Allimadi on VOA– Ugandans Must Push for Election Reforms and Cultivate Relations with Military

Allimadi on VOA’s Africa 54 interview. Screenshot: VOA

Vincent Makori of VOA’s Africa 54 interviewed The Black Star News’ publisher Milton Allimadi on January 4, 2018 about the removal from Uganda’s constitution by Gen. Yoweri Museveni of article 102 (b) which capped the age for presidential candidates at age-75 paving the way for the 74-year-old dictator who’s been in power for 32 years to run again in 2021.

Vincent Makori: Now Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has just joined a growing list of African leaders who have either changed their nation’s constitution or used other tactics to thwart opponents and hold on to power much longer. Museveni has signed a law that scraps the 75 year age cap for presidential candidates, a move critics say will allow him to remain in power indefinitely. For some perspective on what this could mean for Uganda, Milton Allimadi, analyst and publisher of Black Star News joins us from our New York studio. Milton welcome to Africa 54.

Milton Allimadi: Thank you. Thank you so much. Asante ndugu.

Makori: Asante. Now looking at this from another side one could say democracy carried the day in the  Ugandan Parliament. What’s wrong with Mr. Museveni signing this law?

Allimadi: I’m sorry to laugh but I’ve never heard the question posed like that before. Democracy can’t carry the way when Members of Parliament are bribed to vote a certain way. It doesn’t matter who bribes the Member of Parliament. A Member of Parliament is bribed by private citizens or bribed by the president through state institutions that is still illegal. So the vote itself should be null and void. If the president really believed that people would have given him another chance to run again he should have put it to a referendum. Let the people of Uganda decide. After all a poll which was conducted right before the so-called vote showed that 85% of the population opposed the lifting of the age limit. That is the true democracy.

Makori: Now that this is the law what options are left to those that are opposed to Mr. Museveni staying for as long as he wants?

Allimadi: Well, first of all people should focus on the election itself should he decide to run again. Of course this could also be a bargaining strategy on his behalf to increase his negotiating capability going forward for a possible exit in the future. But if he does decide to run, there is no evidence that he has ever won a freely-contested election in Uganda. So what people opposed to life-presidency should do is to go out full force and ensure that the next election is indeed free and fair. Many Ugandans believe Kizza Besigye won the last election and Museveni just forced himself back into power.

Makori: What is your assessment of the opposition in Uganda? Does the opposition have the capability to mobilize people at the level that they can actually oust Mr. Museveni?

Allimadi: Yes, I believe so. I don’t believe the obstacle comes from the opposition. Most Ugandans believe the opposition was able to mobilize overwhelmingly and defeat him in 2016. But the issue comes post-election. What happens after the election. As you know the Election Commission is hand-picked by General Museveni. So they will be able to decide on any decision that he wants and the Supreme Court itself is also hand-picked by General Museveni. What the opposition should do is go back to what the electoral observers suggested. The EU Election team called for electoral reforms. If those reforms are carried out, if there is an independent Election Commission, I don’t think that General Museveni would be able to rig another election in Uganda.

Makori: So the focus should be on making those changes way before the election?

Allimadi: Absolutely and they should start the process now and I think they should also start cultivating relations with the armed forces. They should remind the armed forces that even though they may be loyal to the president, they may love the president–they should take a message from Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe command and the men loved Robert Mugabe but in the end they sided with the people of Zimbabwe.

Makori: Milton, thank you very much for your insights.