s secret choice should be packaged early enough and ‘sold’ to Ugandans to gain self confidence and approval to avert the expected (not likely) unpleasant and nasty repercussions in the event of Museveni’s unceremonious departure which will either be by an act of God or ‘Man’.

On the other hand, Muhoozi’s recent appointment as a presidential advisor is according to political pundits a strategy to expose him to the intricacies of diplomacy and international relations.

This line of thinking was according to the same political observers reinforced by the recent media reports in which Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba was seen in a photo published in the locally dailies after a reported high level meeting with a leading government official of Djibouti.

To me, that is another glaring strategy about Muhoozi’s exposure to gain self confidence and approval from outside world. The problem however is that the strategy should be domesticated by going public.

I hasten to point out here that I approve what critics negatively refer to as ‘political and military’ inheritance regarding the Muhoozi ‘inheritance” project.

As a Munyankore who subscribes to a traditional belief about “

”…loosely Owahungura nyoko niwe Sho translated as “a man who inherits your mother automatically becomes your father,” my consolation and prayer is that Ugandans should equally adopt that belief and come to terms with the eventuality – in case president Museveni has Willed state house to Muhoozi.

Instead of waiting for an impasse or an unwarranted last minute stampede and conflict which may result into a situation similar to that of the hitherto peaceful countries like Yugoslavia or Somalia, I would rather Museveni and Ugandans take the bull by its horns, adopt the adage of swallowing the ‘bitter pill’ to get a cure from a life threatening disease.

It is because of this state of my realistic (or is it resignation) that I want to implore all those directing their energies on stopping the Museveni from becoming a life president to instead plead or persuade him to announce his anointed successor.

Suffice to note that ragging debate about the‘re-adjustment’ of the Constitution (read Article 102 (b)) or the more interesting recent discovery about his real age are but a confirmation about my long held view that the son of Kaguta will superintend over Uganda until he breathes his last.

What I am not sure about is whether it will be by the hand of God or by an act of man.

This reality and sad conclusion came after I made a flashback and considered the many and countless ‘broken’ promises and commitments that he has been making since he appeared on Uganda’s political and military arena.

If my memory serves me right, I can now recall that Museveni’s only political or military statement that has come to pass was the promise (or was it a threat) he made during the ill-fated 1980 election campaigns –that he would go to the bush if the elections were rigged.

On the other hand, the list of the promises and political statements which he made and have by omission or commission never been fulfilled is endless. Notable among these including the famous one he made during his swearing in ceremony in 1986 about African leaders overstaying in power.

Another is during the NTV interview with Patrick Kamara about his belief that the age  limit of 75years a realistic stop valve for any leader’s performance.

But in what has become his seemingly unpredictable character, he like in the famous George Orwell’s Animal Farm, has in what pundits call ‘Napoleonic’ political tactics kept changing or ‘qualifying’ the commitments much to the chagrin of well-meaning Ugandans whose quest for a peaceful political transition has since turned into a mirage. Contrary to the various strategies being fronted against the ‘adjustment’ of the Constitution by a section of the public especially the politicians like the famous DP’s and civil society K’ogikwatako activists’ analogy, I want to confess that I have personally resigned to fate regarding the ‘wishful’ thinking that Museveni is about or will be pushed to go.

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