Magazine article New African

Museveni's Bid to Conquer Age

Magazine article New African

Museveni's Bid to Conquer Age

Article excerpt

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power for 31 years appears to be working on yet another constitutional amendment that will allow to continue to rule even after crossing the age threshold. Epajjar Ojulu analysis looks at how Museveni has managed to remain in power for so long.

When the current term of his presidency ends in 2021, President Yoweri Museveni will have hit the 75-year old mark and won't be eligible to stand again under the constitution. But Museveni and his supporters have proved themselves past masters in the art of manipulating the constitution to provide him with yet another lease of life as head of state.

A parliamentary motion prepared by one of the MPs supporting him is seeking an amendment to the article in the constitution that bars anyone aged 75 years and above from contesting the presidency.

Opposition MPs were so enraged by this motion that they attempted to block it from being tabled, by heckling and causing mayhem in the House. They ignored Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's order suspending them from the House for disturbing seating and for misbehaving. Kadaga ordered Special Forces to storm the legislature to bundle out the suspended MPs.

Fist-fighting broke out with defiant MPs using every item, including chairs, to hit back at the "invaders". The MPs were eventually overpowered and severely beaten up, sustaining serious injuries, including broken arms.

While some opposition MPs were nursing their wounds, the ruling NRM party MPs were in the House deliberating on the proposed amendment of the constitution, which is widely expected to be passed in the coming months.

Museveni's long tenure, making him among the top five longest-serving African presidents, is in sharp contrast to the rapid turnaround of national heads of state the country experienced during its often bloody first two and a half decades.

Uganda became independent from British rule in 1963 with Milton Obote as the prime minister and Kabaka Edward Muteesa II as president. The country's slide to eventual anarchy was set into motion when Obote changed the 1962 constitution to declare himself president after storming King Muteesa's palace in 1966.

Obote's hopes for keeping hold of power were, however, cut short in 1971 when he was toppled by the British-backed army commander, Gen. Idi Amin, who declared himself Life President. Amin unleashed an orgy of brutality and ruthlessness. He murdered prominent leaders, including the archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Janaan Luwum, and Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka, for criticising his regime's brutality.

Amin himself was removed from power in 1979 by a combined force of Ugandans in exile and the Tanzanian army. Amin had attacked and annexed part of Tanzania in retaliation to President Julius Nyerere's sheltering of the overthrown Obote and other Ugandans opposed to his regime.

Amin's incumbency was succeeded by a series of short-lived reigns--those of Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa and Paulo Muwanga, before the controversial 1980 general elections returned Obote to power. The Democratic Party (DP), the main challenger of Obote's Uganda Peoples' Congress (UPC), became the opposition in parliament, while Museveni's Uganda Patriotic Front (UPF) performed dismally in the elections, winning only one parliamentary seat. Museveni lost in his constituency and his political career seemed to have ended.

Riding on Obote's unpopularity in the central Buganda region, the bastion of DP support, for dethroning their Kabaka, Museveni waged an armed rebellion against the Obote regime, which he accused of stealing the DP's victory.

The rebellion was heading towards failure until Obote's regime developed a big crack and fell apart after his army commander, Gen. Tito Okello, toppled him in 1985. Gen Tito sought dialogue with Museveni to stop the fighting. During the 1985 Nairobi Peace talks sponsored by Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi, Gen. …

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