Uganda: Museveni is right, NRM needs him or his clone
Pius Muteekani Katunzi
President Museveni is being misunderstood when he says that he has not seen anyone in the NRM who could steer the country in the right direction after him.
And he has been consistent on that point. His dream of retiring to becoming a modern cattle keeper has been frustrated by the lack of ideologically clear leaders within his Movement!
In 1986, soon after swearing-in, Museveni declared that he was not interested in staying in power for long. The idea was that the NRA guerillas would steer the country for only five years and then hold elections for new leaders. Instead the regime got an extension of five more years. The President inked his disgust for keeping in power for too long in his book, Africa’s problems, whose foreword was written by former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who had ruled his country for 23 years.
Nyerere retired in 1985, after unsuccessfully trying out so many visions, including Ujamaa (African socialism) and education for self-reliance, in the 23 years of his leadership. Nyerere had been urged by some self-seekers to cling on but he turned them down. He admitted his mistakes and said after 23 years, he had nothing new he could add to the leadership of Tanzania. He only remained chairman of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), for sometime.
With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps, Nyerere should have stayed on. For the leaders who came after him turned the country into some kind of Wild West. Tanzania then was not known for leaders to amass unexplained wealth. Now politicians loot the country in broad daylight and stash their booty in foreign banks. Right now there is $176m stashed away in Swiss banks and fingers are pointing at three senior leaders in government.
President Museveni is worried that something like this might befall his beloved country. And he has reason for his fears. So when he says he is the only one with a vision, no leader can fault him. And to prove him right, whenever the time comes to challenge him for the chairmanship of the party, those thought to have the potential to replace him like Amama Mbabazi, Janet Museveni, Eriya Kategaya (once thought to be de facto number two in the country), Prof Gilbert Bukenya, and many others, all tuck their tails and instead back him, unopposed.
When the former political commissar and now Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Col Dr Kizza Besigye penned a critique of the disintegrating Movement system and suggested changes, including a check on President Museveni’s powers, many of his colleagues, some of who have unfortunately since fallen out of favour with the president, labeled him a rebel and backed the decision to court-martial him.
Later in 2001, Besigye took the bull by the horns and contested against Museveni for the presidency. Amama Mbabazi came out and criticized Besigye for “jumping the queue”, and suggesting that he was probably ahead of Besigye in the succession line. That was the last brave statement we ever heard from Mbabazi.
Besigye lost but Mbabazi and other senior Movement members were at the vanguard of supporting the motion that ultimately removed the constitutional two-term presidential limits. This was an indication that the members had reflected on their strength and discovered that they didn’t have vision. Up to now, Mbabazi, who is a lawyer, believes (at least he said this on several radios) that Uganda does not need term limits.
The first Deputy Premier Eriya Kategaya, Bidandi Ssali (then Local Government minister) and the former Speaker of Parliament and one of the Movement ideologues, James Wapakhabulo tried to resist this tweaking of the Constitution, but they were ignored. Wapa, as he was fondly known, tried to propose a special amendment, which would give only Museveni five more years to accomplish his mission without removing the term limits, but this too was ignored. He died before he was given audience.
Several media have asked Mbabazi whether he could replace Museveni, but the man is non-committal. So, if senior members can exhibit serious lack of confidence in their own capabilities, do you blame Museveni when he says there is no possible successor?!
After former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi handed over the then ruling Party, Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) to Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, KANU has since suffered a periphery position in Kenya, with now less than 20 MPs in Parliament. This was a serious lapse of judgment on Moi’s part. Museveni is trying to avoid these kinds of mistakes!