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Uganda parliament now wants presidential term limits restored


by Joseph Earnest  April 22, 2012

Newscast Media KAMPALA, Uganda—After having voted overwhelmingly to abolish term limits from Uganda's Constitution on August 11, 2005, members of Uganda's parliament recently voted to restore presidential term limits. Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that the move to restore term limits was provoked by President Yoweri Museveni's unwillingness to state clearly whether he would run for office again in 2016.


The same agency reports that the lifting of term limits in 2005 was as a result of ruling party MPs being given 1,520 euros to support the 2005 constitutional change, paving the way for Museveni’s reelection in the 2006 general election. (pop-up)


However, Museveni argues that the reason he has stayed in power for 26 years is because Ugandans keep voting him back into office. In a CNN interview, Christiane Amanpour asked Museveni, "Do you not think that 26 years in power is enough?" To which Museveni answered: "There are so many issues to deal with. I can leave power when my party agrees."  The interview can be viewed below:

Museveni interview - Video courtesy: CNN

As you saw and heard in the video, Amanpour suggested it would be best to leave power on a high note, rather than be referred to as "Mugabe". I researched to see where Amanpour may have gotten the "Mugabe" phrase. I discovered that it was actually former Uganda Ambassador Johnnie Carson who coined that phrase in an article he wrote on May 1, 2005 in the Boston Globe.


In the article Carson writes: "Many observers see Museveni's efforts to amend the constitution as a rerun of a common problem that afflicts many African leaders -- an unwillingness to follow constitutional norms and give up power. Museveni's reluctance to move aside may also be motivated by a desire to protect those around him, including his son and half brother, from charges of corruption for alleged involvement in illegal activities."


Carson concludes the article by saying: "If Museveni succeeds in his desire to win a third term, we may be looking at another Mugabe and Zimbabwe in the making." The full article can be read here. (pop-up)


Not only is the pressure coming from the members if parliament who voted to restore term limits, but also the local clergy are advising Museveni not to run in 2016 as reported by Africa Review here. (pop-up)


The Kony-Museveni dilemma

An effort for Kony to be apprehended has been launched, with Museveni offering soldiers to undertake the mission.  This now makes him more useful, because it is doubtful that any other African country would be willing to embark on such an undertaking that includes many risks.  As long as Kony is still out there, Museveni's stay in power is assured, and as long as there is turmoil in Somalia, he will be needed by the West to fight that war.


During the Clinton era, when American troops were sent into Somali to help stabilize the region, they faced great hostility and several deaths occurred in which the Somalians dragged soldiers' bodies in the Mogadishu streets.  The U.S. will not let acts like that happen again, which explains the West's willingness to let Museveni stay in power.


The emergence of Kony

Most journalists started hearing about Kony in the past 10 years, yet Kony first became active during the Cold War in the Reagan administration in 1985, before Museveni became president. At the time, Joseph Kony had not yet named his group the Lord's Resistance Army.  They were simply guerilla's from the North.  In the African language the northern guerillas associated with Kony were referred to as "Anyanya".  There was even a saying that: "We won't pray with our eyes closed, so we can see the Banyanya when they attack us."


In 1986 Museveni ascended to the presidency through guerilla warfare and through the help of the dominant Ganda tribe in central Uganda. Museveni was not worried about the northern attacks because he had the support the largest tribe in Uganda.  In order to get this support though, Museveni struck a deal with Buganda's royal family to restore the kingdoms that had been abolished in 1967 after a new constitution under Milton Obote abolished all of Uganda's kingdoms, including Buganda. Indeed, in the early 90s Museveni proved he was as good as his word, and restored the kingdoms, with King Ronald Mutebi, who at the time was in exile in London, becoming the Kabaka (king) of Buganda.


In the 90s Uganda enjoyed a relatively peaceful period, with little interruption from the guerilla's in the North. By 2004-2005, the Lord's Resistance Army of Joseph Kony was virtually non-existent and completely inactive in Uganda.  


Today, Uganda's three major problems are: corruption, lack of a consistent supply of electricity, and lack of employment particularly among the youth.  As far as corruption is concerned, even Museveni himself said, "Uganda is full of thieves," in a visit to Rwanda.  It is the misappropriation of funds that has crippled development in Uganda's infrastructure.  The streets are filled with pot holes and most buildings do not meet the building inspection codes.  If Kampala were to have an earthquake today, the city would literally have to be rebuilt from the ground up.


The reliability of electricity is also another problem and some Ugandans are resorting to alternative energy, to run their businesses. I wondered why there is a power supply problem today, yet during Idi Amin's regime, it was unheard of not to have electricity. Uganda's street lamps were all working including the traffic lights when Amin was president. The elevators (lifts) in commercial buildings were dependable and virtually every house with indoor plumbing had water flowing through the taps.


The answer lies in the population growth which during Amin's time was at 12.8 million.  Today, Uganda has a population of 33.4 million people according to the U.S. State Department. Uganda has been dependant on hydro-electric power, and with three times the population growth, the country has to invest in the energy sector something Museveni should have foreseen 26 years ago since Uganda has the second most fertile women in the world just behind Niger. (pop-up)


Knowing how fertile Ugandan women are, Museveni made a fatal mistake by not implementing measures to deal with the population growth. This has caused great dissatisfaction among the unemployed youth, and the frustration is also being exhibited by MPs and clergy moving to restore presidential term limits. If the country did not have an unemployment problem, nobody would care how long Museveni stayed in power.


What the majority of unemployed Ugandans gripe about is that Museveni is spending most of the money on military equipment yet Uganda is not at war, instead of investing that money on programs that can help train Ugandans to be competitive in the workforce.  Programs like vocational (hands-on) education, cooperative education, apprenticeships, work-study and research programs are more likely to benefit Ugandans and Uganda, but instead, all the talent in Uganda is migrating to South Africa where opportunities are bountiful, and the work pays handsomely.

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