By Crispin Kaheru

Crispin Kaheru

May 9, 1996, is one of those dates that has stuck in my head till today. I was just about 13; an enthused and curious student of ‘political education’ then.
My inquisitive character combined with my childhood passion for ‘current affairs’ never let a political moment pass without interrogation. It was the first time Uganda was holding multiparty presidential elections after slightly over two decades.

I remember waking up as early as 6am to engage my parents on who they were going to vote for at presidential level. Both mum and dad were clear on their choice – it was President Museveni. I recall walking my mum to her designated polling station, playing a devil’s advocate role – grating her by juxtaposing that, had I been of voting age, I would have certainly voted for Opposition candidate Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere who seemed a decent candidate and certainly had fairly good ratings during the 1996 campaigns.

Of course my persuasions and sentiments were inconsequential – I was a minor and not a voter. Meanwhile, before the polling day, I had on several occasions eavesdropped conversations between my parents in which they would reaffirm to their own assurance that 1996 was President Museveni’s last term in office – and he very much so deserved it.

In fact, as my mother made her way to the polling station on the voting day, she animatedly snaked through the fairly populated neighbourhood asking folks to go to their respective polling stations and vote for Mr Museveni who was appearing on Uganda’s ballot paper ‘for the last time’.

My father, being a government civil servant then, remained guarded about disclosing his political positions – but his passion for President Museveni in that election couldn’t be hidden under any amount of rubble.

Indeed Museveni seemed to have a remarkable ability to relate political messages by using simple, organic ideas and tales that resonated with the ordinary citizen. On his campaign trail, his blue chip sales plan was wheeled on the narration that 1996 – 2001 was his last term in office, to complete the projects he had started in 1986, key of which was maintenance of State security and resuscitation of the economy.

His main challengers, including Ssemogerere and Kibirige Mayanja, could not match Museveni’s prowess in political messaging and dexterity in using the robust public service network to campaign.

The announcement by Steven Akabway, who was then the chairperson of the Interim Electoral Commission, that Mr Museveni had won the 1996 election with a landslide 76 per cent was greeted with extreme jubilations in Kampala and the countryside.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters dressed in Museveni’s insignia campaign T-shirts and caps took to the streets to celebrate his first electoral victory. My father explained to me that the jubilations and partying we were seeing were akin to what happened when (the then decorated general) Idi Amin seized power in a military coup in 1971.

My father was also quick to add that the mood around the country was comparable to that of April 11, 1979, when Amin was overthrown. Indeed, Museveni was the Bismark of Africa – the blue-eyed statesman. In many ways, he epitomised a renewed beginning of democratic vigour and energy. I wished to be like him when I grew up.

Once Mr Museveni was sworn into office for his “first and last term” on May 12, 1996, the talk around 1996 – 2001 being his last term in office immediately fizzled out. Instead, focus was shifted on how to secure another electoral term for an iconic man who “had indicated no interest” in running for political office ever again.

Since then, President Museveni has found himself on the ballot every five years – handing over power to himself after each election. Constitutional speed governors such as limitations on the tenure of the president; presidential powers; regular, free and fair elections have in one way or another been recalibrated largely to mean more to those who control the levers of power and less to the multitudes that are led. As things continue to be uncertain, political succession and transition remain elusive fairy tales.

As a 13 year old, I learnt from the political theatrics then that breaking promises was a normal thing. Two decades later, I see a pale reflection of a glitter that used to be. I am struggling to teach myself that ‘a man is as good as his word’.

I struggle to teach my children that leadership comes from God. I am struggling with all these things because reality hits me every other day – that values and principles are scarce in today’s leaders. I just can’t find that many public figures to point my children to, as examples to learn from.

The young people who are the majority have a responsibility to reject the lowering standards; and step in to nurture stronger foundational values upon which Uganda’s revolution was founded.

The urgency of the situation demands an active agency from all young people to be the role models that public life in Uganda is desperately searching for. The new reality is such that there is just so much that pillars like the Constitution can do; in the absence of an active, responsible and responsive citizenry.

Change, transition and succession are inevitable constants and cannot be quieted. Only Ugandans can have the last say on the last term.

The writer is coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda

Published by: Daily Monitor

Court in Mbarara has granted bail to three youth activists, who, early this month staged a mock funeral for President Yoweri Museveni.
The suspects; 20-year-old Albert Nangumya, a student at Bishop Stuart University, Rodgers Asiimwe, 26, and 32-year-old Maxi Muhumuza, the spokesperson of the defunct Ankole kingdom were released by Mbarara Grade One Magistrate Sanyu Mukasa.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
They were each bonded at Shs 1.5 million cash while their sureties were bonded at Shs 1 million non-cash. The hearing of the case will resume next month on August 11.

While appearing before court on July 20, the suspects applied for bail through their lawyer, Wilson Agaba of Agaba and Company Advocates, saying it was their constitutional right.

However, the magistrate deferred the bail application hearing to today and sent them back to Kyamugoranyi government prison.
Today, the suspects were back in court for their bail application hearing. Rodgers Asiimwe presented three sureties including his father, Gershom Mugisha. Others were Abias Niwamanya, and Mike Ayesigye, a pastor based in Mbarara.
Prosecution told court that on July 6, 2017, while in Mbarara district, the suspects led a procession with a coffin with an inscription "Rest in Peace Museveni," together with the portrait of President Museveni, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, General Kahinda Otafiire and several Members of Parliament.
The suspects took to the streets to protest against attempts by government to amend Article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution, which puts a ceiling on the age of the person holding the office of the president at 75 years.
The protest came at the backdrop of reports that a section of National Resistance Movement (NRM) party members has mooted a plan to amend the constitution to allow President Museveni to contest for the presidency in 2021.
Under the current provision in Article 102(b), President Museveni would be above 75 years and therefore ineligible to contest for the seat. Born in 1944 and in power since 1986, Museveni will be clocking 77 in 2021.
Published by: The Observer

With the exception of voicing support for the Cranes, the national football team, Ugandans have a tendency to spend too much time and use too many words to say absolutely nothing new. Nowadays, for example, everyone is engaging in the “debate” over the 1995 Constitution. Specifically over a clause that categorically bars anyone from eligibility to stand for the presidency of the republic upon clocking 75 years.
This clause stands in the way of President Museveni to seek another term in 2021. He will be 76.

But Museveni is likely to be on the ballot come 2021. This is a direct consequence of the settlement of the question of loyalty of members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
Dogged by growing internal dissent and the gains of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with its combative flag bearer, Dr Kizza Besigye, NRM found itself in a do-or-die situation.
So, several years back, NRM members identified group cohesiveness as the driving force to resist change.

Group cohesiveness resulted from the feeling that there were strong forces acting on NRM members to remain in the party.
These forces included attractiveness of NRM, motivation to become or remain a member of NRM, and the presence of an external threat, especially from FDC.

In general terms, if a group successfully reaches its goal, then its cohesiveness also increases. Success breeds success. It is also true that when members individually align their personal goals to the goal of a cohesive group in general, their activities can lead to strength. However, the key problem with NRM is that its stated objective of making a “fundamental change” in Uganda came a cropper many years back. Clearly, the NRM veered off its original 10-Point Programme intended to transform this country from peasantry to modernity.

What also is not in doubt is the prioritisation of the goal of winning elections every five years. This is what has led to the element of groupthink, a pattern of faulty decision-making in NRM.

Groupthink occurs in cohesive groups, whose members strive for agreement at the expense of accurate assessment of information relevant to a decision.

When Ms Evelyn Anite, then a Youth MP, dropped on her knees to beg fellow party members to endorse the sole candidacy (for NRM) of President Museveni in the 2011 elections, groupthink was firmly cemented in the party.

NRM took the first concrete step toward groupthink in 2005 when Parliament was persuaded – at a ridiculous cost of Shs5m per MP – to gravely mutilate the Constitution by yanking out the clause limiting the period of an elected president to two terms. Clearly, it was wrong to raid the Constitution in that manner. It was wrong, subsequently, to purge the likes of Mr Amama Mbabazi from party leadership for resisting the allure of NRM’s newly found comfort in groupthink. And it will be wrong, I reckon, to get rid of the age limit. Nevertheless, such actions have consequences that can come back to haunt groupthink enthusiasts. For Mr Richard Nixon, the consequences came when the infamous Watergate Scandal broke out in America in the early 1970s.

It so happened that influential members of the Republican Party, with Nixon as their candidate, were anxious to win the 1972 election at any cost.

So, they took a groupthink decision to bug the headquarters of the Democratic Party to eavesdrop on the campaign strategies of the democrats. Republicans won the elections. But in 1973, two reporters with The Washington Post newspaper, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, exposed the wrongdoing of the Republicans through what is still seen as one of the greatest investigative reporting stories of all time. Nixon resigned in 1974.

It’s highly unlikely that President Museveni can be forced to resign. Not now. Not ever, perhaps. Still, the negative consequences of groupthink may come to haunt NRM. That party may die the day Museveni dies. That’s how futile all this nonsensical “debate” over the age limit is. Get rid of the damn age limit and let us get on with the more serious business of supporting the Cranes’ campaign for Afcon 2019.

Dr Okodan is a lecturer at Kampala
International University.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published by: Daily Monitor

I will address two issues: the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 that government has already tabled before parliament and the current public debate about the potential of amending the Constitution to remove age limitations for presidential candidates.

Let me begin with the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017. In my simple understanding, the bill seeks to permit government to take over private property before prompt payment of a fair compensation. Not only is such a law unfair, it breeds insecurity among landowners and is recipe for landlessness.

Crispin Kaheru

Secondly, people in Karamoja are eating raw mangos to cure hunger; in Teso, locals are eating termites to survive famine; in Isingiro, residents are cooking pawpaws for dinner; in northern Uganda, communities are surviving on one meal a day.

Children and the elderly are dying every day in different parts of the country because of hunger. At a time when people would expect empathy, we are seeing a rude gesture in form of government introducing a law that would take away the last source of livelihood for these already-tormented people.

Let me briefly turn to the question of the of the age limitations for presidential candidates in Uganda. Anyone talking of amending the Constitution to eliminate the 75-year age limit for presidential candidates sounds like they are directly talking about safeguarding in perpetuity an individual in power. Not only is it morally wrong to legislate for an individual, it also places Uganda’s fragile democratic path on the edge of a cliff.

The framers of our Constitution inserted three key pillars to guarantee smooth and peaceful leadership transition: 1) regular free and fair elections; 2) a maximum of two five-year terms for presidents; and 3) age limitations for presidential candidates. 

Our elections have been tampered with and no longer give that much confidence to citizens. Term limitations on presidential tenure were easily removed from the Constitution in 2005 after legislators were bribed with a mere Shs 5m. Therefore, there is only one safeguard left – the age limitations for presidential candidates. That is why salvaging Article 102(b) of the Constitution is a matter of life and death.

In 1986, Yoweri Museveni came to power as a freedom fighter; he came to power promising democracy and prosperity.  Those who have launched the campaign to remove the age limit don’t mean well for Museveni. Some years back, Mr Museveni categorically announced that after 75, one has no vigor, one is tired.  What is bound to happen if you force a bus driver to drive passengers when he or she is weak, tired or dizzy?

Threats to democratic rule in Uganda are increasing too fast.  It is time for all the citizens to act; it is time for young people to act. It is time-up for any leader who is not listening to the voice of the masses. Soon, very soon, bad leadership is going to be history in this Pearl of Africa!

There is no any other time to act than this time when some of those in power are coming out full circle to take away people’s source of life on the one hand and acting indifferently towards younger generations on the other.

We will stand with each other in solidarity and hold our leaders accountable for their actions or inactions.  We are going to watch the movements and language of our Members of Parliament (MPs) and other leaders on these issues.  Should they not play ball to the wishes and in the interest of the citizens, we will pounce on them in a very unprecedented way.

This is not a war of guns. It is a battle where tear gas will be rendered useless; it is a battle where intimidation, threats and manipulation will not work. This is going to be a peaceful battle where the people will speak, and demand to be listened to. If the voice of reason of the people is not acted upon, there will be dire consequences.


The author is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu).

Pubished by: The Observer

The civil society has asked President Yoweri Museveni to take a stand and assure the country that he is not interested in the planned proposal to lift the presidential age limit, currently capped at 75 years.

On Wednesday, Museveni told journalists at State House in Entebbe that there was no proposal by the government to lift the age limit, describing the debate on age limit as a mere speculation.

However in a joint press conference at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in Nsambya, Kampala today, members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) demanded that Museveni declares to the country that he is not interested in having the presidential age limit lifted despite calls to have it lifted by the NRM party members.

“Let him come out and deny that he is not interested,  if he is sure, these people are not speaking for him, let him say these are enemies of Uganda,” FIDA-Uganda president Irene Ovonji said.

A cross section of National Resistance Movement (NRM) party members, on Tuesday resolved to embark on a countrywide campaign to promote the proposal to remove the presidential age limit.

The CSOs indicated that amending Article 102 (b) of the Constitution, to lift the age limit would cause political instability in the country.

 executive director r ivingstone sewanyana castigated governments move to amend the land law hoto by onnie ijjambuFHRI executive director, Dr. Livingstone Ssewanyana castigated government’s move to amend the land law. Photo by Ronnie Kijjambu

“This is not a personal attack on the person of President Museveni, but we are looking at the generations to come. The age limit is the only safeguard this country is left with,” Dr. Livingstone Ssewanyana the FHRI executive director said.

Land acquisition

The CSOs also bashed the government on the proposed amendment of Article 26 of the Constitution to enable government takeover private land without prior compensation, saying it is unconstitutional.

They noted that there is need to ensure prior compensation of members of the public before the government can make use of their property such as land.

“These proposals are unconstitutional and we are ready to oppose them. No one can intimidate us, we are going to sensitize Ugandans on why they should oppose these amendments,” Henry Ogwal from ActionAid Uganda said.

The government recently tabled the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2017 which has since been forwarded to the parliamentary committee on legal and parliamentary affairs for scrutiny, to amend Article 26 of the Constitution and pave way for compulsory acquisition of private land for government projects such as road construction.

Published by: New Vision


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