Opinion: From Museveni To Museveni: What I Make Of Ugandan Transition- Odonga Otto

Opinion: From Museveni To Museveni: What I Make Of Ugandan Transition- Odonga Otto

By Odonga Otto

Kampala: Ugandans seem to be playing drafts while the main political transition actors are playing chess. President Museveni ,Gen Salim Saleh and Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba are key pieces in the chess table while the other actors in the chess game are mere ponds .

The removal of the age limit and term limits closed the doors for meaningful debate in Ugandan transition.  Parliament was muddled and Hon. Emmanuel Dombo once observed that “if we tie the removal or retention of the age limit to Museveni we will fail”

President Museveni has aged, my conservative estimates put him at 83 years.

The debate of possible transition in Uganda based on age seems not comforting to the principle but that is the reality of life .

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Even in traditional African settings when an old man is aging the children start sitting in clusters and making decisions ” you dig that side, you keep the cattle ” so has the transition debate irreversibly started.

Uganda has not had any peaceful transfer of power  as all the past  heads of states have left offices violently or unceremoniously. It’s debatable whether this time round will be an exception .

Let me start by asking when is the possible date of transition?

This question can be answered  by either Ugandans, Museveni or God.

Ugandans have been disempowered to answer the question as  constitutional safe guard has given way. Elections seem not to count much except for determining who goes to parliament or becomes LCV.

In Political theory, transition is not an event neither is it a ceremony but rather a process of transition as the word depicts. It entails a systematic process covert or open to have a desired objective achieved.

Considering the covert nature of transition in the Ugandan context, President Museveni has kept it to his chest he knows which piece to move on the chess board .

Meanwhile the open transition procedure where Ugandans could have had a role has been shattered in constitution amendment by removal of age and term limits. 

There are high indicators that President Museveni will contest the 2026 election if he does the results of that election is always determined by one who appoints the Electoral Commission.

Calls for electoral reforms have fallen on deaf ears and the appeal has diminished, in politics the realists say “no one can legislate themselves out of power”

The Uganda transition may even be in 2031 or beyond and anytime earlier than that can be decided by the king on the chess board.

The transition may even extend up to 2036 or even 2041. President Kamuzi Banda of Malawi a medical doctor lived up to the age of 99.

All the above arguments are premised on the assumption that President Museveni does not want to leave power and would rather die in office and he seems to have the capacity to do so.

However if the foregoing assumption is to be rebutted then it brings the question; can the transition happen without the consent of Museveni?

In an attempt to answer the question above the Gen. Muhoozi factor comes into play .

I have been contending  that Gen. Muhoozi and his PLU were up to something until they were recently checked on the chess board. PLU was/is destined for a bloodless coup.

Firstly there was a possibility of Gen. Muhoozi running against the father and either winning or losing. Winning would be pre-arranged (a close confidant told me).

This was evident with the rate at which Generals beyond 55 years were being retired rapidly from the forces.

Only Gen. David Muhoozi a generational friend to Gen. Muhoozi would survive this age onslaught. Gen. Otema who turns 61 years soon has chosen the path of elective politics .

This would mean Gen. Muhoozi would ” win” his father in the 2026 elections and would guarantee his fathers safety .

In the speculative event that Gen. Muhoozi loses the 2026 elections to his father, he would still be the defacto leader of “opposition” outside parliament and with Majority MPs in the house making it a ‘Museveni vs Museveni’ affair within and without parliament.

Needless to say this, wild speculations have prematurely ended with the appointment of Gen. Muhoozi as the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF).

Once again a big piece in the chess board has moved. I tweeted about this last week and Gen. Muhoozi himself liked my tweet. Let me elucidate my tweet  further. Gen. Muhoozi has been Commander land forces and now the CDF.

While he was the Commander land forces, he had a slim chance of being retired by the CDF for purposes of politics .

But now while he is CDF it is only the CIC who is his father who can release him from the army for whatever reason including politics.

It is my belief that Gen. Muhoozi’s hands are now  tied, he can’t now leave the army .

The appointment of PLU members like Hon. Aber Lilian  and Hon. Balaam Barugahara to the cabinet is a clear testimony to that effect .

However the appointment of Gen. Muhozi to CDF and his PLU members to the cabinet can also be seen from another perspective. It’s the beginning of the transition, one can argue that they are being prepared from within.

When the son of the President is the army commander it means he has big say if anything happens to the father, however the later argument will be influenced by three exogenous factors .

Firstly whether there will be absolute loyalty within the armed forces to the son when hell breaks loose, that I doubt, because I have seen soldiers always putting on T- shirts beneath their gazetted uniforms that speak volumes.

The uniform can be removed anytime it feels unsafe to have one, soldiers previously have fled to their villages and radio announcements have been made calling them back, some have fled outside jurisdiction and Uganda is still a weak state.

Secondly, the role of the opposition political parties led by National Unity Platform(NUP) would remain key in the transition process. It is more probable that not that given the level of discontent in Buganda, tyres will be burnt on the streets akin to that of the Kayunga riots. Museveni has managed to contain such and it would be interesting to observe if the son can do the same.

Unfortunately the experiment involves human lives, Bobi Wine ,NUP and Baganda who live in the capital city will be a force to recon with.

During the Kabaka riots, the state had nearly given way, it will even be more challenging in a situation with national outlook like that of a transition.

Thirdly the role of foreign actors; donor community and Rwanda would come into play in Uganda transition ( for Rwanda Andrew mwenda is the specialist).

In conclusion what we are seeing is just the beginning of the beginning, it’s still early to draw conclusions but there are pointers.

Uganda is now like the American roulette the wheels are moving and we are to place our bets.

The author holds degrees in law ,political science, political philosophy and an honorary doctorate

odongaotto@gmail.com.

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