THE CURRENT SUCCESSION DEBATE SHOULD BE REFOCUSED: UGANDA IS NOT A MONARCHY

By Professor Venansius Baryamureeba

I have keenly been following the succession debate and I must admit I find its focus rather disappointing. In my view, the succession debate instead of focusing on who will succeed President Museveni should focus on who will be the likely presidential candidates from the various political parties and organisations and independents. It is from these that we should expect to get a successor to President Museveni in accordance with Article 103 (4) of the constitution. This is because Uganda returned to a multiparty system of governance in 2005 and as a result, the Presidential elections of 2006, 2011 and 2016 were held under a multiparty system of governance where the different political parties and organisations fielded Presidential candidates. We have also had Independent Presidential Candidates. Uganda follows a Presidential system and for one to be declared President Elect, he or she must get more than 50% of all valid votes cast at the election.

As per article 105(3) of the constitution, the office of the President can only fall vacant on the expiration of the period specified in this article; or if the incumbent dies or resigns or ceases to hold office under article 107 of this Constitution. Thus at any one time, the different political parties and organisations must have potential candidates within their rank and file ready to assume the office of the President in accordance with the constitution. This is what succession should be about, i.e. grooming potential presidential candidates within political parties and organisations and outside political parties in the case of independents.

So let us take a quick look at the two major political parties/ organisations namely the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O) and the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). To what extent is NRM-O and FDC prepared to produce the next President of Uganda whenever Gen Yoweri K Museveni is no longer eligible or available? NRM-O as a party in power is expected to use key positions in the executive arm of government such as the position of the Vice President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs as grooming grounds for an NRM-O presidential candidate to succeed President Museveni. Among the ministries, I have singled out foreign affairs due to its role in overseeing foreign policy and relations. Also the position of First Lady in some countries has been used to groom presidential candidates. So who currently holds these positions? The Vice President is HE Edward Ssekandi who is 74 years old; The Prime Minister is Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda who is 69 years old; the 1st Deputy Prime Minister is Rt. Hon. Gen. Moses Ali who is 77 years old; the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister is Rt. Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja who is 81 years old; The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Hon. Sam Kutesa Kahamba who is 68 years old; and The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports is Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni who is 68 years old. Considering the age limit requirement of a President not being above 75 years of age as per article 102 (b), this means that President Museveni would not be eligible to contest for President in 2021. Among those mentioned above, it would only be Rt. Hon. Rugunda, Hon. Kutesa and Hon. Janet Museveni that would meet the age limit requirement but they would also be in their 70s. One thing to ponder on is whether or not Ugandans would be ready to elect a President in his/her 70s after President Museveni is no longer eligible.

Probably, let me extend the succession net wider. Is NRM-O grooming Rt. Hon Kadaga,60 the Speaker of Parliament or Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, 51 the Deputy Speaker of Parliament as the person to succeed President Museveni? Will the next President come from Vice Chairpersons of NRM-O i.e. Haji Moses Kigongo, Amb. Matayo Kyarigonza, Hon. Mike Mukula, Haji Abdu Nadduli, Hon Sam Engola, Mr. Godfrey Nyakana or Mr. Simon Peter Aleper? Your guess is as good as mine. NRM-O needs to start having an internal succession debate to prepare for the eventuality of illegibility or unavailability of Gen YK Museveni to contest for the Presidency of Uganda.

Let us take a look at FDC. FDC is a party in opposition. So in terms of succession, you would expect that the persons holding the positions of Party President, Secretary General, Leader of Opposition in Parliament would be breeding grounds for FDC Presidential candidate? FDC Party Constitution leaves it open to any members of FDC to contest for the FDC Presidential Candidate position. This was proved in 2015 when most people expected Gen. Mugisha Muntu, the Party President to be the flagger bearer and instead Col. (Rtd.) Kizza Besigye emerged as the FDC flag bearer. This begs the question; is FDC using its party structures to groom presidential candidates?

With all honesty, when one assesses the two leading political parties in Uganda, you don’t see any deliberate strategy to groom successors to President Museveni within these two parties. So what this implies is that anybody who wants to be President needs to find a mechanism of introducing himself or herself to the public/ the voters. So that when the time comes, he or she can present himself or herself to the Ugandan voters and be voted President through adult suffrage either as a party candidate or as an independent candidate. A person like Odrek Rwabwogo who is not yet 50 wanted to become NRM-O Vice Chairman (Western Region) but was blocked from contesting and now writes weekly articles in New Vision on Ideology. This is one effective way of introducing himself to the public. Before long, Odrek Rwabwogo will be very popular among Ugandans. So let more Ugandans continue to come out and make themselves known so that at the end of the day, Ugandans will have a wide choice for the person to succeed President Museveni.

The writer was a Candidate in the 2016 Uganda Presidential Election.