Uganda: Even Gen. Museveni’s Top Advisor Opposes “President-for-Life” Amendment


Nyeko Kenneth a former Councillor, far right, Ongako Sub-County Omoro district, Gulu, with other youth leaders Moses Laker, Democratic Party youth winger (left) and Lagwen Peter, youth councilor Layibi (center) denouncing impending  “President-for-Life” Amendment. Photo Credit: Abalo Irene Otto


Uganda’s Gen. Yoweri Museveni is at it again, trying to further entrench his autocratic reign by once again ripping up the constitution. In 2005 the dictator whose been in power for 31 years now bribed members of Parliament to remove the two presidential term limits which allowed him to continue to rule.

He now wants another constitutional hurdle, the 75-year age limit which bars him from running in the next election scheduled for 2021, to be removed. This would amount to a “President-for-Life” Amendment to the constitution. The general’s top cohorts have repeatedly issued contradictory statements over the impending age-limit amendment, sending mixed signals to confuse the public in order to test the waters. Yet even his own long-term advisor John Nagenda has come out in a television interview to denounce any maneuvers to remove the age-limit from the constitution saying it would be a “backward step.” He said: “Don’t let us behave in a way where change comes through force.”

Uganda’s Attorney General told the Ugandan parliament that there is no such bill to remove age-limits in the offing. The Speaker of parliament barred members of parliament from discussing the age-limit bill that has not been tabled before Parliament. The country’s brutal Police chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura, has even barred the public from discussing the age-limit issue claiming such matters should be dealt with in parliament not in schools or villages. The police have since brutally arrested and detained different sections of the public over opposition to the impending monstrous bill to remove age-limit from the constitution.

A Presidential Age Limit Bill may be passively supported by regime die-hards and majority supporters who have financially profited and grown wealth during Gen. Museveni’s 31 years in power, as his advisor Nagenda –who himself is 79– pointed out in the T.V. interview. Such people would rather maintain the status quo. Nagenda also shot down the undercurrent conversation in some circles that Gen. Museveni wants his son, Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba to succeed him. Muhoozi would “not be a proper president in my view” Neganda said in the T.V. interview.

The country is already in turmoil since the regime tabled the equally explosive Land Act (Amendment) Bill.  However, that Land Act amendment for compulsory acquisition of private land affects everyone across the board regardless of political affiliation.

For now, the land bill is creating more havoc than the Age Limit Bill. The top regime cohorts have been exploiting the poverty, fear and marginalization of the masses in grabbing their land. Buganda Kingdom which is the biggest landlord in Uganda has reactivated its land rights awareness campaign this time round dubbed “Kyapa Mungalo.” The scheme aims at empowering its subjects with education about the value of land so that they don’t easily fall victim to land-grabbers dangling money. In the northern part of the country the regime’s land-grabbing, by fomenting communal violence to force people to flee and abandon land, is already being violently resisted as is the case in the eastern part of Uganda.

The deceptive Land Probe Commission has clearly made public what was already known. That land-grabbing is spearheaded by top regime cohorts with full backing of the government. No wonder, its activities have been halted under the guise of lack of funds; it won’t be surprising if it does not resume. The regime may even accuse it of “incitement” to violence or being accessory to defamation of the President.

Since the conclusion of the February 2016 rigged polls that resulted in what is in practice a military takeover by Gen. Museveni, the regime has blocked opposition political activities. It has brutally and arrogantly suppressed all attempts by the opposition to link with the masses. The regime has curtailed public meetings and assemblies, imposed draconian restrictions of access and use of radio, TV, print and social media. The regime fears an Arab Spring-style uprising, or the kind of youth led revolutions we have seen in countries such as Burkina Faso. The regime hopes to keep the population in fear and ignorance.

Some sections of Ugandan society have suggested that any constitutional amendment bill should be subjected to a referendum. They forget that the regime has all the machinery to rig and influence the outcome. Even then, the regime won’t dare subject such a controversial constitutional amendment bill to a referendum; it fears the exercise would provide other stakeholders the opportunity to directly interact with the population.

The spillover effects of the referendum exercise may not be easily reversed. It would provide a platform for the opposition to directly link with the population and enlightening them about their rights and how to resist the tyrannical regime. Therefore, the only option available to the regime is to try and force it through parliament. Nevertheless, even the elected legislators in Gen. Museveni’s own National Resistance Movement (NRM) ruling party are mindful of being cast aside by their constituents. They know how unpopular the two age-limit removal and the land bills are.

The only way Gen. Museveni could get any member of parliament to support suicidal bills such as one that lets regime cohorts and foreign investors steal people’s land, or to remove the age-limit, is if he can guarantee that their own parliamentary terms would be extended from five years to 50 so that they too enjoy life-tenure.


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